Good lord! There is a tremendous schemozzle around ‘content’ these days isn’t there?!
Every industry publication is crammed full with hints and tips for ‘mastering your content strategy’, ‘delivering a profitable content marketing strategy’, ‘honing your content delivery processes’, ‘using social media to deliver meaningful content’, ‘using content for better customer engagement’, in fact, the great content juggernaut is rolling over huge swathes of industry chatter leaving clarity in its wake like a benevolent, Amazonian logging machine.
And we all know content must be important because grizzled (and one might argue, slightly disconnected) industry luminaries such as Bob Hoffmann and Dave Trott are ranting and railing against what they deem ‘the obsession with content’.
I too have been talking about content a lot with clients recently and was chatting with my luxuriously bearded friend and colleague, Rory Natkiel, content and search director of our sister agency Blonde about it only this afternoon.
His refreshingly understated view is that “content isn’t anything new”.
And I agree, after all the “Should our company have a blog?” debate has been going on for at least a decade to my knowledge. And of course anyone who has had a blog and distributed it via social channels has been doing content marketing whether they are aware of it or not.
Rory, who is not only luxuriously bearded but also possessed of great acumen, further asserts that: “In as far as it relates to search I think you have to look at Google’s Penguin algorithm update from 2012 and the fact that it forced the SEO industry en masse to stop buying links to gain rankings and focus on earning them instead, resulting in a renewed focus on content and a change in approaches towards it.”
And, of course, Rory is right; suddenly search specialists realised that they needed to create content that generated attention and naturally attracted links.
But it goes wider than search – display requires content, as does CRM, social and any other aspect of client activity that happens online (and perhaps off). None of these channels will deliver results without good content in one shape or form.
Ultimately (and most interestingly for anyone of an, ahem, creative persuasion), both Rory and I think we are very quickly moving into a world where there isn’t a divide between ‘content’ and the rest of advertising.
After all, what is advertising if it isn’t the delivery of content to persuade consumers to do or think something?
So when you are commissioning those films, that music, those ‘think-pieces’, those meticulously researched White Papers – or creating those competitions, webinars, opinion pieces and customer engagement spaces – just remember that whatever the channel, the old rule still applies: If you want it to be any good, you need to spend time and money on it.
Yes you need to segment your customer base, yes you need to use big data to ‘sweat your customer assets’, yes you need to understand your customers and what motivates them, yes you need to be aware of how, where and when they want to engage with you, yes you need to be in the right channels at the right time, yes you need to understand the complexities of creating and updating content regularly but over and above all that you need your content to be interesting and relevant.
When my power supplier sends me a lavishly produced ‘Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer’ magazine, it barely registers before being enthusiastically recycled by my horrible children themselves.
But when a music company emails me a complete track listing and personnel breakdown for every last recording by my favourite band, (LA’s seminal punk-blues renegades, The Gun Club, since you ask) it makes me ever more inclined to use their services.
It’s not tricky really is it?
Provide interesting and relevant content, and you and your customers will be enjoying a mutually satisfying relationship before you know it.
And after all, as the Elegant & Mysterious Mrs Spooner will tell you herself, mutually satisfying relationships are far more likely to last.
Jonathan Spooner is executive creative director at Tangible