The Biggest Content Marketing Mistake Brands Make Today

Chad Pollitt VP of Audience, Relevance

Posted on April 3rd 2014

The Biggest Content Marketing Mistake Brands Make Today

Many brands that have invested in content marketing over the last few years took a strictly owned media approach. They created copious amounts of content and published it on their own websites via a blog or something similar. After that they used their own social channels to broadcast the content.

Five years ago, that type of content marketing could move the traffic and conversions needle because most industries weren’t yet saturated with helpful content online. It might take six to 18 months, but eventually Google and the other search engines and organic social sharing would send enough sustaining traffic.


But this isn’t true anymore, because the amount of helpful branded content being published online has reached monumental levels. In fact, Mashable reports that 347 WordPress blog posts are published, 48 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded and 571 websites are launched every minute of every day. Those numbers continue to grow every year. It’s led some to make the apocalyptic prediction of content shock.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 64 percent of marketers believe they’re not using their content effectively. Relying on owned media exclusively could take years or never significantly move the key performance indicator needle in many industries. This problem is making MARCOM teams second guess the publishing frequency (quantity) and the quality of their own content.

However, this isn’t a content problem. It’s an audience problem. Most consumers of content online visit a group of their established and trusted media outlets and niche industry sites on a regular basis to get the information they’re looking for. These websites have generally been around since at least the last decade, have amassed large audiences and hold oligopolies on them. They are the content gatekeepers, or what Marcus Sheridan calls “digital sooners.”

Both HubSpot and Moz are brands that are digital sooners: they developed large audiences and communities over the last decade by producing large quantities of helpful content, and publishing seminal works of advanced content that earned lots of media coverage and attention. This advanced content continues to drive awareness, traffic, leads and revenue to this day. Below is a deck that shows how they did it then and what lessons, as a result, we can use now.

In order for most brands to get a significant number of eyeballs on their owned content, they must converge owned, paid and earned media. Paid and earned media channels allow brands to tap into the audiences of the content gatekeepers. According to Ryan Skinner of Forrester, brands can actually step down content production and step up distribution (paid and earned media), and yield better results. Getting real media coverage for branded content or paying for services like Outbrain will expedite the audience growth of a brand’s owned media efforts.

Not sure where to start with your content distribution and promotion efforts? Begin with this earned and paid media cheat sheet.

The biggest mistake brands are making today is the build it and they will come syndrome. This syndrome contains the below symptoms and their subsequent cures.

Symptom 1Believing that more or better content will build audience faster.

Cure – Fix this by stepping down production and focusing on converging the three media channels (owned, paid and earned).

Symptom 2 – Not having a distribution strategy or budget for it (paid and earned media).

Cure – Do some media research and figure out where the desired audience actually hangs out. Invest time and resources getting your content featured on those sites.

Symptom 3 – No media or influencer outreach to earn coverage for advanced content.

Cure – Start establishing real relationships and pitching influencers and journalists advanced content like ebooks, guides and studies to cover and cite.

Symptom 4 – Not including media, audience and keyword research in the pre-production phase of content development.

Cure – Use Big Data to your advantage. Tools like Cision, Hitwise, SEMRush, BuzzSumo and inPowered can help define who your audience is, where they hang out online and what their problems are. This information makes content creation, promotion and pitching much easier and increases the likelihood of success.

Don’t be part of the 64 percent that believes their branded content is not effective. Instead, converge the three media channels of owned, paid and earned and stop pouring all of your resources in owned media. It’s true, there’s an audience out there, but they’re already committed to other websites they trust. As Ryan Skinner would say, “Put distribution at the heart of your content marketing.”

(Image credit: Flickr)


Chad Pollitt

VP of Audience, Relevance

Chad Pollitt, a decorated Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander, is VP of Audience and Co-founder of Relevance, an online publication solely dedicated to helping marketing and communications executives solve their online content visibility challenges. Named a Top 20 CMO Influencer and Top 5 Content Marketing Thought Leader, Chad also authored "The Content Promotion Manifesto." He is a regular contributor to industry media outlets, including The Guardian, Huffington PostLinkedIn and many others.

See Full Profile >


Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 4:16PM

Hi Chad. First things first, thank you for your service. I admire your courage, dedication and selflessness.

Thanks for the article. Going to where the audience is, is a lesson all content marketers need to learn. Research Brief recently published a new study from inPowered and conducted by Nielsen that showed consumers rely on credible, third-party content more than branded content or user reviews when making decisions.



Posted on April 3rd 2014 at 10:36PM

Thanks Jim! I'm very familiar with that study and actually covered it on LinkedIn the week prior.

You're absolutely write about what this study means, too. I very glad they did it.