Originally published on bluestatedigital.com.
Content marketing: You know it’s hot, but maybe you don’t know exactly what it is or what it means for you. Or maybe you’re already doing it?! More and more brands are evolving their skills and operations to act less like marketers and more like publishers (h/t to pioneers like Chubbies’ Friday at Five and Northwestern University’s Kellogg Insight).
We’ve seen this approach attract new audiences not only for brands but also cultural institutions, advocacy organizations, higher education–even a country. Yes, an entire country. The President of Mexico wanted to evolve public perception around the country’s brand and get more people to live, work, and vacation in Mexico. The government had invested in traditional advertising and PR, but was lacking a broader content strategy and anchor website. The resulting experience we created with them—mexico.mx—is more modern culture magazine than .gov website and demonstrates how an all-in, high-quality approach to content marketing can help you earn the attention of your target audiences and change deeply rooted behaviors.
So it’s probably time to start thinking about how a smart content marketing strategy could help you build awareness and expand your reach. Here are five lessons from mexico.mx that can help you get off the ground.
1. Listen to your audience—they’ll tell you what content to create.
If you can’t meet them personally, listen to what they say about you on social media and in comments sections, and create content that addresses their interests or concerns. During a strategic planning strategy phase, we heard from corporate executives who were keen to take advantage of lower operating costs, but were unaware of Mexico’s workforce and tax advantages; cultural travelers who were looking for unique, transformative vacations, but thought all Mexico had to offer was beaches; students who were interested in studying abroad, but were unfamiliar with Mexico’s world-class universities. We made a list of the questions and misconceptions that kept our target audiences from seeing Mexico as a great place to invest, study, work, or vacation. Working from that list, we came up with an editorial calendar full of content designed to poke holes in dated, inaccurate stereotypes, and replace assumptions with insight and advice.
2. Create a premium editorial experience.
Follow best practices from editorial sites: Curate your top stories every day; link to related content at the end of articles; facilitate sharing of your content. This should go without saying, but the look and feel of a site is crucial in communicating what your brand is about. A cookie-cutter experience is forgettable and screams “content farm.” Focus on grace notes, like cool animations. Invest in a unique font. When designing mexico.mx, we flouted expectations and opted for a subtle palette. The look is sophisticated, efficient, and modern—a reflection of what’s happening in Mexico right now.
3. Practice good journalism.
The essential first step in in building an engaged community is earning their interest and trust. If they think you’re just shilling for your brand or trying to make sales, they’ll never believe a word you say. Focus on service. Produce stories that provide value and keep them wanting more. It’s impossible to buy or book anything on the mexico.mx site—the focus is on promoting a deeper understanding of a country and its culture. When issues arise, which they always do, deal honestly with your customers by acknowledging them, but focus on how you’re solving them. Address negative press head on, get ahead of a challenging story, and offer a balanced perspective and context. Obviously the reason you’re in this space is to improve your company’s or organization’s (or country’s) bottom line. Customers and supporters get it, and they’ll be willing to go along if your content is authentic and valuable.
4. Enlist your biggest advocates to tell your story.
Mexico has ardent supporters who are willing to invest their own personal reputation in supporting the country’s future. Chances are your brand does too. Reach out and offer brand advocates an opportunity to share their stories with your audience. When soliciting content creators, look for contributors who represent your target audiences and have them share their personal experiences. On-the-level recommendations and commentary from writers your customers identify with will mean more to them than brochure copy.
5. Be realistic about your capacity.
Creating good content takes time and resources, and building an audience can take a while. A steady, regular stream of quality content goes farther than a big splash followed by radio silence. Plan (and budget) for the long haul. By the way, make sure the design you come up with is compatible with the volume of content you’ll be producing. We built the home page of mexico.mx so that the client could “toggle” between two layouts: One for high-volume editorial output, with room for lots of headlines above the scroll; and a more graphic version that “stretches” fewer articles and keeps the site from looking stale.
Good luck and happy publishing! Let me know if I can help.