If you create an amazing content piece, but nobody trusts it, does it have any real business impact?
This is the question more content marketers should be asking themselves. For all the discussion currently taking place around content marketing, the issue of trust is perhaps the most critical. At the end of the day, if people do not trust (or know) your organization, then no matter how much great branded content you produce, it will largely fall on deaf ears.
That doesn’t mean that your branded content isn’t important – it simply means that for every content marketing strategy, “trust building” must be included as one of the pillars.
Earned Media Isn’t Optional
And this is where expert content – earned media – enters the content marketing mix. Research from Forrester shows that 55 percent of people rely on expert content (credible, third party articles or reviews), while only 32 percent rely on branded content. When asked by Forrester about making a purchase decision, 58 percent of consumers say that expert content would make them more likely to buy.
Marketing is all about identifying the customers’ needs and creating strategies that solve for those needs. And when making a purchasing decision or forming their perception of a brand, at the core of any customer’s needs is real, credible information.
Think about the last purchase you made – did you simply go to a company’s website to read about the product, or did you check trusted publications for articles and reviews about the product? Chances are, you wanted to see what credible experts said about the considered item, not just the biased information from the company.
Now think about a brand that succeeded in changing your perception. Was it the result of a clever piece of content that they wrote, or was your perception changed by consistently reading positive articles about the brand from sources that you trust?
Which begs the question – if consumers are impacted more by trusted content from brand-independent experts than they are by branded content, why do most content marketing strategies rely primarily on branded content?
Time To Flip the Model On It’s Head
As opposed to spending 90 percent of your time (and content marketing budget) on branded content that resonates less with consumers, today’s content marketers should consider flipping the model to prioritize the expert content that is more effectively impacting consumers’ perception and consideration. Leading with expert content not only helps increase brand awareness via the voice of your market’s experts, but in doing so, it also helps build a foundation of trust with the consumer.
Once you have built a solid foundation of trust with the consumer, the rest of your marketing mix benefits from that trust and becomes more impactful.
It’s Not An Either/Or Proposition
Now, just because more and more research is proving expert content to be more effective than branded content at increasing brand consideration and changing perceptions, that doesn’t mean that branded content serves no purpose. Too often in the broader marketing community there seems to be a battle between “earned media” and “branded content.” But it is not an either/or proposition – rather, one builds upon the other.
Think of it this way – If you’re walking down the street and you see a coffee shop with a sign that says “Best coffee in the world,” but you’ve never heard anything about the shop and don’t have any foundation of trust with the brand – are you going to go inside? Most likely you’re going to keep walking to your trusty Starbucks.
But what if you’ve read a few articles about that new coffee shop from trusted, third-party sources, saying that they’ve tasted the coffee, and they think it is the best cup of coffee in the world? That new coffee shop’s sign has a lot more credibility to you now, and it might just prompt you to step inside and try a cup.
Likewise, the time and effort you are currently spending on branded content are certainly not wasted. But the impact of that content will be far greater if you work to establish a baseline of trust with the consumer first.
How About Some Expert Content On The Power Of Expert Content?
After all this talk about credible, third party sources, I figured it would only be proper to close with what some credible, independent sources are saying on the subject of expert content.
Take a look at what Tom Foremski, notable Silicon Valley media pundit, author, and writer had to say about expert content in a recent post on ZDNet.
Forrester’s own Ryan Skinner has become one of the biggest champions of trust building via content marketing and has covered the topic in depth on his blog and through his recent reports.
And Chad Pollitt, VP of Audience here at Relevance, wrote a great response to the Content Shock debate earlier this year with his article “Why Earned Media (Not Quality Content) Will Save Content Marketing.”
How is your organization leveraging expert content? Do you agree that earned and owned media are not mutually exclusive? What examples of successful expert content come to mind for you?