Why content is so much bigger than content marketing

‘Don’t waste your time and money’. Dan Davey, CEO of Progressive Content, looks at what content is – and what it isn’t

Content marketing can be effective. It can also be a staggering waste of time and money. Some of this waste comes about because good content is used badly. In other cases the content itself is not good enough, and it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are at sharing, promoting, leveraging and amplifying – if the content is poor, it’s poor.

For many businesses, content creation comes right at the end of the strategic marketing process. A freelancer or an agency may be hired to help create the content. Their skills are bolted on to the core business activity, and this is where organisations are missing out on a massive opportunity to become stronger and more productive.

Everything is content

Much has been written about what content is – and isn’t. But in its broadest terms, content encompasses all forms of communication. From the sign in the gents reminding you to wash your hands to the annual report. Every email, every press release, each advertisement and tweet: it’s all content.

Very little of it will be content marketing, but that’s not important. What is key is that the skills that go into making great content for content marketing are the same as those that will create effective content for any other use.

Those skills include copywriting, design, editing, picture research and video production. Above all they include a laser-like focus on the audience, what they need from the content and what you want them to do as a result of it.

Clarity, effectiveness, accessibility, ease of consumption, timeliness, optimal method of distribution – these are essential requirements of good content marketing and should also be part of every communication your business is involved in.

Content is everything

Creating effective content is not easy. It takes experience and a set of specialisms. Most businesses will have some of those skills in-house, often in their marketing or PR departments, but the picture is frequently patchy. And what about internal communication?

Why should the operating manual in the production department be written and designed badly? Likewise the sales presentation for the new business team? And how about the emails we fire between one another all day? What would be the incremental gains if such content were truly fit for purpose, reflecting your organisation’s values and enabling effective, engaging communication?

Content at the core

Quantity is too often used as a replacement for quality in business communication. We fall back on buzzwords and jargon, using a paragraph when a sentence would do.

Many times, the documents we produce are far too text-heavy, causing readers to skim rather than engage. Would a different design, an occasional graphic and perhaps the odd image or highlighted fact make the document more effective? Of course it would. Or should the document in fact be a video or infographic?

And it doesn’t take much to start improving things. Formatted documents that limit word counts. Clear editorial and brand guidelines that clarify what language should and shouldn’t be used. A centralised design and editing resource. Training that helps staff understand the importance of effective content and how to improve the way they communicate.

Some businesses already understand the importance of communicating clearly and with purpose. At Progressive Content we love it when a client’s brand guidelines extend to how employees should communicate with each other as well as with external stakeholders. Cisco and Unum are two such clients who understand that the greater the complexity of their services, the clearer the content has to be.

Partners in engagement

Great content marketing should be indistinguishable from straight content. It’ll be great because it gives the audience what they want, when they want it. The same should be true of all other forms of content within a business.

A massive bonus in providing your internal stakeholders with effective content is that they will want to share it. Too many firms ignore one of the strongest routes to market, namely their staff, who often have the strongest and most trusted relationships with customers. But, like customers, if the content isn’t strong, relevant and timely, they won’t be inclined to share it.

Good content makes advocates of us all, especially when technology enables the content to be easily discovered and quickly shared.

There will always be room for specialist agencies to help organisations reach new markets with bespoke content creation and amplification services. We should welcome any shifts that show businesses are understanding the incredible power of great content – and we should help them on their way.

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