Why Licensed and Curated Content Are Killing Your Content Strategy

December 16, 2016 Kyle Harper

curated content

I feel bad for marketers who want to revitalize their team’s content marketing strategy but find themselves caught in traditional ad-centric environments.

“We already do content,” the marketing director explains at every team meeting, referring to her team’s licensed and curated content engine. “It’s helpful, but doesn’t seem to be doing too much for us.”

This puts the marketer into a classic catch-22: the content isn’t performing well enough because it isn’t part of a larger, original content strategy, but how is he supposed to convince his director to dedicate manpower and budget to original content without seeing proof that content generates return?

It’s a situation that plagues businesses of all sizes, from small businesses that feel their teams are too small to generate content of their own, to enterprise brands who can’t stomach the budgetary somersaults necessary to retool their current methods. In these cases, it makes sense for brands to play conservatively. The keyword here is conservative—not safe.

With the digital space growing more crowded for advertisers and content creators alike, “more of the same” promises to put brands on a road to become increasingly commonplace at an ever higher cost. What’s more, many marketers don’t realize that their licensed content tactics actually put them into the “more of the same” camp, rather than the dynamic, original presence that successful digital marketing demands.

Graph showing the rapid growth of digital advertisement

Understanding the Trap

It’s not hard to understand why so many marketers get trapped by curated and licensed content. Superficially, they seem to accomplish the same thing as an original content driven model: your brand ends up with a load of material it can use to fill out your website, your social media presence has consistent fodder for conversation starters and community engagement, and all of this is done more or less in your brand’s style.

Combine all this with the reduced manpower a company is putting into the content itself, and it’s no wonder that many brands prefer to just find contentment rather than change. Even in the case of a curated content hub, it seems obvious that seeking out fresh content will be easier than generating it in-house, and it can be done at a moment’s notice if need be.

So what is there for brands to be concerned about?

Curated Content Erodes Thought Leadership

Today, there are a load of bloggers, vloggers, reporters, and other single-person brands that drive loads of interest in themselves by sharing content relevant to their audience. Looking at this from a brand perspective, it’s no wonder that companies sometime seek to do the same (even sometimes taking advantage of those established presences through influencer marketing tactics). For brands however, this can be a damaging move, because it always artificially limits your leadership to the best content you can share. There are excellent ways to sparingly include curated material in your digital mix—but relying on it too heavily or solely will only signal to your audience that there’s more interesting stuff for them to find outside of your web presence.

Licensed Content Distance Harms Quality

Licensed content creators are highly trained professionals, but they’re highly trained professionals who often work on your brand with only a general direction and style sheet in hand. You may get clean, professional looking material, and you’ll certainly receive that material in volume necessary to support a content hub, but how often does your team actually interact with this material before it goes live? Once? Twice? A 2016 study found that the more frequently your marketing team meets to discuss ongoing content creation, the more effective that material will actually be for meeting your goals (61 percent of B2B brands who believe their content marketing is effective meet on a daily or weekly basis to discuss their ongoing projects.) Most contractors just can’t keep up this level of intimacy with your marketing efforts.

curated content

Curated and Licensed Content Defeat the Long Narrative

At its most fundamental level, content marketing is supposed to act as an accessible, useful, and frequent method by which your brand speaks. Your brand has something to say, a story to tell, and content is one of the ways it accomplishes that best (and that people actually listen to). But communicating a long-term narrative to contractors is a risky ordeal: changes to your contractor’s team are out of your control, you might end up switching to a different vendor, and all sorts of other variables that can result in you having to re-explain your brand’s story to yet creator who’s supposed to continue telling your narrative. The most powerful benefits of content marketing—generating returning traffic, brand trust, and introducing new revenue streams, to name just a few—are long term. By putting your brand’s narrative into hands outside of your direct control risks losing out on the most powerful benefits of content marketing.

Avoiding the Trap

Licensed and curated content don’t have to be completely cut from your brand’s content strategy, but they shouldn’t make up its entire backbone, either. Centralized efforts on third-party content takes the force of narrative and specifics of editorial out of your marketing team’s control in return for a little more breathing room in the budget. But using skilled contractors who work directly with your editorial team, or targeting infrequent and specific opportunities for curation can help build a holistic and powerful content strategy that serves your brand in the long run.

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