"By Zeus' beard could someone just tell me what content marketing is?"
And suddenly we're more than halfway through March 2014. If you, like me, seem to have lost much of the year so far to Olympic curling or down a pint glass you promised yourself you'd see less of, then we might share some of the same background noise. You've probably heard a lot about 'content marketing' but aren't that sure what it is, let alone able to talk about it. This is because (sssh, come closer), no one is exactly sure how to define it. Why? Because as a phrase it doesn't really mean anything.
There's an abundance of definitions floating around though:
"Storytelling for Sales." - Push Social
"Content marketing is a pull, rather than a push, strategy. Content doesn't interrupt, it attracts." - Advertising Age
"Content Marketing: creating and distributing digital assets for the purpose of achieving business results." - Eloqua
"Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment." - Tech Target
It can be sold as a service because it's been defined as a product. But look at the above definitions again and try and sum up what it actually is. Storytelling? Digital assets? Brand promotion? Advertising? Still unsure, well here's my definition of 'content marketing':
Content marketing is content engineering. Its purpose is for communications. It's not self-indulgent, but made to market and promote a product or service by giving a pre-defined audience material that prompts them to maintain your message.
In summary: A louder and more accurate version of Chinese whispers.
This rather gloomy post about how content marketers are putting themselves out of business addresses the identity crisis content marketing is experiencing. Key quote: "That's how [content marketing] it started. And it was so helpful and so useful it became a thing with a name and there were tracks called "content marketing" at conferences and books about it and sections for it in online bookstores."