2016 Election Delivers Tough Lessons for B2B Marketers

The 2016 election was as polarizing and exhausting as any in recent history. Yet, as much as we may be tired of the topic, it’s worth discussing the lessons the election has for B2B marketers and the industry at large.

The Democracy of Content Marketing – You Are Your Own Publisher

The evolution of content marketing over the past 25 years speaks to a larger change in the dissemination of information. Prior to the Internet, there were few channels (both literally and figuratively) on which to broadcast your message, and they were owned by vested stakeholders. Now anyone can have their own channel. If many ways, content marketing is like becoming your own publisher. You can build credibility with your audience by showcasing expertise in how to address their problems. Credibility grants you the opportunity to suggest specific product solutions to. Content marketing has become a direct channel through which you can reach whomever you want to without having to filter the message.

Domination Through Self-Publication

In the 2016 presidential election, content marketing, and by extension, self-publishing directly to an audience, played a huge role. And I’d argue that the Republican Party has a far greater understanding of the power of content marketing than the Democrats. Republicans, with Trump as their content marketing hero, used Twitter to control the focus of the election. Trump became the most effective direct self-publisher ever. While many people have valid reasons to dislike his message, there’s almost no way to argue that it wasn’t effective.

Additionally, conservatives have long been more effective at direct mail and partisan broadcast media. There have been a number of conservative media channels created to serve specific niches. You see this with talk radio and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. And that gave birth to Fox News, which focuses on combating the “mainstream media” by telling stories from a conservative viewpoint. Fox News has proliferated a huge number of specialist online publications that promote specific ideologies; from Breitbart to Glenn Beck.

Essentially, what you see is that Republicans, and conservatives in general, have embraced content marketing and self-publishing far more than Democrats. Now, Republicans may say they were forced into this strategy because the mainstream media did not fairly represent their views. Democrats would argue the media doesn’t portray their views fairly either, but they have not responded as aggressively sought to create channels to target their audiences in an exciting way. Regardless, Republicans have used self-publishing to their advantage.

Leveling the Playing Field

The 2016 election teaches us that if you want to connect, you have to become your own publisher. That’s where Republicans succeeded and Democrats struggled. The challenge going forward for Democrats is to see if they can learn from the tough lessons. The challenge (which can also be an asset) is that we can publish the information we want in a more targeted way than ever before. We’re able to feed our biases rather than challenge them. In essence, Republicans thrived by making news into content marketing.

So, where does this leave us? You can argue that Republican messaging and marketing is demagoguery, that it’s misleading and in some cases, counterfactual. But you can’t argue that it isn’t working to their benefit. Demagoguery and fake news reports doesn’t work in content marketing. But what does work, and what is embodied by Republican media, is connecting to your personas. So it’s time for B2B marketers to learn the lesson that being brave, direct, and explicit in speaking to the problems people face is the way for all content marketing to progress.

Become a content marketing master