Kristen Rocco

Freelance Consultant

Importance of Originality in the Age of AI

Content has emerged as the driving force behind brand success in dynamic marketing. Kristen Rocco, a seasoned expert with 15 years of experience has been at the forefront of this transformative journey. As a fractional content strategist, Kristen partners with businesses to unleash the power of content marketing for sustainable growth. 

In this interview with Shreejith from Pepper Content, Kristen talks about the evolving landscape of content marketing and the importance of originality in an age of AI.

1. Hello, Kristen. Thanks for joining us. Could you briefly introduce yourself and share your journey into content marketing?

Thank you for the welcome. I've been immersed in content marketing for about 15 years. As a fractional content strategist, I collaborate with clients to harness content marketing for business growth, covering everything from strategic planning and audience development to content creation.

Before becoming a consultant, I spearheaded content strategy at Global Payments, a Fortune 500 tech firm, and established its content function globally. My roots are in PR and marketing, with storytelling being central to my journey. I've conveyed stories through owned, earned, and paid channels. Notably, I was a finalist in the Women in Content Marketing Awards last year, which was a proud moment for me.

2. Kudos to you, Kristen, for your impressive growth over recent years. Considering the leaps in content marketing over the past 15 years, could you shed some light on our industry's progress?

The evolution of content marketing is astounding. When I started, our main channel was email, but now we have various platforms, including the emerging metaverse. Today, content marketing is synonymous with effective marketing. A robust content strategy ensures a unified message across all channels, tailored yet consistent in brand, tone, and messaging. With the rise of multiple platforms, content helps maintain this uniformity. Moreover, content marketers excel at understanding their audience. We delve deep into their needs and pain points, crafting content strategies that address and alleviate their challenges.

3. Considering research suggests our attention span rivals that of a goldfish, how do you think we can effectively convey our message amid the content clutter today?

There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer for content strategy across organizations. Effective content approach hinges on thorough groundwork. I see three foundational pillars for an ideal strategy. First, dive deep into understanding your audience using surveys, interviews, and analytics to gauge what resonates with them. Second, identify your unique voice or platform in competitive research to ensure your message stands out, rather than echoing the crowd. Lastly, ensure your content marketing aligns with your business strategy and organizational goals. In essence, a successful content marketing approach should be tailored specifically to your organization's needs.

4. What's your perspective on an SEO-driven content strategy and its importance in content marketing? 

SEO is integral to content creation. An SEO strategy should be an inherent part of content marketing. To get your content noticed, incorporating an SEO approach is crucial. When crafting a content strategy, it's vital to include an SEO evaluation and decide how SEO will bolster your content efforts.

5. How do you approach building content teams from scratch as a marketing leader? What's your guiding principle for establishing a system that consistently produces high-quality content? 

I've often built content functions from scratch. It starts with a robust content strategy, focusing on audience research, competitor insights, and aligning with business objectives. Developing this strategy can be an intensive 90-day effort. Once established, the next step depends on your team's growth phase and the associated challenges.

For small businesses with limited teams, the emphasis might be on content creation to gain visibility. As the business grows, the focus might shift towards integrating technology to handle more complex workflows and distributed teams. At the scaling stage, content governance takes precedence.

In essence, content strategy isn't one-size-fits-all. It depends on the business's stage, the challenges at hand, and the resources available in terms of budget, personnel, and technology.

6. It seems many startups may overlook content's long-term value. On that note, how should these companies approach measuring ROI for content marketing?

Measuring ROI? It's essential. However, for startups and small businesses, the initial focus often leans toward product development and operations. Marketing, including content, typically comes into play after a minimum viable product is established. For startups, it's about rapid scaling.

In terms of content ROI, there are quick wins and long-term strategies. SEO-focused content is a longer play, but its foundational benefits can be seen relatively soon. The key to magnifying content's impact is consistent measurement and optimization. When advising clients, I suggest immediate strategies for quick results and longer-term tactics for sustained success.

7. Over your career, you've likely used various tools to meet your goals. Which tools in content and marketing have been indispensable for you?

The tools one needs aren't universal; they vary based on an organization's journey and challenges. For smaller teams, simple tools like Google Suite might suffice due to its collaborative features. However, as teams expand, the requirements shift, demanding solutions that aid in mass production and synchronization.

From a content marketing angle, consider tools that assist in planning based on SEO insights, those that streamline workflows or even platforms geared towards content governance. Furthermore, tools that bridge content with sales teams can be pivotal. It's all about understanding where you are in your journey and pinpointing the specific problems you aim to address.

8. While we've discussed best practices in content marketing, I'm curious about the opposite. What common mistakes or myths do you see content marketers falling for today?

One major mistake is beginning with tactics. Marketers might think, "I need to be on LinkedIn or Facebook," without verifying if their audience is actually there. They often jump to action before crafting a strategy.

Another misconception is not keeping pace with the ever-evolving nature of content marketing. For instance, the rise of AI in content generation is a hot topic. While it's crucial to be aware of trends, it's equally important to evaluate their relevance to your business goals.

Lastly, the buyer's journey is becoming increasingly fragmented. Buyers are consuming content deeper into the funnel, making it essential to have diverse content to cater to their needs. This poses challenges for content teams who must balance resource constraints with growing demands.

9. With AI, especially tools like ChatGPT, becoming increasingly prevalent in content marketing? How can content marketers best leverage and adapt to this AI wave?

It's challenging to definitively predict AI's trajectory, especially with its rapid evolution. Just consider the advancements of  ChatGPT since 2021 and now ChatGPT-4. However, one belief I hold firmly is that AI will serve as a valuable tool for content research, brainstorming, and preliminary drafting.

However, success in content lies in originality, authenticity, and a unique voice. AI might risk generating a 'sea of sameness' if over-relied upon. To truly stand out, content creators should harness AI's efficiency while infusing their distinct perspectives. This combination will engage audiences more effectively.

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