A brief interruption to my series on the importance of Employee Communications for this report from the Content Marketing World conference.

Randall Lane’s “mini-keynote” Tuesday at Content Marketing World 2013 had a curiously complex title: “The New Urgency of Putting Content Marketing through a Consumer Prism.” In the world of content marketing, where subjects project a distinctly different tone…Five Rules You Can’t Forget…12 Must Know Rules…How to Rock Your Content…the Forbes editor’s title was an outlier.

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If he weren’t the warm up act for the full keynote address by Coca-Cola’s creative strategist, Jonathan Mildenhall, I’m not sure Lane’s title would have drawn more than a few dozen attendees. But standing before a Cleveland Convention Center exhibit hall packed with marketers who’d been feasting all morning on new content tactics and strategies, Lane quickly simplified his subject to a more compelling message:

“Think like an editor.”

Lane’s point of view makes it easy to take the mystery out of content marketing. Editors, he pointed out, do three things consistently:

One, editors think about their audience.  What are their interests, preferences, needs and wants? In seminars earlier in the day, virtually every presenter emphasized the importance of creating buyer profiles and personas as the foundation of any effective content marketing program.

Two, using their knowledge and understanding of their readers and viewers, editors practice good storytelling.  They identify and report on relevant, timely stories that matter to their audience. In content marketing, we follow the same approach generating topics we think will engage buyers.  We track them on editorial calendars that aren’t too far off the newsroom lineups I used as a radio assignment editor.

And three, Lane said, editors package their content in formats and styles that are appealing to the user.  Content marketers might take a premium white paper and repurpose (or package) it as an infographic, a meme and a video.

With his editor hat squarely on, Lane urged attendees to be transparent about their brands’ roles in their content. Fading are the days of “advertorials” that seek to blend in with editorial carrying only a mice type notice about its true form. Good branded content focuses on the user’s needs and interests – not the brand or its products.  But transparent content is clear about who the creators are and their connections to the brand. Forbes does it well, incidentally, at BrandVoice.

The benefit to marketers of thinking like an editor, according to Lane, are clear: “tell a relevant, targeted and transparent story and the world will share it.”

Makes the old newsman in me smile.

Greg Loh is the managing partner of public relations and public affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s leading independent marketing communications agencies. Views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the opinions of EMA.

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