Is "Right Message, Right Person, Right Time" the Wrong Message to Content Marketers?

From Content Shock to CRaP, a lack of quality content, and tone-deaf messaging, the biggest threat to Content Marketing seems to be Marketing itself.

In fact, 75% of marketers surveyed recently by the Economist Group, have a fundamental misunderstanding about the value of content and believe "content should frequently mention products."

This couldn't be more contrary to the point of Content Marketing. Indeed, CMI's own Joe Pulizzi breaks it down for us: "Your customers don't care about you, your products, your services...they care about themselves, their wants, their needs."

Joe Pulizzi quote about content marketing being about creating interesting information that your customers are passionate about

To Joe's point, Ann Handley adds that Content Marketing is not a "warmed-over press release served as a blog post."

Clearly, we have a problem.

So, where do we start?

As any serious athlete knows, sometimes fixing something big, means fixing something small. It can be a matter of fine tuning mechanics. The devil is in the details, as the fine tuning comes down to the way we use the word "message."

In other words, how do make sure our content actually serves an audience?

With that table set, here’s where I see a problem: by using the word “message,” we’re suggesting something contrary to the ethos of Content Marketing. We're making it about ourselves, instead of about our audience.

Now, I realize I may be splitting hairs here and the “message” may indeed be the value, an apt term for specific types of marketing, but I think it’s an important point to keep in mind. If we’re focused on delivering a “message,” the risk is that it suggests a one-way conversation and doesn't necessarily include value for the audience. We don't want to talk at your audience; we want to talk with them.

There's a reason the title of Jay Acunzo's website, Sorry for Marketing, is funny: it resonates as truth.

Jay explains, " Tone deafness. Too much volume. The list goes on longer than most terrible lists we blog."

Here's an example: In Summer of 2017, Marketing Automation behemoth Marketo, made one very small mistake that had very big consequences. They forgot to renew it's domain,, and took down its service for its entire customer base.

Not to miss a real-time marketing opportunity, Marketo competitor, Act-Ons Tyler Thovson took to Twitter to get its message out:

I'm using Tyler and Act-On as an example simply to highlight my point, not to point fingers. I'm actually a big fan of what Act-On is doing (and Tyler, my apologies, love to buy you a beer sometime).

But as a Marketo customer, the last thing I wanted to think about when one of my most important marketing tools has suddenly gone AWOL, is migrating all of my data and programs to another vendor. And this is why "help, not sell" is such an important mindset.

What Marketo customers needed was not to be sold to, but to be helped. Was there some value, some insight, Act-On could have provided in this moment instead?

Jeff Coveney from RevEngineMarketing thought so, offering up some timely advice:

Can you imagine the amount of goodwill generated had a similar-themed post had been written by Act-On? 

Sadly, many of us have fallen prey to me-first marketing just like Tyler. Marketers, in general, are known to be message-driven, rather than value-driven. It can be a tough habit to break, or temptation to avoid.

The Way Forward

In "Connecting Content Marketing Experiences," CMI's Robert Rose pointedly suggests that "Instead of focusing on the "right message, to the right person, at the right time", successful content marketers are creating "the right value, to the right audience, in their time."

Robert Rose quote “Instead of focusing on the right message, to the right person, at the right time, successful content marketers are creating the right value, to the right audience, in their time.”

This perspective truly reflects the heart of content marketing and highlights the opportunity that content-driven experiences present: to serve, educate, delight or entertain your audience at precisely the time they seek these encounters, not when we decide it’s time for them to hear our message.

If we're concerned about cutting through the noise, we should concern ourselves with the language we use. If we're concerned about cutting through the noise, we should concern ourselves with the messaging we use. We need to fix a problem. And like a serious athlete, we need to make sure the fundamentals are sound and focus on our mechanics. If so, God, rather than the devil, will be in the details.

And we can do this, ironically, by delivering the right message to Content Marketers.