Our lives are overflowing with content. Our inboxes are flooded, Our smartphones are constantly pinging.
"Everything is going content," says content marketing expert Rebecca Lieb, previously an analyst at Altimeter Group, and now VP of content marketing, Teradata Marketing Systems. That includes advertising (think native advertising), social media, marketing and other disciplines. Indeed, IBM, GE and Red Bull are creating more content than Time magazine did in its heyday, according to Lieb.
Meanwhile, companies struggle to fill the need for content fast enough. Email. Search. Social. Banner ads. Blogs. Websites. Newsletters. Brochures. eBooks. White papers. Native advertising. And more . . . And more . . . Yet as the need for content has exploded, tactics too often have overrun strategy.
"Seventy percent of companies are operating blindly, without a documented content strategy to guide them," according to Lieb. "They are throwing stuff on Facebook, creating videos and white papers because all the cool kids are doing it. It’s just tactical. And they’re equally puzzled about what KPIs to put in place to measure content benefits."
Done right, however, content can be the engine that drives a company. It can increase sales, promote brand health, cut expenses, drive innovation, and foster customer relations. Unfortunately, most companies are still content apprentices, not masters, carelessly slapping out content without any strategic logic or leadership.
"You don’t know what’s scalable unless you have a process and governance around it," notes Lieb. So what’s a company to do?
Here are four steps, courtesy of Lieb, every company should take to make its content more effective.
Evaluate all of your content and grade it, painful as that can be. Is it readable? Up to date? Written for the right audience with the right search terms optimized? Take time to identify gaps, needs and processes; evaluate what’s working, and what’s not. Remember an audit isn't a one time job. Audit from two to four times a year to ensure you're improving.
Consider five key questions:
- Why are you creating content?
- Who is your audience?
- How will you do it?
- What will be the voice, tone, look and feel?
- How will you determine success?
Without answering these questions, you will be chasing your tail, never getting to where you need to be.
Ensure that everyone understands the value of content. Remember that marketing is not the only content workhorse. Sales, product development, HR, and internal communications are all content users. Think of any department that interacts with an audience, partners, employees, customers, or prospects, says Lieb, and you’ll discover a need for content.
"Mobile is where your audience lives," says Lieb, noting that mobile has greatly impacted content, making it briefer and more snackable. Not to mention more visual and audiovisual. And don’t forget about mobile apps, which can also be considered content marketing. Think Charmin’s Sit Or Squat or Home & Gardens' house hunter app, says Lieb.