When we talk about marketing, by default we talk about marketing campaigns. That suggests using a variety of media, spread out over a period of time, coordinated in a way that serves a specific goal.
Traditionally that would consist of elements like advertising and direct marketing by email, telephone, or post. But now it’s evolved to exploit new media, social media. This is content marketing.
Content marketing adds elements like blogs, videos, curation, social networks, webinars, podcasts and e-books. It’s about telling your story using different communication channels, not just to reach different audiences, but to interact with them too.
“Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.” – Doug Kessler
It sounds a lot like blended learning 2.0. Not a term that ever really caught on, despite being an excellent premise. Perhaps it needs re-branding?
Content marketing isn’t just a way to promote your eLearning content, it can actually improve the instructional design of your courses. Here are five ways to get you started:
No1. Amplify the “What’s in it for me” message
Most eLearning courses have a slide at the start to convince the learner that the course is worthwhile. It’s supposed to make them want to pay attention, and give their “buy-in”. But that’s hard to do in one slide and most people have already made their minds up before they get to that point.
So why not use other media like blogs, internal social networks or podcasts to explain, over time, why it’s important for people to listen to your message and change their behaviour? If you can start conversations around your message, even better.
No2. Take the content out of the eLearning
It’s well known that the limits of working memory make it important to chunk your content. Yet most eLearning is content heavy and interaction light.
Why not use content marketing to rebalance your eLearning?
Break the content into chunks and distribute it through a variety of channels. This frees up your eLearning for meaningful interaction and scenarios. You can always link to the content from the module for reference/support. If your content is on your intranet or enterprise social network, it’s also easier for people to refer back to when they need it.
“Be aware that “chunking,” though, isn’t just relative to breaking content apart in some scattershot way: the chunks need to represent something meaningful” Jane Bozarth
No.3 Elegant repetition helps your message stick
“The way to make long-term memory more reliable is to incorporate new information gradually and repeat it in timed intervals” John Medina’s Brain Rule #6 Remember to repeat
As above you have to plan and coordinate your approach to take advantage of this.
What do we mean by elegant repetition?
You can’t just put the same verbatim messages out across different channels. You have to adapt to the channel, build a story (i.e. have a beginning, middle and end), consider how audiences react to different styles of communication.
No.4 Get your message out early
“We wrote our first blog post before we wrote our first line of code.” – Jon Miller, Marketo CM
If you take a content marketing approach you don’t have to go through a lengthy waterfall design process before you start communicating the message. That can all be going on in the background, while you start raising awareness and generating interest through your marketing campaign.
No.5 Add genuine social interaction
Content marketing can create more natural opportunities for social interaction and conversation than any eLearning module. Guest bloggers from your target audience can tell relevant stories that give your messages credibility. Use enterprise social networks to start relevant conversations. Engage with your audience to learn what people really need and care about, then incorporate it into your design. You’ll also have a ready and willing test audience when the time is right.
There is no one right way to do this. Content marketing is a fairly new concept. To make it work for learning you have to be prepared to experiment. Create feedback loops, ways to measure and monitor the impact of your messages. So you can find what works for you and your audience.
If you want to go deeper why not join us at the next eLearning network event on Friday 17th May in London.