How can a company supply the proliferating channels looking for constant content marketing? A new report from the Altimeter Group has some suggestions. 

The report, Organizing for Content, was based on 78 interviews with executives working in content strategy and/or content marketing. Fifth-seven percent of those respondents rated content marketing as the “top go-to-market priority” of this year. For large organizations in particular, it’s no wonder why. The report said that the average brand organization is responsible for the content demands of 178 social media properties, plus websites, blogs and live events. Red Bull, in one example cited in the report, issues as many as 200 tweets every day.

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Push to Pull Marketing

Altimeter said that “a radical shift in marketing budgets” is taking place, with some of the spending on advertising being converted to creating and publishing content through a company’s media channels, such as sites, blogs and social media. In short, it’s part of the shift from “push” to “pull” marketing.

Typically, the report said, responsibilities for content marketing are fragmented between divisions, which might not be interconnected or in regular communication. The result can be inconsistent messaging and customer experience. Additionally, many of the organizations have little experience or few staff explicitly experienced with content.

As Kelly Colbert, VP for Advertising and Social Media at WellPoint, rhetorically asked the researchers: “How do we feed the beast, get the engagement for members, and make sense for the brand?”

To handle these needs, the report points to the “essential elements of content” that an organization should consider. These include content strategy, in order to align goals, logistics, content creation and deployment; delegation of content oversight authority to a person or some internal entity; and sufficient staff with appropriate skills and experience.

The Content in Content Marketing

There are also many choices for tools, including content management systems, digital asset management systems, blog software and others. But unless there’s a strategy and overall approach to requirement specification, acquisition process, budget, deployment and training, the end result is often, as the report says, the typical refrain of “we launched it on a WordPress blog instead of on the, which would have taken over a year.”

Other essential elements include effectiveness measurement, unified guidelines and training.

The report points to several possible organizational models for addressing content marketing needs. A company can form a content department, designate a cross-functional content chief, authorize a cross-functional steering committee, hire a content lead, or establish an expert-populated center of excellence or an editorial board -- or some mix of these alternatives.

Overall, this Altimeter Report accurately reflects the growing need for organizations, particularly large ones, to seriously address their increasingly complex content marketing requirements.

But the report would have felt more complete if it had spent a bit more effort in characterizing great content marketing, and how it differs from, say, functional or advertising content. To take one example, what kinds of content for Wellpoint's members fall under content marketing? While content marketing clearly covers brand promotion, does it include instructions, medical information or financial information? Arguably, it includes all of these -- or, arguably, none. 

And there are other key questions. For example, if content marketing is not advertising per se, how should it be coordinated with the advertising efforts? At the very least, the report could help organizations define the criteria to answer these questions, which answers could determine, for instance, the dimensions of a particular organizational makeover. Hopefully, Altimeter will address these factors in a subsequent report.