4 Content Truths That You Probably Haven’t Yet Realized
In my line of work, I sometimes get requests such as these:
“We need around 4,000 words, fast.”
“We need website content for around 5 pages.”
“We want some content for our sales collateral.”
Do you think there’s something wrong with these requests?
If not, this post is for you.
You see, content often gets shortchanged at the altar of executive decision because business owners don’t quite realize its scale and potential. In other words, content is given low priority by the C-suite.
"In 2016, the content part of “content marketing” will take front and center. Isn’t it bizarre how, for so long, our industry has been mum about how to produce great content?"
First Truth: Content is a strategic tool for business growth that must be nurtured at all times.
Irrespective of the product or service that your business sells, and regardless of whether you engage in Content Marketing or not, at the end of the day you need to communicate with your target market. Even if you do not create a single piece of tangible content, what you say about your business to your friends and family, is content. And the better your content, the higher your impact.
In an attention deficit economy, organizations have but seconds to generate interest in their target market. Every customer touch point, ranging from OOH ads, website, tagline, banner ads, and ads on Facebook & Google to landing pages, forms, FAQs, whitepapers and even Customer Care, must convey the right message at the right time to the right audience.
In the absence of a comprehensive communication plan that nurtures meaningful content for all these channels, businesses stand to lose not only potential revenue but also the opportunity to strengthen their brand. That is why, business owners should stop treating content as a nice-to-have property and instead, treat it as a strategic tool for business growth.
That’s why content creation shouldn’t be treated as an eleventh hour objective.
Second Truth: Content creation isn’t a gimmick. Creating meaningful, interesting and relevant content requires planning, research and effort.
It’s unfortunate that I had to use the three adjectives to specify what I am talking about. Content, by default, should imply information that caters to a requirement. Copyblogger’s Brian Clark explains this beautifully in this article.
However the me-too syndrome has resulted in the proliferation of drivel that masquerades as content. It just fills up space or addresses the bare minimum directives of the formal brief. But such content seldom serves the actual purpose for which content is created which is to move the audience intellectually and emotionally in order for them to take a positive action for the business.
Content should be meaningful. Otherwise what difference will it make?
Content should be interesting. Otherwise who would consume it?
Content should be relevant to your business and to your target audience. Otherwise why would you even invest in it?
Creating such content requires the writer to delve into questions such as:
- What is your business?
- What are the industry dynamics?
- Who is your competition?
- How would you define your target market?
- What problems does your target market face that your business can address?
- How is your target market tackling these problems right now?
- How does your business propose to solve those problems?
- What are you providing to your target market that your competition isn’t?
And so on so forth.
Answering these questions requires primary and secondary research, interviewing business owners, studying the industry, finalizing the voice and tone and finally, creating the content. For more details about this process check out this post that describes how a Content Strategist works.
Clearly, these tasks cannot be rushed.
However, if the plan is in place and the research inputs at hand, then surely, a skilled writer can churn out an article within a reasonable deadline.
At this point of time don't make the mistake of assuming content to be just text.
Third Truth: Content is information. Who said it all has to be in text?
Check out this massive post by Convince & Convert that lists 105 types of content to fill up your editorial calendar.
Yes, you read it right. 105 types of content. Not just text, but audio, video, podcasts, visuals, pictures, infographs and everything in between.
If that feels intimidating, check out this shorter, yet interesting list by Hubspot: 14 unique types of content every Marketer should try.
Therefore the next time you think about content, be open to experimentation. Don’t choose plain text by default. Decide which mode would convey your message the most accurately.
When you have chosen the format, don’t make the mistake of dissociating text from design.
Fourth Truth: Content, in any form, is an amalgamation of information and its presentation.
It could be the script in a product video in association with the theme, concept, voice & tone, animation, direction and even the text on the screen, such as this incredibly hilarious yet effective video by Dollar Shave Club or something simpler such as this animated product introduction video of ComplianceQuest.
It could be the text on a website clubbed with an pie-chart such as this page that I worked on for Christy Friedgram Industry.
It could be the text in an article along with a suitable picture and its caption.
It could be a podcast shared via an email that also features an embedded video.
It could be plain text formatted with headlines and subheads for an easy reading experience.
The point is, to have an impact, content must appeal to the senses in addition to being helpful and informative.
In fact, check out this extremely helpful post by Neil Patel where he shares best practices for increasing the likelihood of long-form content being read.
This is where we enter the domain of User Experience. In fact, good UX is the bedrock of good content. That is why it is important for graphic designers, website designers, videographers, animators and artists of all kinds to work in close association with writers, and for Content Strategists to define and direct the entire process in a manner not dissimilar from that of a conductor of an orchestra.
The point is, you just can’t have a template where you “fit-in some content,” to quote a prospective client in the past.
You can. But it won’t have the desired impact. Take your pick.
Content is information that shapes your brand and drives your business continually.
That’s another way to describe digital posterity. Every piece of content you create is adding up to sculpt your digital twin or your organization's alter-ego. It will be accessible for generations to come and will continue to affect your brand. The best time to start focusing on creating meaningful content was yesterday. The next best time, is now.
Is there any other aspect of Content that is usually ignored by business owners and marketers? Please comment below!