Why you must think like a publisher to succeed at content marketing


content marketing - think like a publisher

Producing a lot of content won’t make you a successful content marketer.

It’s a sad but true lesson many marketers are learning – the hard way. If you want your content initiative to be successful, you need to approach it with a different mindset.

You need to think like a publisher.

Here are five characteristics that all successful publishers share, followed by action steps you can take to adopt their ways of thinking about, planning for and executing the production of content:

1. Longevity of the content initiative

Publishers: Unlike marketers, publishers take a long-term view of their magazine or online publication. Their business model is focused on creating and nurturing something of great value for their target audience over many years. They’re running a marathon, not a 100-yard dash.

What marketers should do: Leave the concept of "campaigns" behind you. Think long term. Approach your content initiative as if it was a separate publishing business. How would you fund it, manage it and nurture it into something that has tremendous value to your target audience - separate and distinct from your brand, product or service?

2. Focal point

Publishers: The reader is the center of the universe for successful publishers. Look through any publication, and you’ll see that focus reflected in every piece of content and every advertisement they publish.

What marketers should do: Refocus your thinking on your customers and their needs. To do so, select one or two very narrow niches and develop detailed buyer personas about them. Use that data to help focus your planning, and create informational content that meets the needs you’ve identified. Teach, don’t sell.

3. Editorial mission statement

Publishers: Every publication has an editorial mission statement that clearly defines its core target audience, what will be delivered to them and the outcome for that audience. Here’s an example from Inc. magazine that incorporates all three of these elements:

Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.

The editorial mission statement serves as a “True North” for the publication’s editorial content, tone and focus. It becomes a framework for making editorial and business decisions. In short, it’s an essential part of how successful publishers do business.

What marketers should do: Think carefully about your brand and its mission, and then about your target audience and its deepest needs. How can you formulate an editorial mission statement that will clearly define who your target audience is, what their needs are and how you intend to meet them?

4. Editorial calendar

Publications: Every publication has an editorial calendar, where content is planned and scheduled in an organized framework, like the example from OEM Off-Highway magazine below. The editorial themes it contains are focused on those topics that are of greatest interest to its target audience. The publication’s editorial staff uses this document to work months in advance, which helps ensure a consistent publishing schedule.

What marketers should do: Create an editorial calendar that specifies what you will deliver to your target audience, when. Develop a cadence to publishing your content and stick to it. If your content is good enough, your audience will come to expect it and anticipate it.

5. Content production and publication processes

Publications: Magazines and online publications produce and publish content. It’s their “product,” if you will, their rai·son d'ê·tre. They are very good at it because they have developed and refined processes for these critical functions. This is part of the reason savvy brands are acquiring magazines – to bring their people and processes inside the organization, where they can influence the firm’s internally-developed content initiatives.

What marketers should do: Befriend a publisher. Learn from him or her. Consider investing in a well-run, successful publishing company, with an eye toward learning from its processes, the types of people it hires, the content and asset governance systems it utilizes and how it organizes around flexible, scalable content production.


Is it a requirement that you think like a publisher to be successful at content marketing? No. But it will definitely improve your odds of success!