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16 of the Biggest Threats to Content Marketing Success

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Actually, you don’t need to answer. The good news is the bad news and the bad news is the good news.

So what’s the actual news?

We asked the experts presenting at the upcoming Content Marketing World to name the biggest threat to content marketing success. Below, we share 16 of them. The news? Most of them fall under a singular theme.

And it isn’t technology, social platforms, formats, quantity, quality, grammar, or anything of the like.

Most of the big threats to your content marketing success come from your company.

Most of the big threats to #contentmarketing success come from your company, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Yep, that’s right. It’s your team, the executive suite, the sales department, etc.

As Adam Morgan, executive creative director, Adobe, says:We will destroy (content marketing) from the inside first.”

That’s why it’s both bad and good news. While they are serious threats, the solution is within (or closer to) your grasp.

Here are 16 of the biggest threats, including a handful that fall outside the internal problem theme, along with ideas for how to fix them. (Both the threat [sometimes simply stated in the header] and fix are from the noted speaker.)

Threat 1: Fear

Fear usually manifests itself in a senior person who has too much on their plate, not giving the content team leader the authority to publish content without their review, input, and final approval. This results in watered-down content designed not to offend anyone – or to appeal to all possible customer personas.

FIX: To combat it, document your content personas, draft a content strategy, compile a style guide, and propose an editorial calendar. Present these documents to your decider-in-chief, and let them know they are designed to help you and your team create content that aligns with the company’s goals and won’t need to take up as much of their time as the current process has … In time, you will build the trust it takes to make a case for it being time to hand the reins over to you.

Erika Heald, founder, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting

Threat 2: Stakeholder misalignment

It’s a chronic killer of all that is holy.

FIX: Actively manage and align stakeholders before you bring them stuff to review. This means surfacing misalignment and getting it sorted out upfront.

 – Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity

Stakeholder misalignment is a chronic killer of all that is holy in #contentmarketing success, says @DougKessler via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Threat 3: Expectations for immediate results

FIX: Marketers should have a data-driven content strategy that is well documented and measured against business metrics that contribute to revenue.

Bernie Borges, chief customer officer, Vengreso 

Threat 4: Silos

I see silos across many, particularly large, organizations. Whether you are talking about marketing, sales, public affairs, legal, regulatory, or other functions, when people are not on the same page about an initiative all it does is create chaos.

FIX: All relevant parties need to be at the table at the beginning of a content marketing campaign. Even if they might not be needed until later in the process, they should be made aware at the outset. 

Andi Robinson, global digital content leader, Corteva Agriscience

Threat 5: Not communicating internally

FIX: Every month you should be persuading your internal marketing and communications staff that content marketing is worth doing. Even a simple email will do. 

Joe Pulizzi, founder, Content Marketing Institute

The biggest reason why #contentmarketing programs are killed is because the people controlling the budget have no idea what you are doing, says @joepulizzi via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Threat 6: Inconsistency

It is hard to believe we are still talking about inconsistency, but it seems we can’t eradicate it.

FIX: Create a strong foundation in the form of a solid strategy with clear goals. The strategy as your backbone will make you evaluate each project and help you determine if it fits your goals. This will stop you from jumping from one shiny new project to another because everyone else is doing it or because you haven’t seen the results you were hoping for just yet.

Alenka Bester, head of digital content marketing, Zavarovalnica Triglav

It’s hard to believe inconsistency is still a threat to #contentmarketing success, says @alenkabester via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Threat 7: Easy, cheap, and fast expectations

FIX: It’s just like exercise and dieting, the long-term gains will override short-term pain. Find and invest in little wins along the path to a bigger goal that will get you there over time.

Jacquie Chakirelis, director of digital strategy, Quest Digital/Great Lakes Publishing

Threat 8: Budget cuts

Brands think cheaper content will help them weather economic storms. But brands that deliver content that seems cheap or rushed will lose the attention and loyalty of their customers.

FIX: Brands should be doubling down on their content and focusing their attention on delivering high-quality design. Today’s audiences have discerning eyes and expect that the media they see is delivered at the same blockbuster quality as a Netflix show. Those who focus on their craft and a bespoke experience will see a windfall of engagement. (I have a chapter in my book, Killer Visual Strategies, that dives into the brain science behind our demand for quality visual content and the risk to brands that deliver subpar media.)

Amy Balliett, CEO, Killer Visual Strategies

Threat 9: Generic content

When we’re afraid of generating controversy, we end up playing it too safe. It sounds like we don’t have a point of view. When they consume content, audiences want to feel like they’re with their people. They won’t feel that way if the content sounds like it was created by committee.

FIX: Take the time to connect each and every content creator to organizational values, then ensure the alignment between the work they do and the purpose of the organization. Content should live at the intersection between brand values, audience interests, and product application. That’s the kind of content people want to engage with, and it’s definitely not boring.

Andrea Fryrear, co-founder, Agile coach and trainer, AgileSherpas

Threat 10: Complacency

FIX: Depending on the nature of the content team, it can be thwarted if they can’t be convinced to try new things or to look at their data to ensure that things are working as well as they think they are. 

 – Brian Piper, director of digital content strategy, University of Rochester

Threat 11: Lack of focus

It’s a lack of focus on your goal, a lack of focus on your audience, a lack of focus on your core identity. All of it plays a huge role in your success.

FIX: You have to drive forward by knowing exactly WHO you are (if you want to know WHAT to sell), and from there, you have to always stay in touch with WHO your audience is and understand the intersection of your brand with your audience.

Lindsay Hotmire, CEO, Lindsay Hotmire Creative 

Threat 12: Audience attention

Audience attention is in low supply and high demand, and that ratio is getting worse.

FIX: Rethink short-lived campaigns and invest in the long-term of building an audience on your owned media, one subscriber at a time.

Rich Schwerin, senior content strategist, Autodesk

Audience attention is in low supply and high demand. And the ratio is getting worse, says @Greencognito via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Share on X

Threat 13: Company-focused content

FIX: We have set high standards and take great responsibility in producing a great product or providing great service, we should follow the same principles when it comes to our content. Be responsible to your audience, honest, engaging, and informative. Because we are building trust and want our audience to keep coming back for more. 

Inga Batur, senior editor and writer, Zavarovalnica Triglav 

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: 7 Steps to Getting Brand Trust Right

Threat 14: Failure to adapt to change

FIX: Priorities have changed. People are nervous. They’re desperate for inspiration and yes, humor. They want to smile, to be inspired, to laugh. It’s too easy to be scared and thus keep doing the serious business BS that focuses on the company rather than meeting customers where they are at. Where they are is at a base level human need for comfort and psychological safety – they want to be reassured. And again – humor. Yes, it’s OK. If you think humor isn’t appropriate, it’s because you aren’t understanding what it is and what it can do.

Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping It Human

Threat 15: Starting with format

Often, I see content brainstorms start with the format: “We need a video idea” or “Let’s come up with something for the blog.” But when we start with the format, we risk forcing our stories into formats that don’t best suit our message or our audience.

FIX: Start with brainstorming the stories you want to tell and the messages you want to share, and then ask, “Which format would be best to bring this story to life?” If you swap the order, choosing the right format becomes easier and there’s a much better chance that the two will be paired successfully. 

Melanie Deziel, chief content officer StoryFuel

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: How to Create a Content Marketing Playbook

Threat 16: Wrong metrics

Too many teams are measured by the quantity and frequency of content.

FIX: Measure on content’s ability to help buyers make decisions.

Adele Revella, CEO, Buyer Persona Institute

Focus on the fixes

Content marketing isn’t an overnight success (remember threats identified by Bernie and Jacquie earlier in this article). You won’t be able to thwart all of these in the short term. Read through the list again and pick the threat that’s the biggest pain point for your organization. Focus on that and only that. In the end, your solution may solve more than that one threat.

Is the biggest threat to your content marketing not on the list? Please add to the comments – and let’s see if we can help you fix them too.

Join these and dozens of other speakers this October online for Content Marketing World. Register today for this engaging, interactive opportunity to learn more ways to thwart the threats of your content marketing success.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute