Rethinking Awareness in Content Marketing

It’s one of the most commonly stated goals of content marketing: “Awareness”.

Businesses big and small invest in creating and promoting their content in the hopes that it will generate awareness of their business and ultimately lead to a sale.

But in the muck of it all, “awareness” has sort of become a meaningless idea – poorly defined and slippery to measure. Brands create all kinds of content that is incredibly popular and yet utterly fails at generating any kind of lasting awareness of that business.

So let’s rethink it. What does “awareness” really mean, and how can you plan and create content that accomplishes what you need it to?

For starters, let’s get one thing straight:

Attention =/= Awareness

Just because you’ve created something and people have read it or interacted with it doesn’t mean you’ve generated awareness of your business. A lot of brands miss this point, focusing on  content ideas that they think have “mass appeal”.

While awareness is certainly a numbers game (the more people who know about you, the better), it’s also a relevance game (are the people you’ve made aware of your business actually the ones who will buy from you?).

Viral =/= Awareness

An idea can be entertaining and engaging, snap up an enormous audience and still not accomplish what you ultimately need it to. The topics and angles that come out of ideation surrounding content for awareness need  to do more than just catch eyeballs or get a ton of shares.

Awareness is about recall and retention– the ability to recall who actually produced the content you’re consuming. The content can’t just create awareness of the content – it has to make people aware of YOU!

How do we accomplish that?

Critical Awareness Criteria

There are three critical criteria a piece of content needs to meet in order to work for the goal of generating meaningful awareness:

1. They’re addressed to those who can convert.

That means taking time up front to develop your customer personas and figure out where they hang out. A broad idea will have a lot of legs, but awareness generated will be more incidental than deliberate. Both can be effective, but if you have the option, why not take the blindfold off and look at the target?

2. They address top-of-funnel needs, pain points and interests.

It’s perfectly fine to create content that is entertaining, funny and engaging – not all “awareness” content needs to focus on education. But what SHOULD be a part of your content ideas for generating awareness is an appeal to a need, pain point or interest that your targeted person has while at the very top of the funnel.

Some prompts to help get you going:

  • Do they know they have a need yet?
  • If not, can you help make them aware of it?
  • Can you present yourself as an alternative to the conventional norm?
  • Can you speak into an issue your audience holds close?
  • Can you tap into a public sentiment – or say something others wish they could but don’t know how?

Awareness comes when the audience can recognize that the content is relevant to what your business does, offers or believes in – there’s a connection between the business presenting the ideas and the ideas themselves.

3. They call visitors to take an action that solidifies the a relationship.

Your content needs to push people deeper into the funnel – or at least create the opportunity for an A one-off piece might generate a ton of attention in the outset, but will be quickly forgotten by the next big thing to come along.

Once you’ve got their attention, what will you do with it? How can you turn “awareness” of the piece of content into awareness of your brand as a trusted solution or a noteworthy publisher? To do that, your content needs to help move people further along.

Here are a few questions to ponder to help you nail this part:

  • Can your content be a resource that’s used again and again, instead of consumed once and abandoned?
  • Can you create a schedule or series instead of a one-off, giving people a reason to return? (Great for loyalty!)
  • How can you use the content to collect information that you can use to follow up? (Hint: It’s got to be valuable enough, and your branding needs to look trustworthy enough for this to work)

Rethink Awareness .

Beyond clicks, shares, comments and visits, awareness is about planting the seed of your brand in the minds of those who will one day be customers. Take time to define that audience, understand what they want to hear and what message will resonate with them at the top of the funnel.


Then, define the ways your piece will generate long-term engagement and open the door for a relationship, instead of settling for fleeting attention.

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