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The Eight (New) Commandments Of Content Advertising and PR may have been the go-tos for success in the past, but the tide is turning, and everything now has to be thought out, purposeful, and not just churned out to generate endless views and impressions.

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Let's talk content marketing. You've seen it, heard it, and in all likelihood, done it yourself, without even knowing it at one point or another. But do you really know the value it can bring, if done right? For SMEs and entrepreneurs alike, budgets are tight, and it's never been more important to get the right bang for your buck. That's one of the reasons why content, in all its glorious forms, is having a moment in the spotlight, as businesses realize its true worth in communicating today. Advertising and PR may have been the go-tos for success in the past, but the tide is turning, and everything now has to be thought out, purposeful, and not just churned out to generate endless views and impressions.

Today, content is king, queen, and everything in between when it comes to plotting your roadmap to success. The main issue that most companies face, however, is how to implement this the right way, when there are so many others doing it wrong, or confusing it with advertising, PR and even social media to an extent. Google the definition of content marketing (you know, just for fun), and chances are you'd probably end up none the wiser. Among the thousands of results are descriptions that read more like a dictionary entry, as opposed to what it actually means for communication strategies today.

This is where a problem can arise, as it leaves SMEs feeling like they need the bigger players (just as they do with advertising and PR) for a content marketing plan to be successful, when in actual fact there are other solutions for them to explore. The days of hiring one big agency to manage everything is over, as brands look to work with the smaller industry players to get the support they need. Businesses today want to be informed on all the marketing options available, so they are equipped to make the best choice for their brand. Regaining autonomy in itself is one of the key drivers behind this, as companies look to work with those that can help shape, not control, their brand narrative in the market. This is a trend playing out across all industries, as the working model shifts to one of collaboration instead.

Related: The Advertising Industry Doesn't Need More Data- It Needs More Creativity

Entrepreneurs and SMEs are in the enviable position of actually being closer to their consumer than the big corporates. They aren't bound by the bureaucracy we all love to hate, which means that they know what's important to their audience, and how to strike up a proper dialogue. And that's exactly what content marketing, when done well, is all about: it's conversational. It's about sparking a meaningful connection with your audiences and providing them with something that goes beyond the usual product or service sell.

There are hundreds of articles online that list what trends to follow, or how content marketing works, which are all good to bookmark- but also not exactly original. Instead, we're looking to kick off 2019 with a new set of content marketing commandments- ones that will empower entrepreneurs and SMEs alike to get the support they need and take back control of their marketing initiatives. In the new year, being a little naughty will be a lot more valuable than playing nice. Here are the eight (new) commandments of content:

1. MAKE A PLAN Your strategy is everything, and it's easy at times to overlook the bigger picture when you're so focused on the here and now. Don't get bogged down in individual campaigns, or by jumping on the latest trend and viral sensation; instead, identify your business objectives for the year, and break them down in quarterly segments. Only then can you start thinking about what content to deploy, on what channel, and to what aim.

2. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE, AND PUT THEM FIRST You would think that this is obvious, but you still find cases of brands putting their ideals first, and then finding a way to blast this message to their audience. Sure, short-term, this may work, but long-term, you have no chance of retaining their interest and loyalty. Content marketing is the very antithesis of advertising in that it puts the audience's needs first, and then thinks about how to answer that demand. If you can't do that, then you have no business doing content marketing in the first place.

3. DO AWAY WITH VANITY METRICS If we see one more marketing hack mention the reach, views, and impressions of a campaign, we may just scream. Today's interactions should be measured in real results. That means qualified leads and new conversations- not how many bots liked your post last week. Thankfully, the social world is now starting to evolve beyond this, and it's likely that one day soon, vanity metrics will be a thing of the past. And remember, quality over quantity will always win out in the end.

Related: Getting Social Right: The Pitfalls And The Opportunities

4. STOP FOLLOWING THE LEADER Being agile, or taking note of your competitors is all well and good, but don't get swept up trying to evolve so fast that you lose your core proposition, or what's right for your business. While Jack may be using Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat -you get the point- ask yourself what makes sense for you to reach your audience in a way that will resonate and is authentic. On this note, don't discount the effect of hard copy comms either– they still have a place in pleasing your audience.

5. GO AHEAD, AND EDUCATE, INFORM, OR ENTERTAIN- BUT PLEASE STOP LECTURING We don't know about you, but in our book, there's nothing worse than being overtly sold to, or lectured about a product's best features. Instead, you should be looking to produce content (written, audio, or visual) that is worth your audience's time. It should be smart, informative and entertainingif you can get that mix right, then you are on to a winner.

6. TELL ME SOMETHING I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE I NEED TO KNOW IT Clever brands know that the way to win over their consumers in the long run is by providing them with something extra- a nice little "add-on" to complement their original offering. Give them something original and useful that will help place you top of mind. The key here is to be subtle; consumers are smarter than you think- you're one of them, after all.

7. RIP UP THE RULEBOOK This one is pretty close to our hearts, because we've never been one to follow the pack, and neither should you. The beauty of being your own boss or leading a small and passionate team is that you can afford to go rogue at times, try new things out, and don't limit yourself with boundaries. We're in an age where creativity is now the benchmark for success, so don't be afraid to be original. If anything, this is what will help you stand out in a sea of same.

8. RAW AUTHENTICITY WILL GET YOU FURTHER THAN THE GLITZ AND GLAM We're living in a less than perfect world, so why should we try and make everything look like it is? Overproduced videos and scripted pieces look out of place in today's marketing landscape; people want to hear from real people, ones they can identify with and learn from. Today, we all have the ability to be content creators, thanks in large to evolving phone tech, which allows us to shoot great quality shorts, or filter photos in a matter of minutes. Remember, big budgets won't translate into a successful campaign if you aren't authentic, so the next time you look to score the "perfect" influencer for your promotional activities- think twice.

Related: Think Like A Publisher: Five Must-Have Pieces For Your Content Marketing Mix

Raush Salhi and Laura Roberts

Co-founders, Rebel Content

Raush Salhi and Laura Roberts, co-founders of Rebel Content, are industry veterans who help small and medium sized companies engage and inspire their audiences with strategic content.


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