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For Content Marketers, The Best Promotion Might Be No Promotion At All

In publishing content across social-media platforms, marketers can offer “owned content”, “curated content” and “promotional content.”

A post by Scott Aughtmon reminded me that the best promotion might be no promotion at all.

On one level, I already understood this. Writing about content marketing strategies, I noted:

“Promotional content” offers opportunities to blend aspects of the approaches embodied in publishing “owned” and “curated” content. Although it can include calls to “check out what we do”, the more effective versions promote webinars, podcasts, events and other learning opportunities as a means to an end.

When promotional content is used to provide demonstrable value, consumers see it as a benefit. Mediabistro, a web site that covers a range of media businesses, also promotes its online and in-person courses, “boot camps” and even social gatherings. These offerings are all consistent with its positioning as a preferred resource for media professionals.

Of course, developing online and in-person courses, “boot camps” and social events takes time, attention and in most cases money. Until that work is done, the easier option – perhaps the only option – involves pointing to a list of clients or projects and asking potential customers to see themselves in those lists.

That kind of promotion might not work. In his post, Aughtmon describes Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack as an early example of content marketing. Created by Franklin to promote a printing business, the publication sold well for 25 years.

Aughtmon uses Franklin’s pioneering efforts to offer four lessons. The second lesson – “Create content that your prospects and customers want – especially if it isn’t focused on your business” – got me started thinking about our own efforts at Magellan.

Each week, we use a relatively small share of tweets, LinkedIn updates and Google Plus posts to promote what Magellan does. Typically, we identify a problem our clients and prospects face, offer a link to evidence that we can remedy the problem and then insert some “call to action”.

This three-part model for promotional content is considered “best practice”, but increasingly I wonder if it works universally. As Aughtmon notes:

… this might seem counterintuitive, but the most powerful kind of content for you to create might actually be content that doesn’t directly focus on your business or industry at all.

Think about it. Benjamin Franklin could have focused on creating a magazine with “Tips on How to Create Effective Advertising Posters.” He could have created a booklet on “10 Secrets Printers Don’t Want You to Know.” Or any other type of content directly related to his business. But he didn’t.

Franklin lived at a time when search algorithms weren’t busy rewarding titles like “10 Secrets Printers Don’t Want You To Know”, but Aughtmon’s point is a good one: “You might find that creating content that your prospects and customers want, but has nothing directly to do with your business could be your best bet.”

So, the next time you want to call attention to what you do, think about ways you can deliver content your prospects and clients need. It might not be directly tied to your business, but the best promotion might be no promotion at all.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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