Survey findings belie marketers’ grasp of content marketing

I’m a member of numerous LinkedIn discussion groups, and while the quality of information and discussion across those groups varies widely, every so often I come across a real gem of a resource.  In this case a group dedicated to marketing strategy linked to a survey recently performed by I Make News, their Second Annual IMN Content Marketing Survey (2013), provided a few content-marketing insights that I’d like to discuss. For starters, the IMN survey (free download, registration required) notes that about half the time companies curating third-party content run into copyright or trademark issues when circulating that content.  According to the survey:

For those who curate content from the web and other sources, it is critical they understand the copyright laws and rules associated with this tactic or risk potential legal repercussions—48% of respondents ran into issues during the process.

  • 15% have had issues with borrowing copyrighted content without permissions
  • 13% have had issues using Google Images to accompany content without permissions
  • 13% have had issues using a trademarked name or word
  • 7% have had problems incorrectly referencing industry research
  • 31% have not had any problems with their content marketing efforts but worry they might

The upshot of this finding?  In short, relationships matter.  And what do I mean by that?  If you’re going to utilize others’ content, it helps to have a relationship with those entities.  Not only will doing so help you get good content first, before others do, but it also saves cycles when it comes to claiming credit.  If you’re using someone else’s content, esp. one that’s not a household name, generally that entity tends to be grateful for the mention and link back and won’t pursue you for infringement.  The situation is typically different when big brands or any entity with their own legal department comes into play; playing nicely with others isn’t necessarily something big brands are well known for.  Rather than operate with at least the initial stance that there’s no such thing as bad press (which isn’t exactly true, as we all know, but being reflexively defensive also doesn’t imply operating from a position of strength), their tendency seems to be to confront first.  A more productive way to go about it would be to acknowledge another party’s use of their content and engage that party to direct the discussion in ways that suit them.  In other words, engage in a dialogue. But I digress.  My main point here is that by first selecting third-parties to work with, then getting them onside to support your message while also helping them extend their own brands, one circumvents an copyright issues, as you’re working hand-in-glove from the outset.  (You also create a surrogate press force that can then go to bat for you when bad press instances arise, but that’s another topic for another day.) At least, that’s what our experience working with third parties has shown — as they say, your mileage may vary.  Nevertheless, it’s fairly obvious that you tend to get further in working in concert with another party, as you both know what you’re getting out of the interaction. The second point arising from this survey is that there appears to be a significant disconnect between companies’ expectations of content marketing and their willingness to properly invest in the initiative.  Here’s how the survey findings put it:

While content marketing is a priority for marketers, the amount of marketing budget that is being allocated to it does not necessarily reflect its importance. According to the survey results, content marketing was a medium or high priority for 90% of respondents, but for nearly half of respondents (46%) it represented less than 10% of the marketing budget. This could be due to the fact that 35% of respondents cited internal resource constraints as the primary challenge in implementing a content marketing strategy.

Does it seem at all unreasonable to you that almost all markers engaging in content marketing place great emphasis on it, as stated above – and further, nearly half (44%) look to it to drive leads (as stated elsewhere in the survey findings) – and yet nearly half of those surveyed state that it gets only single-digits’ worth of their marketing budget?  I’m unclear as to how you can expect marketing to support sales in this aggressive fashion, then turn around and fail to properly fund that effort. Sounds like a recipe for failure to me.

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