Joe Pulizzi, marketing expert, offers several definitions for content marketing in his very good book on Content Marketing, including these:

"Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distrubuting valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience–with the objective of driving profitable customer action."

"Content marketing is a strategy focused on the creation of a valuable experience. It is humans being helpful to each other, sharing valuable pieces of content that enrich the community and position the business as a leader in the field."

"Content marketing is about delivering the content your audience is seeking in all the places they are searching for it. It is the effective combination of created, curated, and syndicated content."

As you can see in these definitions, content marketing is generally something that marketing and business leaders think about. Content marketing is NOT what we learning professionals think about.

But we might be wrong! We might be missing an important opportunity!

Notice in Pulizzi's definitions the overlap with our learning goals:

  • creating and distrubuting valuable and compelling content
  • to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience
  • with the objective of driving profitable [employee] action
  • focused on the creation of a valuable experience
  • humans being helpful to each other, sharing valuable pieces of content that enrich the community
  • and position the business as a leader in the field
  • delivering the content your audience is seeking
  • in all the places they are searching for it
  • [using] the effective combination of created, curated, and syndicated content

In the Training Maximizers model there are seven priorities we ought to have to create successful training.

  1. Valid Credible Content
  2. Engaging Learning Events
  3. Support for Basic Understanding
  4. Support for Decision-Making Competence
  5. Support for Long-Term Remembering
  6. Support for On-the-Job Application of Learning
  7. Support for Perseverance in Learning

Content marketing can impact several of these, depending on how we use the content. Content marketing creates, researches, or curates valid content. It can be engaging if designed well and targeted for relevancy. It can support learners in having a basic understanding of key principles. It can support on-the-job application and after-training perseverance by connecting with learners over time.

That's all the easy stuff. If content marketing is taken to an even higher level–through scenario-based decision-making, through spaced practice, through realistic practice–it can also help support long-term remembering and decision-making competence, which, in turn, will support application and perseverance.

Others have talked about curation of content as a key role for us in the learning field. By taking the Training-Maximizer goals seriously, we can use content marketing to be maximally effective.

Subscription Learning and Content Marketing

Subscription Learning can be defined as follows:

"Subscription learning, as its name implies, provides an intermittent stream of learning-related interactions to those who are subscribed. These learning-related interactions–called "nuggets"–can involve a great variety of learning-related events, including content presentation, diagnostics, scenario-based questions, job aids, reflection questions, assignments, discussions, etc. Nuggets are short, usually presented in less than five minutes. Nuggets are intentionally scheduled over time to support learning, often utilizing research-based findings related to the spacing effect. Learners subscribe (or are subscribed) to one or more series of learning nuggets, called "threads." Learning threads can be predesigned, selecting nuggets based on anticipated learner needs or they can be dynamically created based on learner performance."

Subscription learning is ideally positioned to utilize content marketing approaches. It can be as simple as content curated for learners after a training session and emailed to them by their instructor. It can, of course, be more sophisticated, involving diagnostics, simulations, video, etc.

But content marketing ideas go beyond just information presentation. One of the key ideas with content marketing is that we are trying to build an audience of learners and learning facilitators. We in the workplace learning space should consider how we can meet our main mission by going beyond our traditional models. We could support communities of practice by supporting people in providing content. We could–instead of offering courses–provide content to generate interest and encourage self-directed learning. Indeed, we might ask ourselves, what's more costly, providing skilled instructors or providing content curators?

Those of you who are the most ambitious and most innovative might consider learning a bit more about content marketing and brainstorming ways you could use it in your organizations.

To get you started, here's an excellent article on content marketing from Inc. Magazine.