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A Manifesto for Content Marketing

Date posted: March 24, 2014

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

—    Groucho Marx

When a post has manifesto as its subject, it only seems fitting to lead with something from Marx. (We’ve always preferred Groucho to Karl.) The great moustache’s “flexibility” can well apply to content marketing, where each practitioner has his or her take on what drives their work.

One of more interesting perspectives we’ve seen on driving creative content recently appeared in a post on Search Engine Watch, where Salma Jafri posits a ten point manifesto on content marketing. “It is a declaration of the policies and aims that I work with and those that define the context under which I make all marketing decisions,” she says.

Her points are worth revisiting:

Love What You Create
If you don’t start with what appeals to you personally, and what you would love to read and re-read (or watch or listen to), how could you possibly convince someone else to give your creation a shot?

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
A lot has been done by smart people the world over. Use what they’ve done and build upon it. Existing content within your own company can be re-used, it can be upcycled, it can be integrated, and it can be weaved into different formats. Milk your existing content for all it’s worth because you’ve put great effort into it and it would be a shame for more people not to see it. Also, curate other peoples’ content but add value to it by offering up an additional opinion or an insight or perspective.

Make Incremental Changes
Sailors do this all time. When a ship starts to veer off course, they never make one drastic course-correct. Doing so could tip the ship over… You are the captain of your content ship. Believe that small changes in the right direction can have a much bigger impact than a few huge overhauls.

Always Apply the 80/20 Rule
Not every new tool is going to increase your productivity. Try new things and give them a reasonable time frame of success. Doing so will help you find what works (the 20 percent) and use it consistently to maximize returns (the 80 percent).

Celebrate the Wins, Don’t Rue the Losses
Since content marketing is a long-term game; it’s easy to sometimes lose focus, get disheartened and give up when instant results don’t roll in. But if your strategy is solid, you’ll be able to stay the course and gain momentum with the small wins.

Your Strategy Will Save You
Spend inordinate amounts of time creating, recreating, and refining your content strategy. Drill down and define your goals and the customers you love to work with.

Transparency Wins Every Time
No matter the situation you encounter, whether it’s a harsh comment on a blog or a crisis over on social media, strive to be honest, explain the facts, define your position and take responsibility.

Strive to Test, Experiment, Then Test Again
Because you won’t magically know what works and what doesn’t for your business model. Sometimes testing might mean taking one step forward and two steps back. So be it.

Have Fun, Dammit!
Don’t create boring content. The world does not need another “why my product is so great” blog.

Don’t Obsess Over Your Niche
Yes it’s good to be focused and attract a niche following. Yes SEO is great and being relevant is obviously important. All of that matters. But it is secondary. The primary focus is to be interesting. People need to actually want to read your content. Your words need to show your personality. Your stories need to be informative, helpful, funny, etc. or stand out in other meaningful ways. Without that primary interest, there’s no long-term sustainability.

That’s a list that would take some topping, but Groucho would advise against the effort: “Years ago, I tried to top everybody, but I don’t anymore. I realized it was killing conversation. When you’re always trying for a topper you aren’t really listening. It ruins communication.”

One might well distill that into the 11th point.