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Content Marketing Explained

Intouch Team

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Content marketing is everywhere lately. It seems a bit like what “social media” was in 2005 — a phrase that’s become trendy, often invoked but not always fully understood. What does it really mean? And why should pharma brand teams care?

Intouch was a presenter and speaker at the first Pharma Content Marketing conference in December, hosted by ExL Pharma. The experience was tremendous; we had some fantastic conversations and learnings and have developed a series of posts to share them with you. To start out the series, I’ll take this post and aim to give a bit of an introduction on content marketing.

What Is Content Marketing?

In some ways, content marketing isn’t anything new or different at all. The fundamental concept is nothing groundbreaking: Content marketing is — according to the Content Marketing Institute — the art of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience. Since the ancient Greeks developed the art of rhetoric, the essential tactics for creating a persuasive argument haven’t changed all that much.

In other ways, though, content marketing turns traditional communications concepts and creative campaigns entirely upside down. The order of things has been for marketers to decree a set of taglines, images and messages — a campaign — and then create content solely shaped around those prepared words and only delivering those images and messages.

What content marketing says is that that isn’t enough — that, sometimes, it’s actually counterproductive. Consumers aren’t pleased by being handed the information that a brand deems they should see.  Today, consumers have the tools (DVRs and ad blockers) and wherewithal to easily ignore traditional one-way advertising messaging.

We have more information choices than ever before in history. When you give an audience overtly promotional messaging instead of helpful information or an engaging narrative, it turns them off and pushes them away.

To get, keep and grow an audience, you must engage them, interest them, involve them and help them.

Branded repetition can’t do that. Content marketing can.

What Does Content Marketing Look Like?

This can be the most confusing aspect. A lot of different components are being called “content marketing” — perhaps because it’s a catchphrase that’s guaranteed to get people’s attention. But in truth, an advertisement isn’t really content marketing. A blog post isn’t really content marketing. Content marketing can include those things, but it’s far bigger and more integrated and more thoughtful than that. It’s much more about an overall strategic approach.

Here are my quick five steps to content marketing, but think of this as an example, not as an actual how-to in any thorough sense.  

  • First, develop specific, quantifiable goals that map against brand goals.
  • Next, research to understand the audience: who they are, where they are, how they converse, and what they want to know.
  • Then, develop an editorial calendar that builds a thoughtful narrative, taking both brand goals and audience needs into account and making sure you plan content appropriate for the right delivery channels.
  • At this point, and only then, is the content developed and curated — not to parrot the brand goals, but to provide interesting stories and information, some about the brand and some not.
  • Finally, track the statistics around the content and use that data to inform how you tweak the process. Analytics is the chassis upon which good content is built.

Last spring, our Senior Director of Strategic Services Chris Nelson challenged pharma to take 10% of its media spend and reallocate it toward content strategy development and content marketing efforts. Pharmaceutical Executive repeated the challenge in August, but by then, said Nelson, most client budgets had already been allocated for 2013. And we know in order for content marketing to make it into brand budgets, there must be a clear case for why content marketing matters and how brands will benefit.

I hope you stick around in the weeks ahead as we look closer at content marketing, what it means and why pharma marketers should care.


Have you seen great examples of brands doing it right? Please share them with us!


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By Wendy Blackburn on 02/03/2014 @ 12:53:32 PM

Great introduction to content marketing, Joey. Thanks for keeping the conversation going by creating some "great content!"

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