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Running a Successful Content Promotion Campaign: The Lost Art of the Launch

What’s the secret to successful content promotion campaigns? Some people might say it’s great content, while others might tell you that great ideas, a big budget or a Rolodex full of influencers are key. All of these elements are necessary but insufficient. They might not even be necessary—you can do great things on reasonable budgets through appropriate media combinations. The key to a successful content promotion campaign is organization and planning. Running a campaign like clockwork, with paid, owned, and earned media working in lockstep is the best way to yield great results. And fortunately for marketers everywhere, it’s not expensive, undoable, or technical – it’s just a lot of work. (But that’s why they pay us the big bucks, right?)

Content Promotion Campaign Best Practices

In our content promotion campaigns at BuzzStream and our work with our clients, we’ve found a few keys to content promotion campaign success:

Bring back the old-School Launch

“Big Bang” launches have largely fallen out of fashion, especially in some sectors like software and consumer products. They’ve been replaced with leaner, iterative deployments. While this is the best approach on many products with high execution and market acceptance risks, it can lead to your content being overlooked and ignored. When you launch your campaign, you want to go as big on as many channels as possible at once. Waterfall planning, exclusives, and embargos, and trying to get the biggest impact are the name of the game. And if you’re in an industry that’s moved away from big launches as a tactic, you can get much of the attention you’d get from a big launch from a big content launch, enabling you to get the best of both continuous agile marketing and big launches.

Work with Partners Early

Working with partners—whether they’re companies with similar audiences, influencers in related spaces, niche publishers, or other groups—is an important strategy for distribution and reach. Many marketing teams get all the way to the end with their project, and then get their partners involved. In our experience, this is the wrong approach. Most strong publishers have editorial and email calendars scheduled out for weeks—if not months—so even if they wanted to drop everything and help you promote your campaign, they would have trouble doing so. Start a parallel process with your partners to investigate interest and get soft commitments to promote it while you’re creating content. That way, you can get spots on editorial calendars in advance, as well as involve your partner in the creation of your content. Scientifically, diverse groups of people make better decisions than individuals, and we all need all the help we can get.

Calendaring and project management is important

If I could only have one content promotion tool, I wouldn’t choose an acquisition channel, an owned media tool or even a great outreach tool like BuzzStream. I would choose Asana, Basecamp or another calendaring and project management system. Organization and making sure content, secondary content, and paid, owned, and earned media placements all come together in a natural way are important to a successful campaign. The best way to make this happen is to use a project management tool. Here at BuzzStream, we use Asana, with its related Gantt chart tool Instagantt, to keep the trains running on time.

Make sure things can fail while you still succeed

Often we see programs built around hope-based strategies: “If only my piece goes viral on Twitter/Gets picked up on Mashable/Goes big on inbound.org.” The general problem with any of these “one major thing works very, very well” strategies is that they create a whole lot of risk. And if you’ve spent weeks or even months on a piece of big content, pinning its success to one channel or placement is dangerous. Instead, I’d invite you (or challenge you, even) to map out a campaign where you fail—a lot—and still succeed. By using multiple channels and strategies you can still be successful, achieve a positive ROI and get your content seen and shared, even if the “big” influencers don’t pick it up.

Manage internal and external expectations

Managing expectations is another key part of content promotion success. Everyone you work with needs to understand:

  • These things take time, and effective campaigns need to be planned weeks and months in advance.
  • The likelihood of everything working as planned is not high. However, with flexibility and hard work, you’ll be able to get enough working to make the project a success.
  • The ROI of big content is not strictly one-time—it’s the gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve created your big content and ancillary pieces correctly, they should continue to drive search traffic back to your piece, creating a constant flow of new customers.
  • Additionally, the piece can be shared with leads and existing customers, increasing customer loyalty metrics like retention, lifetime value, and/or average order value.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Content promotion projects will go off-course without great planning, organization, and expectation management. If you don’t plan your campaign from the get-go and simply throw everything together at the last minute, you’re inviting failure. By contrast, if you plan your launch, work with influencers and partners from the beginning, stay organized with a detailed calendar and manage your risk, you can set yourself up for content promotion success. Image credit: NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center.

Matthew Gratt

Matt Gratt is a marketer focused on software and cloud services. He works on the marketing team at WP Engine after stints at BuzzStream, Portent, and AppCentral. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and searches for the best tacos in Austin, Texas.

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