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June 2017
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Content Marketing Watch – why the public sector should blog

Content Marketing Watch is our weekly piece on the latest industry news; covering the areas of content marketing such as analytics, online marketing, content optimisation, search engine marketing and digital communications. To blog or not to blog is a contentious issue for the public sector. Supporters see it as a way for Government to engage in dialogue with people and bring a human face to what is often perceived a souless bureaucracy. The more skeptical see it as communications minefield. At w00tonomy we believe that blogging is right for the public sector. Having worked for years with people in the public sector we are always been struck by the disparity between the portrayal of the public sector as impersonal and the passion that many people in the sector feel for their work. Online we believe one of the main reasons for this is that public sector bodies seek to manage all communications through corporate sites. These sites clearly serve a purpose by providing us with a single source of facts and information but by their very nature they speak with only one voice. The price you pay by limiting your use of the Internet in this way is that you loose engagement and personality. Blogging provides a way for the public sector to bring that expertise and passion to the surface. It doesn’t have to be from a single person – it can be from a team or a department; you can also invite contributions from experts and interested groups in the field. To illustrate, here are some “in the field” examples of how blogs are being used in major policy areas from across the pond.
  • Environmental. The Energy Savers blog is a vehicle for discussion and education around environmental issues for the home, workplace and travel.
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Content marketing: a visualisation exercise

Imagine you’re a marketeer who has gone through all the difficult work of getting your content online. You will probably have done your audience segmentation and usability testing, designed your information architecture, created your taxonomies, produced creatives in line with corporate guidelines, selected your CMS, posted and reworked all those volumes of content and then gone through the agony of testing and change management. Phew. Finally, it is accomplished. You have a site designed on sound principles compliant with all online standards. Surely such a well engineered solution must achieve the purpose it was set out to do. And to some extent it has – it has distributed your information in a structured format ready for your segmented audience to view. Now how do you justify all that expenditure to senior management? You supply monthly web statistics on page views, search terms and referring links – possibly, if you’re really sophisticated, broken down by audience segment. And this is the evolutionary point where the best sites are today. “So,” you may ask, “what is problem Mr Content Marketing?” The answer is that after all this good work you need to start thinking about customer engagement and delivering value. In handling all those engineering and standard compliance problems, the actual marketing objective of engaging in a dialogue that delivers values got put to one side. Why? Because it’s outside the expertise of many online agencies. And few agencies really want their performance tied to client business objectives. It’s far easier to deliver a website and job done. Content marketing is the next step for anyone getting a message to an audience. It’s about putting the future of your site in the hands of marketers who think and act like publishers. To illustrate this point: many health sector websites are the equivalent of a medical journal or text book. The information is well structured and all the information is there. But it’s static, sometimes hard to uncover and there is very little scope for change after publication. But if you marketed your organisation through online stories in a health, fitness and lifestyle magazine you would have something that was refreshed regularly and caught the attention and interest of your audience. That’s content marketing.
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Online: why the public sector wins

For eight years I plied my trade as an online journalist. My mission, should I have no choice but to accept it, was to attract readers to pages where adverts were served. For every 1,000 page impression a piece of content received we could expect something like £10 (plus any sponsorship for the relevant section). That’s a lot of work to get a lot of traffic for not much cash. That’s a key problem for commercial publishers online. Another key problem is the way that online has moved in the past two years or so. Thanks to the phenomenon known as Web 2.0, the focus has shifted to individual items of content not to where they are displayed. Blogs, RSS feeds, widgets, wikis, social network and umpteen other phenomena take content out of its context and share, manipulate and distribute it in more ways than seem possible. If the content is interesting enough, that is. This presents a bijout problemette for commercial content producers. While it’s great to have lots of people reading their stories or watching their videos it’s hard to generate revenue unless you can drag those users under an advertising banner or beside a sponsor’s logo. This mission is not impossible but it is damn hard. But this is all great news if your aim is not to make money from attracting people but to demonstrate value for money and getting the right message out there. And this is where the public sector wins big, especially when it comes to delivering public service messages. Online is now about distribution and content. If you can embed your message in interesting content then the natural flow of the web will take it to the people for you.
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