3 content marketing rules to live by

Crafting and sharing outstanding content can be difficult. Stand out from the crowd with these tips from UPS, Children’s Mercy Hospital and Kind Snacks.

Content marketing is a growing trend—but many PR and marketing pros struggle to do it right.

In 2015, MarketingProfs reported that brand managers spend 25 percent to 43 percent of their marketing budgets on creating and sharing content. However, an eMarketer study revealed less than a quarter of chief marketing officers feel the content their team creates resonates with their audience.

A 2015 study by The Economist and Peppercomm revealed that 93 percent of marketing pros planned to maintain—or increase—their content marketing budgets for the year ahead. The study also reported that less than a third of marketers believe their organizations understand the purpose and effectiveness of their content.

Embrace the trend effectively with these three rules, given during Ragan’s Content Marketing Summit at The Home Depot:

1. Become a worthwhile companion.

Dean Foust, director of executive communications at UPS, says that before creating your organization’s content, you should think about two very different types of dates:

Foust says that similar to a person who spends an entire date talking about him or herself, brand managers that share content that only highlights how wonderful the company is or what it does is a turnoff for consumers.

Make consumers fall for you by putting them first and sharing stories, visuals and articles that make them think and improve their lives.

Free download: 10 Ways to Get Employees to Open and Read Your Email

2. Embrace your Chicken Little.

It might be hard to believe that people could get angry with the team behind Kind bars—who hates a healthy fruit and nut snack?—but Joe Cohen, the company’s senior vice president of communications, says PR and marketing pros must be prepared for anything.

Though not an oft-referred to aspect of creating content, Cohen says having a crisis plan in place is an integral part of content marketing.

“Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner Chicken Little,” Cohen says. “In today’s environment, brands are being held to a higher level of scrutiny.”

You don’t have to run around proclaiming the sky is falling in order to spot and deal with an impending crisis. Responding quickly, admitting mistakes made, being authentic and explaining how you’ll right the wrong are all elements of effective crisis communications, Cohen says:

When created alongside an engaging content marketing strategy, crisis communications is a proactive—rather than reactive—part of PR.

Cohen also stresses the important of transparency—something near and dear to Kind’s PR and marketing efforts. By being open and willing to show your consumers what’s behind closed doors, you foster trust—which can help when a crisis hits.

Don’t clam up when storms come your way. Cohen says it’s important for PR and marketing pros to be transparent even when times are tough:

3. Focus on your community.

Jake Jacobson, national PR director for Children’s Mercy Hospital, knows the importance of building a vibrant, engaged community. It’s part of what makes the hospital stand out in a crowded online world of competing messages.

Jacobson says that an important element of content marketing is distributing your creations across social media channels and enticing followers to share with others.

To start, pick online platforms where your consumers reside and that make sense for your organization:

Networking skills are paramount when sharing your content online and building your network.

Jacobson says Twitter chats can be a great way to build your network and share your insights and stories—Children’s Mercy hosts a monthly chat of its own—but make sure you offer knowledge, not spam:

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