Over the past few years, and increasingly now, marketers have placed a bright, shiny light on generating and providing content as the new end-all to marketing their goods and services, often at the expense of many other forms of “traditional” brand communications.

Wonder what all the hype and fuss is about?

Let’s define “content” here as objective, non-selling information delivered (“sponsored”) by a marketer with the goal of being positively associated with that information by the engaged customers, prospects, and infuentials of said content. The hoped-for result is positioning the deliverer as an expert, thought-leader or trusted go-to resource, with the ultimate goal of fostering an environment conducive to actual selling activities.

You may be thinking, “isn’t this really ‘context’ for marketing messages, just like traditional radio programming, TV programming, magazines, and newspapers have always been?”

In a word, yup.

Except instead of relying on traditional media properties to provide the content (the context into which traditional ads are placed), new technologies today allow each of us to develop — and market — our own content. Thanks to blogs (like this one), email, websites, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, SlideShare, Vimeo, podcasts, speaking engagements, events, and many others, every marketer now has direct access to platforms from which to create and deliver content. No matter if you’re a b2b or b2c marketer.

Similar to more traditional broadcast programmers or print publishers trying to create and deliver content (context) that draws the right listener/viewer mix that advertisers value, the onus is on marketers to identify and develop the right content that attracts, engages, and retains desirable target audiences, nurturing an alignment which comes in handy when those audiences become active prospects.

If you think about “content marketing” as actually just providing the right context from a pull-through marketing standpoint, everything falls into place: make it easy for prospects to align with your brand by providing the quality, engaging information they want and need. Better yet, create various levels of content geared toward reinforcing your connection with prospects as they move through their marketing funnel. 

Where and how you generate your content is dependent on your markets and your brand. It could include product testing info, manufacturing processes, thought-leader white papers, industry-related research and stats, product usage ideas, contests and promotions, goodwill initiatives, user experiences, roundtable discussions, market trends, executive interviews, sponsorships, etc.  There’s also a new breed of service companies — content generation firms — eager to help.  Each serves a role not unlike a Hollywood production studio or news wire service: generating engaging context for your marketing messages.

“Content” may seem like the new marketing buzz, but it’s been around since advertisers first bought space and time in publishing and broadcast mediums.  Except, now YOU are the editor-in-chief and director of programming.

So, onward, you content-maven. Onward.