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I don’t believe content to be a social silver bullet, but I seem to be in a minority on this one. Great content is merely a hygiene factor

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At a dinner the other day, I got myself tangled up in a heated discussion on content marketing:

We discussed whether or not there were any significant differences between content marketing and the type of editorial services the PR function had been delivering since the beginning of the 20th century. We agreed that the media logic had changed they way we work with different channels, but that the basic principles of editorial marketing had stayed the same.

So it was only natural for us to agree that editorial content was more important than ever.

However, while my dinner company was enthusiastically praising the importance of great content, I soon find myself disagreeing. While I think great content is important, it’s not a magic bullet.

Here’s why:

Great Content = Hygiene Factor

Great content is merely a hygiene factor. If you don’t have content to support your digital strategy, then you’re not even in the race. If you do have great content, then you’re at least qualified to compete.

And that’s a good thing, of course.

But it’s just as much about media logic (timing, platform, channel), promotion, and social psychology (narcissism, incentives, relationships) — as it is about the actual content.

So, if you’re like me and you don’t trust content alone to do the job for you, then here’s a good checklist for your next digital endeavour:

HOW: Incentive Mapping

You need to establish ‘gift status’ where people can gather around ideas or concepts worth sharing with their friends.

WHO: Public Segmentation

You find out what your targets like, what they talk about, what they search for, what they engage with.

WHAT: Monitoring & Analytics

If it gets measured, it gets done. And if you’re about to measure something, make sure your goals are clearly defined.

WHEN: Content Themes

Someone was first to say, ‘Timing is everything’ and many have agreed since. Give people what they want when they want it.

WHERE: Channel Strategy

Now it’s time for you to be very clear about how you’re going to leverage all those channels at your disposal.

WHY: Telling Stories

Speech writers all over will tell you what a difference a good story makes. The subtle art of framing your message shouldn’t be taken too lightly.

  • A Powerful Storytelling Script For Your Blog (The Star Wars Post)

IN WHAT WAY: Outreach Process

If you have done your homework so far, your creative process should be a breeze.

BY WHAT MEANS: Community Management

Allocating resources and executing the planned activities—and analyse the outcome so your efforts can improve.

What is your take on the ‘content is king’-discussion? Please join the conversation and share in the comments.


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Jerry Silfwer is the author of Doctor Spin, a PR blog that's been around for 15+ years. Via his agency Spin Factory, Jerry is advising brands on how to adapt to a 'digital first' world. In 2016, Cision Scandinavia named him "PR Influencer of the Year". Jerry lives in Stockholm, Sweden with his wife Lisah, news anchor and television host, and their three-year-old son, Jack.

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Markus Welin

I agree 100 percent! Great
content is absolutely no guarantee for success. I don’t really know why so many
people keep claiming that.

Doktor Spinn

Yeah, to me it’s a mystery too.

Markus Welin

I agree 100 percent! Great
content is absolutely no guarantee for success. I don’t really know why so many
people keep claiming that.

Pärre Bonk

But, hey, that was quite a rough generalization and simlification of the whole content marketing idea. Content is content and nothing else. Of course you can’ trust it to do any job at all at.
But now we are talking about Content MARKETING and logistics and social psychology is pretty much two of the most important parts of the whole concept.

It’s like saying you don’t belive in adverising after making an ad but not publishing it.

Doktor Spinn

That’s my point, the general consensus seems to be that all you have to do is to publish great content and word-of-mouth will take care of itself. And I don’t believe that. Neither do you and that’s a good thing, right?

I’m not to crazy about the effectiveness of ads either, but that’s another story.

Parre Bonk

Great, I actually agree on almost anything you say but the part of “general consensus”. I have also stumbled upon those “content is king”-evangelists/bloggers/tweeters that banalizes the whole matter, but there is actually a quite big content marketing industry/movement that are really serious about, not only creating great content, but also understand its role as a cog in the whole markcom/development/intcom ecosystem. My point is that there is no silverbullets at all (except the awesome Swedish band ), everything is a part of a system and for most “content marketets” thats obvious. You’ve probably just bumped into a bunch of journalists that are protecting their own guild and dont give a shit about communication/marketing.


Content is like any other product, u need to sell it. “Dänga väska” as some say in sweden Journalist usally suck at that. Pr consultants usally not.

Jerry Silfwer

@Rudolf I like to use the Pareto Principle to describe this. You spend 20% on content creation and 80% on content promotion.