Break these 10 content marketing habits in 2016

Putting your campaign on autopilot and guessing about your audience without the benefit of metrics will doom you in the coming year. Resolve to stop undermining your own efforts.

In our professional and personal lives, the new year offers a fresh start, a time to take stock and identify opportunities for improvement.

Of course, that also means it’s time for the inescapable tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s time to promise to exercise more, put down our phones more and focus more on our families.

Although I know all of these are important resolutions, I find the urge to do more and more absolutely paralyzing.

That’s why I’ve decided 2016 is the year I’m not making resolutions of things I ought to start doing or do more often or more intensively.

Instead, I’m making “un-resolutions”—promises to eliminate habits that hold me back professionally.

If you want to join me in this, I’ve compiled 10 behaviors that content marketers should stop in 2016:

1. Stop serving only your brand.

I know: Every piece of brand content—whether it’s rooted in PR, advertising or content marketing—is created to ultimately benefit the brand. However, the content that goes viral or—even better—has long-term success earns those triumphs because it isn’t self-serving.

That means thinking about your audience first and planning content that answers their needs. That also means providing content that educates and/or entertains.

It may be a hard truth to swallow (and even harder to sell to company leaders who are used to the old way); however, today’s customers value those things.

2. Stop marketing without a plan.

Although it’s important to quickly make adjustments when needed, your overall marketing approach must be proactive, not reactive.

Today’s content marketers don’t have the luxury of flying by the seat of their pants. If you’ve been operating without a content plan, stop.

Document your content strategy and how your marketing channels fit within it. Then create an editorial calendar that will keep those channels on track throughout the year ahead.

3. Stop guessing who your audience is.

At one time or another, we all fall into the trap of viewing our audiences in oversimplified terms. For instance, there are many different subsets of “consumers,” “B2B decision makers,” and “journalists” whom you ought to consider when honing your content creation and promotion.

Revisit your brand’s buyer persona profiles, and remove the guesswork from your marketing.

4. Stop ignoring data.

Marketing reports are much more than a pretty thing to show off to upper-tier executives.

Deciphering this data is essential to making smart decisions. Analytics can help you optimize individual content pieces and overall communications programs, fine-tune budgets and increase revenue. Make sure your 2016 strategy includes regular analyses of your marketing’s output, outtakes and outcomes.

5. Stop boring your audience.

You can’t risk producing “so-so” content. That’s the type of content flooding your audience’s inboxes and newsfeeds each day. Rise above the din by producing exciting content exclusively.

If you have to pick between content quantity and quality, pick quality.

Get visual and interactive, diversify the voices contributing to your content and tell stories. Offer variety not just in your narrative, but also in your formats. Turn expectations on their heads.

6. Stop holding your content back.

Even amazing content can get lost in the clutter. Don’t limit the reach of your message to your owned and social media channels. This is the year to determine which multichannel mix of paid, earned and owned platforms will work best for you.

7. Stop ‘setting and forgetting’ your strategy.

So you have your plan for the year in place. You know who your audience is, how much revenue you have to bring in and when you’re promoting certain content.

That’s great. However, only part of the work is done. Goals change. Your audience’s needs change. Technology and tools change.

Enlist the help of a monitoring tool to stay informed about what’s happening with your content, your customers, your competitors and your industry, as well as the influential people driving all this change. Check in with your plan regularly, and adjust it as needed.

8. Stop playing it safe.

If you thought “Web 2.0” transformed marketing, it’s nothing compared with the impact that mobile, the Internet of Things and wearables are making.

Virtual reality and smart devices are no longer the future; they’re the present. It’s time to get excited about these changes and figure out how your marketing fits into your audience’s increasingly connected world.

9. Stop half-hearted attempts at making key connections.

With all of the talk about paid placements, search and social media, you might be tempted to let earned media slip down your priority list.

However, multiple reports demonstrate that buyers trust third-party content more than owned media.

To earn that coveted third-party coverage, you have to put time and effort into building solid relationships with journalists, bloggers and other influential voices.

10. Stop turning down opportunities to learn.

To accomplish all of these “un-resolutions,” you must expand your knowledge and develop new skills.

Fortunately, thanks to virtual learning programs, many universities have made it easier to pursue continuing education. Even if going back to school isn’t on your 2016 to-do list, look for conferences, local speaker events, webinars and Twitter chats that will help you stay ahead of industry best practices.

Although you’re busy, you have to stop telling yourself you’re going to listen to that webinar later. The deadlines are never going to end, and “later” will never come. Set aside time to do it now.

Regardless of whether your last year was a successful one, 2015 is in the rearview mirror.

I hope you’re as excited as I am to continue developing both your organization’s and your personal brands in the year ahead.

Amanda Hicken is PR Newswire’s senior manager of strategic content and managing editor of Beyond PR, where a version of this article originally appeared. Follow her on Twitter @ADHicken.

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