Of all the challenges Content Officers and Managers face today – a steady stream of emerging content formats and marketing technologies, finding (and keeping) human talent, and the evolving list of tasks on our to-do lists – I’d argue that one problem that won’t be going away anytime soon is how we choose to employ content marketing to tackle the issue of “attention economics”.
In an attention economy, attention is a scarce commodity. And as human beings with a finite amount of time at our disposal, it’s never been more challenging – and vital – for content marketers to understand how to capture consumers’ attention. But the truth is, the only way to capture attention in a struggling attention economy is to beg, borrow and steal that attention away from other brands.
And therein lies the Chief Content Officer’s challenge. How to maintain an omniscient view of all our content marketing initiatives, whilst staying up to speed with multiple platforms, content formats and shifting consumer expectations, in order to steal attention, drive traffic, leads, sales and improve customer experience?
Moreover, how do we best advocate and encourage those who employ us to start thinking like a publisher in a stormy sea already crowded with flotsam (bad content) and jetsam (worse content)? The answer to this question is the answer to the age old riddle ‘what’s the best way to eat an elephant?’
By taking one bite at a time!
In a world where more than 200Million pieces of content are published every day, the only way to steal attention is by keeping the big picture in mind whilst taking baby steps toward your end goal. For whilst attention may wander as everyone else is busy making noise in the hopes of being heard, attention will stay with the content marketers and brands who stopped to think before they cried Wolf.
BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
The best content marketing strategies and success stories start with a clear understanding of the end goal. As noted above, content can achieve many goals at different stages of the buyer journey, but not all content can achieve every goal, so start by considering what you’re trying to achieve with your content?
Having a clear understanding of your measures of success makes it far easier to align your production effort with specific business goals behind the creation of a piece (or series) of content. Defining and then managing a set of goals will make it easier for you to manage diverse contributors and content types.
Equally important is linking your end goal/s to your understanding of your target consumer. What do they like? What do they want? And vitally important: what value can you add to their lives? When you have solid answers to these questions, you can take a baby step forward…
UNDERSTAND WHAT’S ON THE MENU
When you know your goal, and you know your target audience, it’s far easier to undertake an audit to know what owned content you have, what gaps you need filled, and what channels and formats you need to start focusing on to steal attention away from your competitors. This is the stage where the rubber meets the road, where your brand message is intertwined with relevant content and appropriate channels.
This sounds simple, but it’s rarely used in practice. Almost everyone jumped on the content bandwagon, pushing out a bunch of owned content they loved, only to see it fail because their audience said meh. Those who failed failed because they assumed one size fits all. They never took the time to adjust their message and imagery to the relevant audience, channels and content formats.
CREATE YOUR ROAD MAP
It’s at this point you can begin mapping out a content strategy that aligns with, supports and extends the organizations wider marketing initiatives, both short and long-term. But don’t make the mistake of assuming this is a one-time thing. Continuous evolution of content strategy is a must, not a maybe.
The creation and ongoing development of a functional content calendar will be the road map that keeps you on track by outlining who does what, when, what content goes where and what’s being measured. It’s a fluid single point of truth that should also be used to capture analytics so you can measure success.
SPEND TIME ON SYSTEMS & PROCESSES
Whilst the above steps may give you the confidence to enter the fray, experience has shown me that at this point it’s far better to focus on developing standards, systems and best practices (both human and technological) for future content creation, distribution, measurement and iterative content innovation.
Establishing work flows for content ideation, content production, editing, publishing, and retiring content will become the engine that keeps your content efforts honest, on brand, efficient and effective.
TEST & ADJUST
The age old maxim that marketers know 50% of their marketing budget works, just not which 50%, doesn’t hold true in a digital ecosystem where everything is measurable, where every hour invested is quantifiable. Conducting regular usability testing to gauge content effectiveness – gathering data and analytics in order to make recommendations based on those results – to revise, revamp or retire content will save you time and money. Market data can also be leveraged for content and channel optimization by tapping into emerging content themes/topics and creating fresh content to bridge gaps.
STOP, COLLABORATE & LISTEN
One of the most crucial elements underpinning content marketing success is making and taking the time to collaborate with other business siloes like public relations, communications, marketing, customer service and IT. Taking the time to do this makes it easier to integrate your content into traditional marketing campaigns, whilst at the same time ensuring all content stays on-brand, consistent in terms of style, quality and tone of voice, and optimized for search and user experience across all channels.
Listening to your internal business leaders, as well as your writers, designers, editors, content strategists and external agency stakeholders, will save you time, money and face. Irrespective of how many years you’ve been working in the content sector, you should never overestimate your knowledge and expertise, or underestimate your teams. Hubris kills content campaigns faster than no budget, poor copy or creative.
Ultimately, as the corporate storyteller, the CCO will be measured on the continual improvement of customer nurturing and retention through storytelling, as well as the increase in new prospects into the enterprise through consistent development and deployment. He or she will be evaluated against the increase in defined customer engagement metrics, as well as be held accountable for metrics around lifetime customer value, customer satisfaction, and employee advocacy.
The CCO or Content Marketing lead needs to become a hybrid species: a passionate technologist who knows what tech can – and cannot – do, who’s comfortable managing multidisciplinary teams and tight editorial schedules and deadlines, with a fluency in web analytics tools and a near ninja nimbleness that allows them to embrace change and adapt to strategies on the fly. It’s often a complex, competitive and confusing role to undertake, but if I’m to be perfectly honest, there’s no role I’d rather play…