It’s time for content to stop living in “listicle La La Land”

By Ross Lambert in Marcoms News on

Did you know half of B2C marketers have a content strategy, but it’s not documented?

As a Brit this reminds me of Brexit and the time Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage had a plan for how Britain would leave the EU. Against all expectations the Leave campaign won…and Johnson and Farage quickly stepped down from spearheading the movement without presenting their strategy. In fact, after the vote it was reported a senior Conservative MP admitted the Leave campaign never had a plan for managing the aftermath of Brexit. Thanks for that Nigel and Boris.

So, to those B2C marketers with undocumented strategies I say good luck in your content adventures, and the many unplanned twists and turns along the way. I hope by some lucky coincidence you get the results you desire.

I make this point because in communications, content is held up as THE silver bullet to the majority of challenges we face in raising brand awareness and increasing consumer engagement.

And let’s be clear, in many cases I genuinely do think content can be an appropriate solution. I’m not alone here – this year, 70 per cent of B2B marketers plan to create more content compared to 2016, and the top three B2B goals of it are: lead generation, sales and lead nurturing.

Herein lies our problem, challenge, and opportunity as marketers. Content is incredibly valuable to brands, yet few of us actually have a strategy in place to make it work for the business.

Currently, the majority of brand content out there is simply content for content’s sake. Or as Debra Taylor and Chris Collacott from Deloitte said at their recent Beyond Content Marketing and Content Strategy: What Comes Next? gathering, we are “living in listicle la la land.”

Instead of creating relative or authentic content, too much of it – the aforementioned listicles – is just noise, according to Taylor and Collacott.

The fact 60 per cent of content produced by brands has little or no impact on business results or individuals backs this up. As an industry professional I find this stat shameful. It makes me squirm, and it gives us content experts a bad rep. Even those whose content makes a positive difference (I like to think Ogilvy falls into this group, and we’ve examples to back it up!)

The duo from Deloitte say unless we change our approach, marketers are in a downward race to the bottom.

And, as the custodians of content, marketers need to take rapid action to reverse this trend.

It starts with building an army of ‘Content Citizens’ within organisations. These are people who believe in the business value of content, collaborate on its development, share it among their networks, and invest in its creation, says Deloitte.

“Content belongs to everyone and every one of us has a role to play. Because ultimately, content is the expression of your business culture,” argues Collacott.

In today’s saturated markets where prices, products and services rarely differ across competing offerings, it’s foolish to underestimate the importance of brand perception in all buying decisions.

But given content – whether it’s a video, augmented reality app, blog or digital advertising – doesn’t always have a direct line to return on investment, how can  marketers show its value?

I stand with the argument made by Taylor and Collacott. We need to be asking questions – directed at business leaders, consumers, the content we create, and even ourselves – designed to uncover business priorities, where customers most often interact with the brand, and the type of content they respond best to. Thankfully, there’s various content management systems that capture this data.

With access to the right insights, marketers can develop intelligent content strategies engaging consumers in the ways they want through authentic conversations aligned to business priorities. Given the breadth of these projects, you might want to join the 27 per cent of marketers who do document their content strategies.

The marketers’ work is not yet over, however… is it ever?

Insights around the increased consumer engagements achieved must be profiled and celebrated within the organisation. Whether it’s an increase in time on page, whitepaper downloads, videos streamed, Instagram likes, or Snapchat views, more consumers are interacting with the brand, and in the short, medium and long-term it can only be a good thing.

These results build a business case for more content development, and the digitally-savvy and culturally aware business leaders and decision makers should be more open to investing in it.

As marketers move away from content for content’s sake to more meaningful and strategic creations, there will be an element of test and learn. This must be embraced because consumer attitudes and trends change, and new way to engage will become available.

The beauty of content and the engagement data it creates, is that insights from each campaign can be used to make the next one even better. Building organisations with a culture open to content as an effective sales tool will be a step by step process, and some will be quicker to make the jump.

But given the challenges marketers face, the opportunities content provides, and the growing number of successful examples, more and more brands are going to invest in it. Meaning marketers need to be ready with intelligent strategies delivering real business value.

*I can’t believe I wrote listicle. I hate the word listicle. With a passion. Just say list instead. But look at the positives. I squeezed in La La Land for the SEO win.

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