Content marketing is a misnomer. It’s unfortunate that the term content marketing came along before all the other tangent roles integrated with what’s really the end of a long content arm. You see, before you get to content marketing, you’ve got to begin with content strategy and content writing. So the very first step in assessing your content marketing consultant is to gauge whether they’re a good content director.

The role of a content director is to oversee all aspects on content. A great content director will be able to follow the conversation surrounding your industry, spot key points, and forecast trends. They should be able to drum up content ideas at the drop of a hat for anything from blogs to white papers.

Blogs, for example, are integral to a brand’s success – and imperative in a business environment that thrives from fresh content. Original and consistent content paired, with a content strategy, enables a company to increase visibility and SEO ranking, while building itself up as trusted authority. A blog should have two key priorities. First, it needs to draw traffic to a company’s website. Second, it should work to convert readers into customers. The latter is achieved through a committed blog effort with calculable results within four to six months. If you’ve retained your content marketing guru for this long, they should have analytics in place that lets you determine the statistics that came with each post over time. Hopefully, as a team you haven’t relied on just blog posts in the last year.

More than an arm of content marketing and a resource to entice subscribers, white papers are designed to help people make decisions. They sit at the forefront of an education marketing revolution. A well-written white paper won’t just be a strong weapon; it’ll be a tool to attract decision makers in key industries and across the upper tiers of a target clientele. How a white paper should read depends entirely on the industry. Each industry brings with it its own language, needs, and audience. Academic white papers take on a data driven tone, others will offer thought leadership, while those with a marketing filter also emphasize application and results.

Any piece of content will have one strategy, and that’s to introduce a challenge faced by readers and then highlight a solution by making a strong case for a particular approach. Over the last year you should have witnessed this sort of methodology in your content consultant, particularly if they’re your go-to content writer. Whether your not you work with them through the process or you just see the final result, content should reflect the following creation process:

1. Conduct research (including competitor and industry findings).
2. Source facts and gather data.
3. Create copy.
4. Work with graphic designer to create necessary illustrations.
5. Publish post according to editorial calendar.
6. Share post across social spectrum. Make any sort of necessary PR outreach efforts.
7. Track post success in analytics.

However, no post should be treated like a one-timer, filed in the recess of archives once it’s been read and consumed. That sort of fly-by content marketing is a waste of everyone’s time. Rather, your content marketer’s aim this past year should have been to create cyclical content. This means they’re creating content that has both a long shelf life (called “evergreen” content because it doesn’t die out) while pairing it with pieces that really pack a provocative and timely punch. Your content strategist should be planning thematic content that folds over on itself, meaning that one story compliments another. In this way where should be a rhythm to what you’re posting versus jarring disjointed points of fact. Even the most creative fields – fields that don’t produce heavily researched or content heavy pieces – can use this same strategy for their industry through the use of creative consultants.