You just can’t get enough of it. It doesn’t matter if you are a 24-hour rolling news channel, an e-commerce web business or just need to find permanent ways to keep any website and communications strategy refreshed and constantly improving its SEO – you burn through content faster than Mo Farah burns through calories.
So, what do we know and where should we begin? Well, for a start, we know that ‘content’ is an easy thing to talk about, but a hard thing to deliver in the way that it should be – anchored deeply in the strategic plans and objectives of the company commissioning it, otherwise it’s a bit like going to Steven Spielberg and saying, ‘make me a film’.
Because the reality is that anyone can make a film now. You can do it on your phone and, with a cheap editing programme, create content in an afternoon. The agency market is proliferating with ‘content providers’ who claim to be able to provide you with a year’s worth of content from one half-day shoot. To be fair, some of it looks OK, but…what’s it about?
Until you know that – and know why it’s important to know that – you start from nowhere.
Martin Sorrell, still up for more punishment after years at the helm of WPP, is starting again, armed with the key ingredients for success (his words). Data. Technology. Content. Yes, there’s that word again.
Let’s have lots of content.
Mary Berry, what are the key ingredients for successful baking? Flour. Butter. Eggs. It still doesn’t tell us what kind of cake it is, and why. All we know is that it won’t have a soggy bottom.
So don’t start by wanting ‘content’. Start by wanting understanding, knowledge, strategy and a game plan that builds you competitive advantage, fully in-line with the commercial objectives and anticipated ROI of the company. Understand how it ties in with the brand vision and values and how it helps move the game further towards them. Study both internal and external audiences; some of the biggest viewers of commercial web content are the people who work in the company.
In other words, start by wanting strategy. Let it feed not only content but also everything else that happens, from internal communications to sponsored events.
Start by knowing what you don’t know and then find out the answers. Use the answers to formulate positioning, context, objectives, competitive advantage and the end game of commercial transaction.
And then make your content about that, and nothing else.
Today, all of the things that we are told are important – data, technology and content – are just a means of delivering targeted messaging through a new and emerging channel. It’s a reinvention of language, terminology and a scientification of a process that all of us in marketing who are over 35 can remember for what it actually is. The process has always required answers to the same key questions: Who are we talking to? What do we need to tell them and how do we find out about it? How does this help position our brand and business?
So what were we doing then that’s any different now? We just call the output something different. It was a poster, now it’s ‘content’.
If you’re creating content just for the sake of filling up your website, you might as well leave the space blank. Or, of course, you could talk to LAW.
We’re deeply rooted in smart thinking and won’t call ‘action’ until we know why we’re doing it and what effect it’s likely to have.
It’s an investment, sure, but one that you’re making in the future success of your business. Move forward forever or die.
It’s only the direction of travel that you – and we – need to think about deeply.
So if a ‘content development’ supplier comes knocking on your door, ask to see some case histories that are based on solid strategic ground. Ask for them in detail and see what underlies the often shiny but perhaps superficial glossiness.
Or ask to see us.
Specialists in hotel, leisure and automotive integrated marketing.