In this article, we look at the findings of PAN communications’ latest content marketing research.   PAN Communications is a Boston-based integrated public relations and communications marketing company with offices across the globe, including London.

For their “2019 Content Fitness Report”, they surveyed more than 100 marketing leaders from fledgeling to well-established brands. Here, we explore their key findings.

The report aims to understand how marketers see the strengths and weaknesses of their content marketing strategies, employee skillsets, and inter-departmental collaboration, and the role of content in brand awareness.

Marketers Say Brand Awareness & Thought Leadership Are Top Goals

61% think that thought leadership should be the top priority for content creators seeking to increase brand awareness.

According to the report, this is because thought leaders have greater authority, are better trusted, and generate more brand awareness compared to non-thought leaders. Consumers like and engage better with brands they think are trustworthy and authoritative.

Tip: Create content that provides consumers with accurate information that they find valuable at that point in the sales funnel.

Marketers Say Their Marketing Strategies Are Fully Integrated

62.5% define their marketing strategies as fully integrated. This is a 9% increase from 2018.

Integrated marketing seeks to create a coherent brand personality wherever the brand interacts with its consumers. Here, different departments need to collaborate to ensure the business uses a consistent style of communication across the board (e.g. the same style in customer services, on social media, and in advertising copy).

Tip: Create a style guide outlining your branding (e.g., logos and text font), your brand’s tone of voice, brand message, image style, video style, etc. Ensure all departments refer to it when creating content or interacting with customers. 

Marketers Say Their No.1 Priority in Promoting Brand Advocacy Is Customer Experience

Marketers want their customers to act as brand advocates, e.g. through word-of-mouth or by leaving positive reviews. The most important factor here is customer experience: if customers have a good experience, they will advocate for the brand.

Content isn’t just about providing valuable information at the right time. It’s also about your customer’s overall experience as they interact with your content. For example, is your content easy to find? Is your site easy to navigate? Is your content difficult to understand?

Tip: As a marketer, you need to understand how your customers feel when interacting with your brand. Consider implementing a “Voice of Customer Program”. Here, you engage your customers in a conversation and learn about their experiences, using the research as a guide and making changes where necessary.

Content Marketing Research Reveals A Need for “Employee Advocacy Programs”

Unless they outsource their content marketing, a business’s employees are the content creators. Satisfied employees project their feelings in their content. Therefore, employees become brand advocates when they feel good.

Employee advocacy programs (EAPs) help businesses understand their employees’ needs and inform positive changes to enhance the relationship between them.

The business can use this research to understand the “voice of the employee” and where their employees’ skill sets lie, which they can then use to create content.

For example, if an employee has expertise in a topic relevant to the customer, this employee can help create meaningful content that customers will find useful. This adds authenticity, authority and trust to the content.

Also, PAN’s content marketing research showed that content marketers had a lack of storytelling skills. EAPs offer a partial solution because they help businesses find storytelling opportunities. Storytelling should form part of your content marketing strategy because it increases engagement between a brand and its customers.

However, content marketers need to improve other storytelling skills and

“Focus on educating team members so they can foster engagement and dialogue”.

Pan Communication “2019 Content Fitness Report”

PAN’s report shows that businesses lack the motivation to capitalise on EAPs:

“Only 50% of brands are utilizing the voice of the employee and employee expertise to fuel their content strategy” – PAN Communication “2019 Content Fitness Report”

Pan Communication “2019 Content Fitness Report”

Tip: Use an Employee Advocacy Program as part of your content marketing strategy to improve employee satisfaction, discover areas of expertise, and find storytelling opportunities.

Marketers Are Not Budgeting Enough For Paid Syndication

Marketers feel that budgets need to prioritise channel diversity, followed by creative development (i.e. improving employee skillset), then investment in Martech tools.

Unfortunately, this means that paid social and syndication are taking a back seat. Paid social and syndication is where you pay social media platforms or search engines to show your content to more people, rather than relying on organic searches.

Failure to prioritise paid searches is problematic because organic reach is in decline. Content marketers have to budget for paid results if they want their content to reach a wide audience.

Tip: Diversify reach by allocating resources to paid search and PPC.

Marketers Lack Confidence in Traditional Analytics To Show ROI

69% say they lack confidence in their ability to measure the ROI of their content marketing strategies in a way that satisfies their bosses. Traditional technologies are insufficient for capturing the benefits of content marketing.

This partially comes from top-level executives expecting marketers to be able to attribute specific outcomes to specific content pieces. For example, they want marketers to prove that a customer purchased a product because they read a particular blog.

However, content marketing is a long-term strategy, and it’s rarely clear which content influenced which outcome.

To address this problem, marketers must manage their bosses’ expectations by explaining that content marketing adopts a holistic approach and direct results are difficult to measure.  Marketers should also spend more time understanding their data and analysing it for broader trends and patterns, e.g. tracking overall engagement on social media channels, rather than the performance of individual content.  

Tip: Manage expectations by explaining what can and can’t be measured by analytics. Teach them that they need to take a holistic approach.