Diane Di Costanzo

Chief Content Officer at Dotdash Meredith

Diane Di Costanzo on Content Marketers Acting as Publishers

Growth doesn’t happen overnight. It takes significant efforts and tactics to catalyze the process. When used effectively, storytelling can be an excellent growth tool as it helps businesses to connect with their customers and build strong relationships.

In a conversation with Rishabh Shekhar, Co-Founder and COO at Pepper Content, Diane Di Costanzo, Chief Content Officer at Dotdash Meredith shed light on the importance of content marketers acting as publishers.


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Here are some excerpts. 

1. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience with content marketing? 

My name is Diane Di Castanzo. I'm the Chief Content Officer at Foundry 360, which is a content marketing agency that is embedded within the largest publishing company in the US. What's important about having our agency embedded within a publisher is that we always say, 'Who knows better how consumers consume media than a publisher?' Media is our business, media is what we sell, and content is what we offer. So we know the content and we also are obligated to have a really deep understanding of how content changes, how content appetites change, how content formats change, and how content channels change, and they do change all the time. So publishers, are well poised to understand those changes even as they're happening and sometimes initiate those changes. There are plenty of content marketing agencies that are not within publishers, but we still have an advantage in that. 

2. What do you think about the qualitative and qualitative aspects of content? How has that shift happened for you in your space? 

I do believe that even the highest quality content, if it is not discoverable, if it is not published to the right channels, doesn't have a shot at moving a needle for our clients. So we always start with a strategic engagement with our clients so that we're all clear on what the client wants the content to do, and sometimes that takes a little bit of education or reeducation. The clients hire an agency because they don't do content marketing themselves.

We start with what would be the highest value behaviors on the part of the consumers of this content. We're going to create content for you, for sure, but what would you like the consumers to do once they have the content in front of them? Do you want them to transact? Do you want them to sign up for any newsletter? There can be many goals, but we have to be clear on what those goals are. 

I think the worst kind of the worst way to get started is to say, 'let's just start making content and see what happens." Even if it's very high-quality content, if we don't know what that content is supposed to be doing, we can't say we succeeded because we didn't know what it was we were trying to succeed at. We say best quality content is always a goal. 

3. In the last couple of decades, what has changed intrinsically when you think about content marketing? 

Well, there are two big changes, and they kind of braid together. So the largest change in media, of course, is technology. I always say that media is a verb, not a noun. Media isn't a thing. Media is a constant flow of energy, a constant flow of communication, and it takes the shape of, or is impacted by whatever channels you put it on. The biggest changes are the ones that have been imposed on content by technology.

I'll give you an example, 15 years ago doing content marketing, it was all print based because our clients had not yet come around to creating digital content channels. We helped them get there and we continue to help our clients improve their digital content channels because that's the bigger part of our business now. But the biggest change, I would say, in my 15 years doing this is moving from print exclusively to print and digital, and most of the time now almost exclusively digital. So technology is certainly a piece of the biggest changes that we've seen in our industry. 

I would also say that companies and our clients have become more discerning when it comes to content. So some of our early digital engagements were all about SEO and they were all about tonnage. And by that I mean getting as much content with as many keywords, flooding the internet with content because we want to win at organic search. While SEO is still really important, it's not the only measurement, which is a good thing. And so winning in search will certainly help get traffic to your channels but once the traffic is there, content has to do more in order to get the consumer to do what you want them to do.

4. What are the top challenges that you see in organizations when it comes to content marketing? 

The biggest and most persistent challenge is that our clients are typically in marketing. So we're their brand managers or their marketing managers. And they are, more often than not, thinking that the content needs to sound really promotional. And so the content doesn't read like content, it reads like advertising. So we spend a great deal of time trying to convince our clients or working with our clients to show that if you can make content a value exchange so for your potential consumers, I'm going to give you a piece of content that has value. In turn, you're going to give me your time and attention. So if you have content that sounds like advertising, it won't be read as content, and you're better off just advertising. 

If in fact what you're creating is something that's highly promotional, you won't get the consumer to behave the way you want them to when reading an advertising message. So we always try to dial back all the branded language within what we call content. When it comes to content marketing, try and think like editors and journalists. Certainly, there will be organically woven in branded messaging, but let's not start there. 

So the knowledge we always give is, pretend like you're at a dinner party. You're not going to be the guy who walks in, sits down, and starts talking about himself, incessantly promoting and hyping himself up. You, as in content marketing. So the analogy is, I'm coming to that dinner party as a content marketer, and I'm going to join the conversation. You want to join the consumer's conversation. You want to offer value. You want to engage. You don't want to come in with a billboard and shout your advertising messages in content marketing. And that continues to be a struggle because marketers just have a tendency to sound very promotional in content.  

5. What is your take on outsourcing and how are you seeing that evolve in the US market? 

Media constantly changing and how consumers want to consume media is changing too, and that is not any of our client's core capabilities. So if you're a bank, your core competency is not creating content. You might hire really talented creatives, but they don't know how media is changing because they don't work with an immediate media company. 

Content teams within brands work really nicely, but in my experience, they end up being content buyers or they end up being content managers of their external agencies. So it's very typical to have a content center of excellence within the client's organization and then they have a content marketing agency. They have different agencies for different aspects of content and I think that's a very healthy model myself. It serves us well because it gives us a role and we take a lot of care in using editors that are subject matter experts. 

I do believe there should be content people within a client's organization just so that they know what it means and they can be advocates for it. That's their job, and they can make sure that we all succeed together. If you're working directly with brand managers, there's some beauty in that, but sometimes they may not be content advocates. They might have just sort of inherited you and there's less appetite for content. 

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