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3 things I learnt at Espire Media’s Content Marketing Strategy workshop

As a passionate content marketing enthusiast, I gladly leaped at the opportunity to attend Espire Media's workshop at Britomart's Generator to learn a thing or two more about the trade, and thankfully Espire Media's Group Editor and Head of Content, Colin Kennedy, had plenty to teach.

More than advertising, more than traditional marketing, more than business development - the subtle and somewhat-more genuine art of content marketing is a way to boost consumer engagement by offering value in return.

You need to position yourself as a thought leader, argued Kennedy, and that will keep them coming back for more advice and information in the long run.

Here are some of the tips and tricks Kennedy has learnt over his many years in journalism, public relations, sales, and more recently, content marketing:

Topical Chemistry

"Would I bother reading this?" – That's the question Kennedy insists you ask yourself before you publish your next blog. To decipher this age-old question, he went on to explain his theory of topical chemistry – where you only cover topics your target audience will connect with.

As marketers, we tend to measure our effectiveness in terms of clicks and shares, or page views and bounce rates – but we are jumping ahead of ourselves by fixating on the sale, when with content marketing, we need to focus on the audience.

It's easy to forget that our main goal is to really connect with our audience - Kennedy says it's about creating content that's "in the public interest," providing them with education, inspiration, entertainment or information.

Empathy Mapping

Key to creating content people care about is having a deep understanding of your target audience, and there are a number of ways you can go about achieving this, Kennedy explained.

You could hire a social anthropologist to do research on your customers, or prowl the internet conducting research on review sites or social media, or you could create a range of content that you think they will like and measure the results later to fine-tune your approach.

Once you believe you have a firm understanding of your target audience, the next step is to think about the Customer Buying Cycle, which is categorised into these 5 stages:

- Problem recognition

- Information cycle

- Evaluation of alternatives

- Purchase

- Post purchase satisfaction or dissatisfaction

Think about this cycle and how you can communicate with people through all these different stages. What do they think and feel? What are they seeing around them? What are they saying and doing? And what are they hearing from those around them? Then create content that would be applicable to them in all the different stages of the cycle.

Lastly, you need to establish a mission and cause that you are genuinely passionate about, and you need to believe in your message and how it can change consumers lives - because ultimately, content marketing is about making consumers lives better.

Contextual Relevance

The majority of news articles are focused on problems, argued Kennedy, which is apparent by simply clicking on the NZ Herald or Stuff website and reading the headlines - because problems make news.

As content marketers, it's our job to drill down these problems and offer up solutions.

Don't be afraid to have an opinion, says Kennedy, so long as it is aligned with your target audience. Of course, opinions can be polarising – meaning you could offend as many people as you win over, but it is a way to differentiate your business from the competition. Another way to stand out is by utilising current trends, he says. Look at the news and trends taking place in your environment and capitalise on them, because that is what is going to make you relevant.

Kennedy also pointed out that, despite popular belief, short and sweet content isn't always the way to go. Both short and long-form content have a role to play depending on where the consumer is in the Customer Buying Cycle.

Great tips, great advice and great coffee! Thanks a lot Colin for the very useful workshop and thanks again for letting me come along.