Why I’m striking the phrase “content marketing” from my vocabulary – and hope you will, too

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November 13, 2013 by Stephanie Janard

If there is one profession that should understand above all others that messaging matters, it’s the field of marketing. So why on earth have we all collectively agreed to label our messaging as “content” – which brings to mind nothing more than inert filler, largely there just to take up space?

If you don’t think buying into this phrase won’t have an actual effect on your messaging, just look at some of the advice out there from the “content marketing” experts.

Over and over I see the suggestion that marketers repurpose older web copy and blog posts to use for other “content marketing” pieces like brochures and white papers. Never does this recommendation remind marketers to heed the target audience’s current stage in the buying process, the audience’s level of technical understanding, or for that matter, any other qualifiers.

No, this is standalone advice, often among the first offered, which is giving marketers the impression that as long as they put something out there for prospects to read on a regular basis, the qualified leads will follow.

That’s a perception that just cheapens the value of your marketing message. And if you don’t value your own message, do you honestly think prospects will?

Incidentally, it also makes the deadly mistake of over-estimating the ease of capturing your prospects’ interest.

Here’s another irony: one of the key jobs of a marketing communications professional is to bring clarity to a subject, yet confusion reigns in the field as to what “content” marketing actually means. Really, ask a number of marketers to define the phrase. I assure you, you’re going to get a number of different answers.

The term is just a vague and vapid generality; nothing more. And as a writer, that especially makes me shudder.

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5 thoughts on “Why I’m striking the phrase “content marketing” from my vocabulary – and hope you will, too

  1. Ryan Skinner says:

    Aside from the fact it’s kinda part of my title, I would love to strike it. It’s temporarily serving a purpose, though (that being, helping businesses imagine that someone will eventually actually have to READ the stuff their business publishes, so for the love of god make it unboring). I give it 12-18 months – though I fear its job will be only partially done.

  2. […] “Why on earth have we all collectively agreed to label our messaging as ‘content’—which brings to mind nothing more than inert filler, largely there just to take up space?” asks Stephanie Janard. […]

  3. Hi Stephanie…I started using the term content marketing back in 2001. The reason? Because there were 100 different names for the practice and everyone was talking in circles. It’s important that senior marketers have an understanding of the approach of content marketing so we can use it to create better customers.

    Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the phrase is, and yes, there is a lot of confusion over the term…but we have to start somewhere.

    Not sure what “experts” you are talking about, but the majority of the thoughtful marketers in the space we work with are doing some great things. A few, as you point out, are not…but that is the case with every marketing practice area.

    Thanks for your thoughts
    Joe

  4. “All Truth passes through Three Stages: First, it is Ridiculed… Second, it is Violently Opposed… Third, it is Accepted as being Self-Evident.”

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1778-1860)

    Me thinks we’re in the final stage.

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