“I hate the word “content,” which has infiltrated our profession. You have people who are called chief content officers and things like that. I don’t like the word content. To me, it’s like saying the word “stuff.” It has no meaning, whereas journalism actually does have meaning.” Marty Baron, editor in chief of the Washington Post in Newsonomics
“Content” is all the rage in digital marketing and has been ever since brands realized their first websites gave them the power and means of production to publish their own messages and information without depending on the press or advertising to distribute it. Looking at content as a marketing communications tactic, without a unifying strategy to build and deliver it as demand for it grows, is a recipe for missed opportunities, mixed messages, high costs and big risks to your brand. How a digital marketer plans to design and deliver content will ultimately determine how it is distributed and measured for success and further optimization.
If you don’t have a comprehensive content strategy in place, you’re not alone. According to Altimeter, 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy. This is a quick guide to how to lay the foundations for a sensible content strategy with the technology and structure we’ve seen succeed with our customers and users of the Acquia Platform.
Know your audience
Understanding the customer and their role comes first. Without a solid understanding of that reader and the issues and language that they are most familiar with, then any content -- no matter how well intentioned -- will lack the empathy and genuine tone essential for establishing some level of credibility. Planning and developing content without your customer personas in mind means you aren’t planning content for your audience but for your marketing department. Understanding the audience -- the tone, their level of knowledge, and their issues -- is the key to rising above the ever-exploding abundance of information competing for their attention.
Marketing content is -- and let’s be honest -- biased “advertorial” with far less objectivity and value than a customer’s honest review, the unfiltered words of the press, or the published opinions of an industry analyst. The burden is on the content team to design and develop honest content informed by insights gained through careful research. Determining what matters to the reader can only be uncovered using data pulled from CRM records, historical web logs, social media trends, etc.; yet crunching numbers is only one step towards gaining a better understanding of the audience. There is no substitute for talking directly to customers or to those people in your organization who do on a regular basis. Sales teams, field reps, and customer support are all excellent sources of insight and gut-checks.
It’s more than websites: tame the chaos
In a 2015 Demand Gen report, 67% of B2B buyers said that this year they will rely more on content for research purposes and to make B2B purchasing decisions. As a result of content’s growing importance to an organization -- for hitting sales targets to telling the corporate story -- brands and enterprises are generating massive amounts of content, leading to what many call "content chaos." Chaos occurs when content is created independently by multiple departments and multiple teams, in multiple languages and geographies, all with different agendas and audiences in mind. With content popping up in so many different locations, it becomes difficult to effectively manage it, let alone find it.
There is virtually no major brand or company that maintains a single website. Mid- to large-sized companies often have multiple sites under their control. In fact, according to a 2015 study by Forrester Research, the typical enterprise organization has more than 250 sites associated with its brands and products. Content is needed for each and every site, channel, and touchpoint, ranging from the main brand homepage, across social media, mobile apps, and individual brand or product sites. Content is also needed for distribution outside of the organization’s own sites as well, making it even more important for enterprises to have a strong strategy and technical tools in place.
The true pain comes not from populating content across multiple sites, but instead it comes from updating and maintaining the most mundane content such as terms and conditions, boiler plates, disclaimers, copyright information, etc. Without a content strategy in place for maintaining all content across all sites and channels, updating each of these becomes a time-consuming, manual task with a high risk for human error. A decimal point in the wrong place or outdated legal copy can lead to a costly headache for you and your organization. If a mandate from legal comes down that a piece of content needs to be removed from all global sites by the end of the day, how can you possibly meet that deadline without a structure and tool in place to do so? The most boring piece of content is the one that could cost you your job.