How 2020 defined the future of content marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched almost every industry across the planet. The businesses that survived - thrived, and they did so by reading the tea leaves, taking risks and implementing swift and strategic operational changes that were backed by strategy.

Content marketing is a discipline that has the ability to infiltrate the processes of the majority of workplaces worldwide. The core marketing practice was characterised in 2020 by its quick adaptation to shrinking marketing budgets, and changing consumer behaviours.

The below examples of the new approaches that surfaced in 2020 will prove to be just as relevant in 2021, and beyond.

1. Value-driven content will determine cut-through

COVID-19 has brought audiences’ emotional needs to the forefront, and it is critical for content marketers to align their client communications with these needs to connect.

The tone of communication has moved towards comfort, compassion, contribution, gratitude, and humour.

Edelman’s recent Brand Trust the and Coronavirus Pandemic report shows that brands and companies have stepped away from mass-marketing and overselling. Content Marketers have recognised the need for their clients to articulate their support for society through purpose rather than profit messaging.

Nike is a great example of a renowned global company who moved its focus away from sales and towards a larger societal issue: the Black Lives Matter movement.

After being reminded of the urgent change needed in our society, Nike announced a $40 million commitment over the next four years to support the Black community. What could have been another multi-million advertisement is now instead an invaluable commitment to improve our society and support an issue that is vitally important to many of their customers.

A survey conducted by Deloitte found one in four people moved away from brands that they believed acted in self-interest. Every day these brands will lose a customer to a company that genuinely reflects what the customer values.

2. Keywords will be replaced by topical authority

Most digital marketers live by the value of a well-designed website and UX. The foundations of a website will still be relevant, but in 2021 many marketers will overlook the fact that backlinking to build authority in the world of SEO is becoming a secondary priority.

This year Google will be placing more emphasis than ever on depth of expertise in website content and organisations that cover a topic with the most depth will own the future traffic flow for related queries.

Google doesn’t reward the ability to just create content for one keyword, but instead focuses on how well that content fits into the context of an entire website.

So what does this mean for content marketing? In 2021 the futurists will be focussing on publishing long-form content based around pillars.

The pillar pages will offer a foundation for expertise on a specific topic and then posts will begin to augment and build from the identified areas of subject authority.

3. Content will be interactive and engaging - or ignored

After (forever) days in lockdown, consumers have seen most (if not all) types of content. Their expectations are growing and they are demanding more.

They want to be entertained, educated and most of all - have fun. As B2B brands continue to adopt marketing practices typically reserved for the B2C space, engaging content has become a critical need.

Savvy content marketers will utilise interactive content in different formats, to deliver key messages to the target audiences, thus ensuring resonation.

As the average attention span is 8 seconds, snackable content will be on the rise to cope with the modern, smartphone-driven age.

4. Original research will become gospel

Content marketing is incredibly saturated with "thought leaders" and "influencers" however, they aren't exactly helpful in determining what works and what doesn't in an ever-evolving digital landscape. Original research (such as whitepapers) allows for a cutting edge in providing deep insights into what industry professionals and startups alike are doing; good or bad.

The goal of any research study is to discover more about a problem and crowdfund answers to either understand it better or come up with a solution.

Publishing and sharing original research will build a company's rapport and boost their reputation as ‘experts’.

The best part for content marketers is; one research piece can be repurposed in countless ways.

5. Atomisation will boost rapport

Working hand in hand with the content marketers new friend 'original research’, content atomisation is perhaps the shift that will be the first to become the ‘new norm’. It works by taking a huge, in-depth piece and breaking it down into eight or more smaller pieces of content.

Expert content marketers know that there’s really nothing new under the sun, so their job is to repurpose something old, reimagine something that’s already familiar and present it in a new way, new angle or new place.

The angle will be new, and the facts will be cleaned, revitalised and appear shiny new.

6. Information will be local and targeted

Faltering economies, lockdowns and closed favourite local spots has sparked a sense of community across the world. A recent Ernst & Young survey shows that 59% of surveyed consumers are likely to shop more locally in the long term, which could create a crisis for firms with multi-national clients, unless they’re clever.

Content marketers are learning to master communicating with targeted audiences by creating tailored content and news to suit their interests. A multi-national commercial client can still be relevant to a specific group of Australians, it’s just the matter of ensuring that the right messages meet them.

For example, the NSW Rural Fire Service has recently launched its latest ad campaign “How fireproof is your plan?”. It features people who lost their homes in the recent bushfires – news that went around the globe. This campaign is perfectly targeted at people who need to know this information in a way that they will understand and respect.

Content production will be a key focus for businesses as we move forward.

A business who wants to succeed will need to find ways (or a clever content marketer) to ensure that their content is valuable, fun and engaging for their audience.

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