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3 Content Marketing Trends to Adopt in 2016
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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2016 is here. Is the PR team ready? Here are three top content marketing trends for the year ahead that will help to drive higher sales and online reputation.  

Websites are Becoming Less Important
The focus for marketers has long been on generating as many visits to a brand website as possible, initially to familiarize a potential customer with a product or service, and later to capture sales leads. That is no longer the complete picture.

It is important to talk to customers about a brand where they are comfortable hanging out; that is increasingly on third-party channels such as Amazon, Medium, Facebook, or YouTube. Although brands won’t have as much control over their messaging as when they host content on their own site, it would be hard to turn down valuable leads generated through relevant third-party sites. According to Hotwire’s Communications Trends Report 2016, “Websites won’t die out completely, but we might just see the death of them as a primary marketing channel.”

Content Generated by Customers is the Real King
With 44% of Millennials trusting experienced consumers over brands (according to Bazaarvoice), brands have some work to do to leverage this trend. They’ll need to create Consumer Generated Content (CGC) programs that prioritize the content their consumers prefer to see, including ratings, reviews, questions, and social posts actually written by consumers as they share their honest opinions — good and bad.

Integrating CGC into marketing initiatives is a major trend for 2016, and one brands need to understand and manage. To do so, they’ll need to harness the skills of journalism and social media, as well as digital technology. The challenge is to create highly digitized and integrated marketing campaigns — of which PR is an integral part — to direct a customer journey that ultimately leads to sales.

Thought Leadership is the way to SEO
Google’s newest algorithm rewards high-quality content that it sees as an integral part of brand messaging. Conversely, it penalizes keyword stuffing and other awkward tactics designed to increase rankings. That’s why genuine thought leadership is key to extending a brand to targeted audiences, either through owned media or earned media achieved through social channels and third-party sites — most powerfully a mixture of both.  This can be done through value-based content, social media engagement, and sourcing relevant speaking opportunities for leadership. In 2016, the ability to position a brand as expert, honest, and relevant is more important than ever, says John Hall, Forbes contributor. “As thought leadership continues to grow in popularity (and as the base of successful PR strategies), agencies will need to adjust their budgets to allow for greater thought leadership development and execution.”

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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