I’d previously written, when it comes to content marketing, “ROI is meaningless with vision.” (One problem with this field: we use content marketing to describe too many things.)
One way to think about this is showing people why they should be interested in the problem your business is solving: the same way DeSerres promotes art and creativity, Nike promotes running, and Stripe promotes internet entrepreneurship. (In marketing jargon: growing the total addressable market.)
You can’t convince somebody to care; all you can do is show them new information and intrigue them. I really like the way David Chang described the criteria for Momofuku’s media projects, including Lucky Peach magazine (via his memoir, Eat a Peach, p. 171):
1. “It must be educational.”
2. “It must fund the creative efforts of the restaurant.”
3. “It must reflect what I stand for and depict the industry in a fair light.”
These are three great pillars to start with, if you haven’t got a starting point.
It’s a great place to start. To be clear, I’m frankly not sure if this is enough to keep it going. For example, even Lucky Peach got axed as Momofuku went through cashflow issues.
It takes a deep belief and understanding that this is marketing, and that any form of attribution still won’t be doing it justice. I’m still researching how to best make one of these operations sustainable. It’s clear that quality isn’t the driving factor; if it was, Adobe wouldn’t have shut down 99U, Glitch wouldn’t have shut down Glimmer, Airbnb wouldn’t have shut down Pineapple, etc.
Thankfully, there are still many high points: Stripe Press, Kickstarter’s The Creative Independent, WeTransfer’s WePresent.
That’s all just a starting point; your vision should—and will!—evolve from here. It can even start as a business itch; “We need to go into brand and organic,” it can involve SEO, it can even involve occasionally pumping that work out like a content machine. It just shouldn’t stop there.