“Built smart content and put it in smart places”. Content Marketing sounds so easy when you break it down to a simple definition, but a lot of the companies we speak to find this very hard to do. Sometimes they don’t know where to start, or sometimes they’ve started but they can’t keep up the momentum and deliver high quality topics and content over the long term.
The usual suspects
Speaking to as many companies as we do, we see some of the key challenges come up again and again.
- Inconsistency – Mismatched or contradictory messaging or tone
- Timing – Too frequent and you’re spamming your audience, too infrequent and your content becomes stale
- Internal capacity – Competing priorities, no in-house writers
- Standalone – Marketing tactics disjointed, not leveraging content, unrealised potential
- Measurement – Poor measurement, KPIs mismatched to objectives
- Objectives – Unclear objectives, misaligned to business strategy
- Internal buy-in/support – Lack of access to SMEs, budget uncertainty
- Momentum – Keeping up the pace with useful insight, high quality content in a repeatable way
This article discusses some suggested content cures to five of the most common content ailments
Content ailment #1 – Frequency
As content marketing has gone from ‘the next big thing’ to ‘absolutely everywhere’, people are flooded with more content than they can possibly consume. If we’re not at content saturation point right now, it’s just around the corner.
Mark Schaefer wrote a great article on this, called the Content Shock phenomenon. The same phenomenon has been called The Content Paradox by TrackMaven, citing more recent data confirming the same effect.
In short, even though more and more brands take to content marketing, our consumption of content cannot rise at the same pace.
So, the key challenge we have is not how to push more content out, or time it better, or deliver it in ten ways before breakfast, it’s how to make sure we’re creating content that people want to read!
We can already see content publishers responding to this dynamic, with longer posts published less frequently.
The content cure
Our recommendation for getting your publishing frequency right is to focus on quality first and then decide the right quantity to meet your audience’s appetite.
There is no one answer to how often should I publish, it depends hugely on the audience you’re trying to reach and the platform you’re using to reach them. A good content strategy can help you match your business objectives to content objectives and set some goals around how often you’d LIKE to publish.
But the answer is NEVER just to publish five posts a week, if you don’t have anything interesting or useful to say. Gone are the days of publishing ‘stuff’ for the sake of wallpapering your website or jamming SEO keywords as far as the eye can see.
Content ailment #2 – Internal buy-in
One of the secrets to creating really useful and relevant content is having access to the internal subject-matter experts to capture the insight needed to base this on.
But many of our clients find if difficult to secure the time and input needed from other business areas to make their content programmes a success.
Sometimes marketing is not seen as a credible activity (read: colouring-in department). Sometimes people are just more focused on their own BAU deliverables to see content as a priority.
The content cure
Our suggested cure for winning internal buy-in is to speak their language and find a way to make it matter to your internal stakeholders:
- don’t use marketing buzzwords, don’t say “conversions”, just say “sales”, don’t say “increasing reach”, just say “more people will read it”.
- Translate your marketing stats into what it means for THEIR objectives.
- Think about them like any audience, how do they prefer to take in information? What will persuade them?
We work closely with a professional services firm who was facing this problem on a regular basis. To solve for this, we created a dashboard that aligned the content metrics to the business scores that each department was already working to. This had two benefits:
- Tapped into their preference for absorbing information through data and facts
- Prompted a level of competition between departments
Content ailment #3 – Internal capacity
Almost every company we speak to is so head down in day-to-day deliverables that they can’t stop and think, let alone write.
With all this focus on multi-tasking and delivery, it makes sense that many teams are made up of marketing generalists, not writers or communicators.
Making the writing grade – good vs great
This can be a problem, because the capability and skill-set needed to run a successful in-house content team are specialist:
- Knowing the difference between good writing and great writing…important in a content-saturated environment
- Content is a long-term play, whereas many marketing teams are sucked into short-term delivery…even if they know they need strategy!
- Managing a team of writers and freelancers is different from other business experience
- Finding the best writers, matching their skills and expertise to your needs
- What is good writing process?
- how long SHOULD it take
Our suggested cure internal capacity is to be realistic about writing.
- Know how long it takes to produce good quality writing (and remember to include the thinking time!), and set sensible expectations for your business and yourself
- Figure out whether you have internal resources who can write (and write for the media you need…a whitepaper is very different from a social media campaign)
- Figure out whether you have the time to manage a network of freelancers to supplement your team, or whether you need to work with an agency who can step in to manage it from concept to delivery.
Content ailment #4 – Inconsistency
Our fourth content ailment is a logical side effect cr
eated by the flood of content creation: inconsistency.
Companies often attempt to manage this by creating a brand tone of voice, inviting everyone to a workshop, creating a 40-page ‘Brand Bible’ and then laminating a set of short cuts for each desk.
My personal experience of several rounds of corporate re-education camp is that this is never enough to make a brand language stick.
Our solution for this is to go further with your tone of voice and ACTIVATE it properly within your business. We believe that for a business to speak differently, it must think differently. People using the brand language must genuinely believe it matters and understand why.
For this reason, our language activation programmes are not exercises in writing and broadcasting guidelines. Instead, we go further by designing experiential programmes that change behaviour and dislodge old ways of thinking.
Content ailment #5 – Momentum
Once you’ve got everything else sorted and start
ed to generate some great content which is getting results. How do you keep it up for the long-haul?
It’s critical to know what you’re trying to achieve from your activity and then measure it. Otherwise it’s just activity for the sake of it, and as we saw earlier, creating more ‘stuff’ is not the way forward to differentiate your content.
Our cure for maintaining momentum is to create a disciplined editorial process which maps out how you go about capturing customer insight (as the starting point for any compelling content programme), matching it to your broader business objectives and then
determining the best tactics to meet your objectives. The graphic below demonstrates the virtuous circle that we aim to create for all our clients.
The most important element is ensuring that you’re measuring the right things for your objectives, and that the insight from your measurement programme flows back in to inform your next round of editorial planning.
The output of this process is the humble content calendar, mapping your topics to key themes and strategic objectives and setting out the timings and distribution of each element.
This article has only scratched the surface of some of the common content challenges we help our clients to face every day. As consumers increasingly flock to brands who share their values, content is one of the most effective ways to bring your brand’s values and purpose to life. Creating a successful and sustainable content marketing programme can be a challenge, but one that is worth tackling head on.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. We can help you at any stage from strategy development to execution, or just as an extra pair of hands when you need it most.