When you stop and think about it, the marketing industry has undergone some radical changes in recent years. Marketing messages are being delivered in automated fashion through a myriad of devices and channels including smartphones, tablets, elevator- and gas station-TV, smart home appliances, automobile dashboards, social media—the list is long and it's only going to get longer.
Not only has the distribution of marketing messages become totally managed through marketing automation and CMS technologies, but also analytics have advanced in leaps and bounds as well. Marketers now have much more intelligence on their target audience. They know when and where you receive their messages...how long you spend with them...what actions you may have taken as a result...and what types of content you prefer. Armed with that information, they are able to design a digital journey that should not only be to your liking but very likely connect you with the products and services that you're actually looking for.
The New Marketing Department: Changing Job Titles and Descriptions
Today's marketing industry is not only marked by a rapid and pervasive adoption of technology, but also by a redefinition of job titles and descriptions. CMOs have become the champions of revenue generation. The VP of Marketing is more focused on analytics than ever before. And a new generation of content marketers has emerged to feed the insatiable appetite companies now have for fresh marketing content.
So, who are these content marketers? And how are they different from copywriters?
Copywriters used to be hired to write copy for all sorts of traditional marketing vehicles, from brochures, data sheets, and newsletters to direct mail, websites, and event signage. The common thread was the quality of the writing had to be extraordinarily high. Copy had to be meaningful and compelling. It had to stop people in their tracks and entice them to read on. In short, it was designed to meaningfully engage people.
That being the case, people took years to progress from writer to senior writer to manager or director. But then the digital age got here, and the language began to change. Suddenly, it was all about "content" and literally overnight job descriptions changed from "copywriter" to "content marketer."
Content Marketers versus Copywriters
Content Marketers tend to be more technology focused. They are typically tasked with running marketing automation and CMS platforms on a daily basis. Yes, they produce content and populate these marketing platforms with it, but the content isn't the be-all and end-all that it used to be. It isn't the center of their universe.
Copywriters, conversely, tend to hang on every word, every headline, every caption—even the way that the copy interacts with the graphics on a printed sheet or a web page. Content marketers, by contrast, are focused on a broader canvas. Their responsibility is to marshal that content through a digital landscape of possibilities. It's more about getting content to the right device or platform at the right time, in the right format and being able to track that content every step of the way.
Where copywriters are more focused on the writing rather than the technology, the inverse may be true for content marketers. That's just the reality of how the industry has shaken out.
Quality of Content
So, at the end of the day, has the industry gotten it right? Do we have the right types of people with the right skillsets working in marketing? And are we regularly delivering compelling and memorable messages to our target audience?
There may be an opportunity for some fine-tuning. It seems that, for marketing, the pendulum has swung away from creativity...and toward technology. That's why we occasionally have misfires where messages don't seem to connect with the audience or elicit the desired response—confounding corporate management.
It may make some sense for the pendulum to swing back to the center. Yes, we need to continue to embrace technology in all of its forms as it comes racing at us in the marketing profession. But we also need to apply a high level of creativity and critical thinking to our messaging. We need to give our messaging the same care and attention that we give to the finished products and services that we're promoting. After all, regardless of what device or channel that we're aiming for, our messages are being read by human beings. We need to take great care to talk to them, engage them, and ultimately win their hearts and minds.
Creativity and Critical Thinking
Technology has brought marketing into the 21st century. But let's not forget about the creativity and critical thinking that made marketing so memorable and effective in the first place—there's still room for that in the mix. One possible solution is to have both content marketers and copywriters at work in the marketing bullpen. With the right balance, we might just end up with the best of both worlds: widely distributed yet very high-quality content that people actually enjoy reading. And in that kind of scenario, everybody wins.
About the Author: Jim Panagas is the Director of PR & Analyst Relations for Kentico Software, a leading provider of CMS technology. He's a seasoned marketing and communications professional who has been working in the high-tech industry for more than 20 years. His current assignment is educating the market about digital experience platforms including Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud.