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“Wait…what do you mean?” asked my friend Ellen, who’s really an ordained minister.
“There’s a website where you just put in your information, click a box and you can be ordained as a minister,” our friend replied.
“Well, then why did I spend all those years in ministerial school?” asked Ellen, completely bewildered, and somewhat saddened, by this news of instant ordination.
I imagine for some writers it’s a similar feeling. Create a blog, input some words and everyone’s a writer, right? A journalist by training, I have to admit, that like my friend Ellen, I’ve had more than one bewildered moment wondering what in the world has happened to the craft of writing?
Once relegated as a necessary component of newsletters and magazine articles with strict style guides, content has taken center stage in marketing. Sure, content has always been essential, but organizations are now focused on acting more as in-house publishers of social, video and packaged content products shared across multiple platforms.
In fact, a recent report by IBM and the CMO Club indicated that chief marketing officers now estimate they’ll spend more on content development than any other component in their marketing arsenal. While spending on content is up (and even this old reporter-turned-marketer thinks that’s a great thing), the key is how you allocate your resources to ensure content is delivering in the right ways.
Far too often, I see clients who take the more-is-better approach to their content. That means believing they need to be on more channels pumping out more branded messages. Yet, there is a point of diminishing returns, says a recent report, “The Content Marketing Paradox: Is More Content Really Better?”
The report, produced by Washington, D.C-based content research firm TrackMaven, analyzed 13 million pieces of content from more than 8,800 brands over a two-year span. Interestingly, what TrackMaven discovered was more content distributed through more platforms doesn’t lead to more engagement or sales. It’s a similar paradox Nielsen discovered in their market research from 2008-2013: adding more channels in the TV lineup doesn’t yield greater consumption—as viewers reported watching only 17 channels consistently.
In the same vein, the TrackMaven report contends the goal of marketers shouldn’t be to pump content through every possible channel. Yet, based on their findings from 2013 and 2014, that’s exactly what brands did. According to the report, which evaluated some 13.8 million pieces of content, brands increased content production by 78 percent during those two years, and engagement fell by 60 percent.
So, what’s an organization to do? The short answer: reconnect with the purpose your content serves.
Far too often these days, content becomes a knee-jerk reactive solution to fill a social channel to gather more followers—rather than a proactive strategy to truly engage or connect.
Stepping back to ask yourself, “why are we ‘doing’ content?” is perhaps one of the simplest, but most challenging, questions you can ask. And yet, it’s the most insightful.
Like a curious child learning about the world around her, asking ‘why’ brings you back to a basic level. It refocuses you on the purpose your content serves. At the recent Content Marketing World in Cleveland, the recurring theme was quality over quantity when it comes to content. Put even more simply, “be authentic,” says Content Marketing Institute Joe Pulizzi. Be true to your brand by focusing on what matters, Pulizzi says, and ultimately that should be solving a problem or filling a need your stakeholders have.
Because at the end of the day, that’s the answer to my friend Ellen’s question about why she spent years studying to be a minister—and a similar response to why we must step back and evaluate our content’s role. Through the arduous process of soul searching and discerning our ‘why,’ we arrive at the heart of what matters. And it’s from this space, we can then create purposeful content that engages, educates and moves others to action.
An award-winning writer, Lara Zuehlke is Director of Content at Pierpont Communications.