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Why content and corporates are still struggling to get along

Why content and corporates are still struggling to get along

Fixing some of the problems between content and corporates doesn’t have to be that hard.

Almost two decades into the digitally-driven revolution, and being a content champion remains bafflingly hard.

Marketing guru Seth Godin once famously proclaimed that “content is the only marketing left“, but I still find myself explaining why technology is often only as good as the quality of content you put in it.

Content strategy has been a ‘thing’ since Kristina Halvorson made it into one (it always was to publishing folk like me), but I know that every minute of the day, somewhere, content that wasn’t considered at the start, is being shoehorned into designs and UX at the end.

In lift and shifts, no-one can hear the content scream.

Yet everyone I speak to from the C-Suite down agrees content is crucial — whether they see it as an evil or an asset. Why then, does it seem like content is king without a kingdom even now?

A brief history of content, brands and corporates

Content and content specialists in corporates are struggling with a trifecta of problems that got built into the relationship in the early days, even though the solutions are actually quite simple:

PROBLEM 1: We started with style over content substance

I love designers. I’ve worked closely with them my whole career, from newspapers to magazines to websites. In publishing, they were every editors’ best friend because a great designer delivered our words in a way that could make it more accessible, more readable and more immersive.

But with the rise of online came an explosion of web design agencies who designed first and pretty much forgot about content. There is no designer I know today – from junior creatives to directors – who don’t bemoan this upside-down approach and its legacy that leaves designers forced to work without the building blocks of content that make their designs better, outcomes real and lives easier.

SOLUTION:

Embed a content stream or a lone but courageous content specialist into your creative and UX process from the start. Your designers will weep with joy, and your customers will thank you when they get an experience that considers all of their needs holistically.

PROBLEM 2: Who has the responsibility for content, who has the care?

Once organisations recognised that having Vera on reception cut and paste brochure-ware onto their site in between answering calls wasn’t going to cut it, content was shifted to the marketing department.

This was a good thing; marketers started grappling with what made good, bad or plain awful content, and, of course, how to create it.

But content requires the kind of care that can only come from being blessed – or burdened – with loving it. The result is that often the people with the responsibility don’t necessarily have the care, and those people who care, aren’t given responsibility.

To create meaningful content that has true value it takes care, talent and someone willing to defend it.

SOLUTION:

Publishing and advertising relied upon the skill and talent of content creators. So, it doesn’t make sense to take the talent out of the capability when it comes to corporates. If you need some content written, find a writer (and yes, they are hard to find, so it will mean effort).

PROBLEM 3: Remember the good old, bad old days

Traditional advertising doesn’t work as well as it did, but that doesn’t stop marketing teams wishing it just wasn’t so — and trying to draw a straight line from a piece of content to a sale. There is no doubt that we need to apply measurement to content but we can’t force the new way to engage customers into the old model of measuring success. We need to look at the multiple touch points a customer has through content – then iterate on what engages best at key moments.

SOLUTION:

Corporates and brands have always used content; it’s just that they have to create a lot more of it now in a lot more channels. It’s natural to ask where the ROI is of doing all the content all of the time. The answer is; stop. Do less content, make it more targeted, personalised and segmented – the ROI will become clearer, and the production costs lower.

Can we start again, please?

No, no we can’t start again, but we don’t have to carry past mistakes forward because ‘that is the way we’ve always done it’. It just plain shouldn’t have been.

  • Step one: make a content specialist in UX projects the norm.
  • Step two: find out who in your organisation is passionate, skilled and able when it comes to content.
  • Step three: don’t expect that because everyone is ‘doing’ content it will get the best results.

Stop. Re-think. Fix.

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