Where does the time go? It’s been a full two months since we last checked in with Ian Patterson, wrapping up the fourth day in his Five Days Delivering Digital Transformation series of guest posts. Since then, Ian has taken on a swanky new client-side job in Liverpool and I’ve launched a new consultancy focused on content marketing — the latter of which makes Ian’s fifth and final post all the more fitting, as he shares his views on the role content plays in moving companies into the future.
So let’s join Ian as he shows up for Day 5.
In recent years there’s been a wave of information about the importance of content, specifically digital marketing or ‘content marketing’. Spurred on by significant updates to how Google delivers search results, emphasis has been placed on regularly updated, high quality content. This has led most conscientious business people to ponder the importance of content, how they can improve their content and (ideally) make money from it. To help satisfy this need, the digital industry has exploded with service options with 69% of senior marketers allocating their digital marketing funds to website content, development and performance optimisation.
Unfortunately the word ‘content’ is one of those vague words that will conjure a different meaning depending on who you are. Add the word ‘digital’ and we have two vague words that don’t really help explain themselves.
THE MANY FACES OF CONTENT
When I undertook a new role as Head of Digital Content some years ago I found myself explaining what digital content was, before I could make progress in meetings. Here are some examples of what the words ‘Digital Content’ mean to some people…
- What you say – The message, substance, story and meaning.
- What you want people to hear – The perception, influence or ‘public relations’ angle.
- What you want people to do – The call to action, promotion, marketing or offer.
- How you want to say it – The format: text, image, video or audio etc.
- Where you want to say it – The channel: website, email, social media, mobile, search etc.
- How you manage it – The publishing, storage, technology and governance of content.
Depending on your perspective, digital content can mean one or more of these things, but people tend to describe content as the thing we can see – the picture, post or video e.g. ‘the ‘wrapping’. In my experience, it’s the substance that matters more; the message, meaning, context and story hidden inside what you can see. What your company says and what your customer sees have never been more vital to the health of your business..
WHAT IS YOUR CULTURE OF CONTENT?
Businesses have always been held accountable for what they say, but it’s no secret that social media has lifted the lid on the corporate world. With each employee having a voice and customers expecting more in-depth content online, it’s never been so important to explore how content can improve your company culture, by empowering expression and sharing successes. Smart businesses start early, whilst others wait until the final day of a project to panic about what they should say.
On the final day of this series it seems fitting to share two experiences; one being a business that undervalued it’s digital content, and another that respected it.
It was during one of my more recent consulting assignments that I identified early a deficiency in the client’s approach to content content creation.
Having been asked to explore any way I could help, I focused on the need for the business to better understand and communicate their offering, by producing high quality content that attracted potential customers and earned positive feedback from clients. Unfortunately the owners didn’t see the value in producing content to this level and asked me to focus my attentions elsewhere. Hearing this I asked the owners what they would do if they lost one of their largest clients and didn’t have a credible content presence to attract new business. The answer they provided surprised me, as they explained their network of contacts would yield more then enough opportunity without investing time in producing content. I wasn’t convinced.
Months later their largest client experienced a market crash and withdrew spending. With virtually no content, the business had to start from scratch to fight for attention and new business leads. What could have been a well thought out content strategy, with inbound interest being attracted to them over time, instead ended up being a series of embarrassing new business attempts resulting in the loss of some staff whilst business waited to pick up.
This is perhaps one of the most extreme examples I have ever seen, of a business failing to embrace the importance of digital content, thus failing to communicate their success with the rest of the world.
At the other end of the scale are businesses that value the content they create so highly that their approach to content itself can have a positive, transformative effect for their business.
When consulting for a label manufacturer, I wondered how they could create content that would draw in a crowd. Based on sound content marketing principles, we started to unpack their history, learn about their typical buyers, put ourselves in their shoes, and think about the content a prospective customer would want to read. The net result was a content strategy that was so unique, the business owner wanted every employee to understand and embrace it as part of his or her day job. This meant creating internal communications like posters, mugs and desktop wallpapers that explained the importance of understanding the business audience to share exciting news, stories and anecdotes that could be re-purposed for blog content. The effects were profound, with the business feeling like it had turned a corner and had finally found it’s voice.
LET GO LIKE ANIMAL
And so, to end this series I’d like to offer up a challenge. If you’ve ever been mis-sold on the benefits of digital content, I’d like to suggest that you take some initiative and try producing content that your business (and you as a part of your business) will be proud of this month.
Forget the results for a second and focus on the story, the meaning behind your message. Find the sweet spot between the things that make your business unique and the things your customers will find useful. If you pitch it right, you may just find the market sees you as in control, confident, and making the right kind of noise (or more accurately, creating the right kind of signal) that resonates with your customers and prospects.
That’s a powerful prospect and a big first step in establishing a culture of content. And building a culture of content is an important step toward true digital — scratch that — business transformation.