I’m sure you’ve probably heard several times that ‘content marketing is the next big thing’ and there will no doubt be many cutting-edge agencies out there thinking: ‘There is a huge opportunity here, how can we offer this service to our clients?’ Well there are two answers to this:

  • Get yourself a team of in-house brand journalists (hmmm costly and unrealistic)
  • Partner with a content marketing agency that already has one

Naturally, the second option is the most appealing and cost effective but how do you go about selecting one, especially when more and more agencies claim to offer content marketing services?

Practice what they preach

First things first, check out their own content marketing; if they don’t do it for themselves, they obviously don’t take it that seriously and don’t recognise the true value of it.

News
Have they got a news section which broadcasts industry news as opposed to just news about themselves? Is it regularly updated and are the articles well written, optimised and informative? Would you share those articles with your friends and colleagues?

Blogs
Do they have a regularly updated blog section and does the blog content provide genuine value to the reader? Do they invite comments at the bottom to encourage interaction?

Social Media
Do they have an active presence across a range of social media sites? Again are they using these platforms to impart useful information to their target audience or are their tweets and posts self-promotional and uninteresting?

Brand journalists not copywriters

The key to successful content marketing is a team of qualified brand journalists. They are by far the highest skilled people to write quality content which will engage an audience and thrive in social media environments. You don’t want copy writers or ‘content creators’ (I’m not saying that they don’t have a place elsewhere in the marketing mix as, of course, they do), you need skilled story tellers who can write commercially-neutral articles which people will read and share, driving traffic to your customers’ websites.

Another point worth noting is to make sure that the team of journalists is in-house. Whilst many agencies claim to be experts in content marketing, you may find that they farm the work out to home-based freelancers, where there is usually much less editorial control and naturally a variation in quality. Obviously when you are offering a 3rd party service to your clients, you need to be 100% sure that the utmost quality levels will always be adhered to.

To get a feel for the quality of their articles, ask them to show you examples they have written for other companies or get them to write a sample specifically for your agency. Paste the content into Google to ensure that they’ve not copied it from another website. The last thing you want is duplicated content on your customers’ website as this is heavily penalised by Google and will demote their search engine rankings as opposed to enhance them. All content must be unique to your customers.

It’s not just about the content

As well as actually producing high quality content, they also need to demonstrate their ability to project manage, plan strategically, integrate with your customers’ technology and measure results. A good content marketing agency is about much more than just quality content and you must ensure that they have the necessary recourses in place to really drive your customers’ content marketing activities forward with gusto.

Will they work closely with your customers to ensure that they are broadcasting their content in places where they will see returns? Can they demonstrate their ability to develop an audience for your customers? After all, there is no point in having decent content if nobody is reading it and, at the end of the day, if your customers don’t see results from their investment, the reputation of your agency will also be on the line.

Cultural fit

A good cultural fit is also important as the content marketing agency you choose will become an extension of your own agency. Do they share your passion about content marketing? Are they genuinely excited about the opportunities content marketing presents? Ask them about their values; you want to hear transparency, honestly, long term relationships, integrity. If you share the same values, this will stand the relationship in good stead for the future.

If, when choosing a content marketing agency to partner with, you can tick-off all of these areas, you should have no qualms about embracing their services as part of your portfolio. Given that 62% of companies don’t have the internal resources to write content themselves, the benefits of partnering with a content marketing specialist are plentiful (that’s a blog for another day!) and your only regret will be that you didn’t do it sooner.