The role of a content marketer is changing and expanding. In a post on Mashable’s website Shafqat Isllam predicted that content marketing for 2015 will be people focused, brand owned, crafted by storytellers and also distributed in real time via video. That’s why I’m taking a page from participatory journalist George Plimpton’s playbook and engaging in participatory marketing – content marketing from the source.
A participatory content marketer goes beyond the boardrooms, slide presentations and press releases seeking and engaging in interesting activities that the customer will relate to. By participating at the source, the marketer conveys an authentic experience similar to what the customer wants to experience or know about. For example, in 1960 writer George Plimpton wanted his readers to know how the average guy would fend pitching against a line up of professional baseball players. He pitched during an All-Star exhibition game and reported on it in his book Out of my League. He moved on to become a part of the football training camp of the 1963 Detroit Lions and wrote Paper Lion, a chronicle of his attempt to become the team’s third string quarterback. When companies encourage their content creators to participate in on-the-scene reporting the story comes alive.
Know the product
Believe it or not, some content marketers have never used the product they are writing about and promoting. Not only should they use it, they should be able to demonstrate it to people who know nothing about it. Doing this exposes the content marketer to real people who have questions and opinions and trust issues.
The participatory marketer spends a day in the trenches visiting where the product is manufactured or learning why the service was conceived. He or she talks with line workers, engineers and other team members putting the customer in their shoes, thus making them aware of what it takes to get this product made or service delivered.
Know more than the product
In what environment does the product exist? Who or what is competing against it? Where does its success lay? The participatory content marketer goes to trade shows and product launches to see how the product is positioned. He or she interviews visitors. Observes how the competition is positioned and where the largest crowds are forming. They spend time in the trade booth with the sales staff listening to conversations and trying to close a deal or at least arrange for a follow up meeting.
Assertive, on-the-scene reporting is interesting and conveys information without the “messaging” madness that so many behind-the-desk content marketers rely on. When I write about foodservice I want to see the kitchen, interview chefs, ask them for the recipe, make the dish myself, and eat it. When I’m writing about a construction project I want to visit the site, talk with the senior project manager and the backhoe operator. This is how content marketing becomes people focused, brand-owned, crafted and/or created on the spot. Let the world know how problems are being solved and what opportunities are being created by the brand.