Failing to understand content is one of the top challenges companies of all sizes face today. I have seen cases where managers referred to the “content fiasco” and the reasons behind this claim were many, spicy, funny and painful altogether. Personally, I do love everything that has to do with content. Spending many years as a digitalist on both on agency and client-side, gave me a lot of opportunities to dig deeper and deeper in this so-called “content fiasco”. I wrote it with an insider’s perspective.
Generally speaking, when a company is failing to understand content this happens for many reasons. Some are extremely personal—lack of interest or no passion whatsoever for the job itself, other job priorities. Other reasons have to do with the company’s culture and the lack of digital knowledge within the organization.
What organizations may or not know is that great user experiences are created through branding, content, functionality and usability. They all go hand in hand. Achieving this can be quite a challenge for companies regardless of their size or industry.
No.1 — Content is a business asset
“Because there isn’t a $1, $5, or $10 denomination stamped on the front of Web content, it’s often difficult to know exactly how valuable content is to your company.”— Bryan Eisenberg, Keynote speaker, Partner – Buyer Legends
Let’s make one thing clear about the content. It’s a business asset and consequently, it must be treated and managed accordingly. Essentially, content brings your brand to life! It has an essential role in creating and maintaining a powerful and relevant brand. By the way, that goes for both online and offline. Not only content tells, your story, but it manages expectations. It answers questions of both your customers and employees ask. Good content inspires, entertains and drives decision-making. Of all these four major areas ensuring great user experiences, content is the one that gets ignored or undervalued most often.
No. 2 – The New Role as a Publisher
“Brands need to take the phrase ‘acting like a publisher’ literally.” — Dietrich Mateschitz, CEO of RedBull
Many companies got used to delivering content for online channels, yet they do not truly integrate into their DNA something extremely important … and that is the new role as a publisher. Once our content is out there, on the Internet, like it or not, we are not just a cosmetics distributor, a telecom operator, a food delivery company, but a publisher too.
If you are among those readers who wonder what a publisher role means, let us give a few hints. First of all, you are responsible for the content we put out there. Secondly, you must continually find and collect new content from internal and external sources; if you do not have internal resources, you decide whether you need to find an external partner or make a new hire. Thirdly, but neither least important nor the last thing you need to do, you must analyze, edit, approve, publish, update and archive the website content.
No. 3 — Content is a joint responsibility
Failing to understand content is also linked to the big dilemma about who is responsible for content. We often see clients failing to realize that everybody in the organization is responsible for the content, not just the digital or the marketing team.
It’s just a matter of realizing that not everything related to content and that must be done is listed on the job description … and, of course, is also about taking responsibility. But, truth is that just the thought of making such changes can turn into a nightmare for most managers. At the end of the day, there are so many more important things to do that indeed are on their job descriptions. Not to mention the things that are listed in their annual review and their bonus depends on. And, who can blame them? The good news is that there are ways to solve all these issues in a way that helps everyone.
No.4 — Content is hard work, not an afterthought
“Late content is consistently one of the reasons for project delays. The task itself and resources needed to complete the task are seriously underestimated.” — Kelly Goto, CEO & Founder – gotoresearch
Frequently, organizations treat as an afterthought. This is where most clients fail big time. There are several things company stakeholders fail to understand:
- what content is — meaning everything that contains information and helps us establish a conversation with our stakeholders (customers, prospects, employees, press, investors, partners, suppliers etc.)
- the roles of the content — it tells your story (the company, the employee, the shareholder, the brand); it drives decision-making; it manages expectations, it brings our brand to life; it builds or breaks trust
- content diversity — it comes in different shapes and sizes (text, images, movies, sounds) and each one has specific challenges when it comes to production, use and management
- how the content and the brand work together — not everybody gets that content has an essential role in creating and maintaining a truly strong and relevant brand
- great user experiences are built on content, functionality, branding and usability
- how content lives in the digital environment
- forgotten content — frequently, digital projects fail to meet expectation or deadlines and even get delayed for months because content is considered the last stage in the digital project development
- the effort required to produce good content quality — time, people, skills, budget and other resources
In other words, stakeholders undervalue content complexity and importance or underestimate the resources needed to create and manage it properly. The more the business grows, the more complicated content management gets.
No.5 — It’s a long-term commitment
Online content is not something you check off a list and are done with. It doesn’t take care of itself! Once published, it has a life of its own, and our customers control it—they like, they share, they criticize etc. It requires ongoing care, development and update. Everybody in the organization is responsible for the content.
Content development is not a piece of cake! It takes time to get it right. You need to learn a lot of new skills and acquire the knowledge you did not need before. It needs to be re-written for online channels … here people have different reading patterns, don’t have enough time or attention and your competition is just one click away. Not to mention the specific requirements and constraints that come with so many new technologies, devices and screens.
No.6. — Content needs a clear workflow
Content doesn’t just happen! As we have already mentioned, in any organization, content is a part-time responsibility for dozens of employees whether they realize or not. And let’s clarify this a little bit! Good quality content does not mean copy-pasting from a 7-year old website, marketing brochure, supplier product sheet or other technical documents for internal use. Let’s say, you have the right content! What’s next? You need to optimize for search engines. Then the material must be approved internally, and in many cases, you have several stakeholders that get involved. Assuming you finally have the approval, you publish it online. It stays there for a while and then a colleague realizes something is wrong with one piece of information— or worst a customer complains about it. So, you are back to square one. Do all these things sound boring? Real? Annoying? Time-consuming? Complicated? You are right! It’s all this and so much more!
The good news is that when you put in place a Content Management Workflow fit for your organization, things not only get easier. You also win time, save money and everyone’s life in the company gets easier. Why? Well, a healthy Content Management Workflow answers to all “who, why, how and when questions” referring to content gathering, editing and writing, approvals, publishing and updating.
No.6. — Content Strategy is mandatory
“Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff.” — Arjun Bassu, Writer
It’s clear that neglecting content is not an option. Also, for those who actually do the content work is obvious that dealing with content is not as easy as some key stakeholders in a board room may think. Yet, there’s one question remaining unanswered. What is the content solution? Well, from a practical perspective, any company doing business online and regardless of its size should have a content strategy.
Straight to the point, content strategy plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. Content strategy is responsible for deliverables such as content inventory, content page templates, key messages, online editorial policy, editorial calendar, content migration plan, SEO & metadata recommendations, KPIs, monitoring etc.
No.7 — Failing to understand the content is expensive
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.” — Andrew Davis, Keynote Speaker & Best-selling Author
Botton line, from an organizational point of view, failing to understand content translates in wasted money, bad brand reputation, damaged business partnerships, team frustration and lost sales.
Especially during tough times, businesses often feel like looking for the needle in a haystack. Maybe, just maybe that magical idea or solution shows up. Yet, it does not have to be so hard, so complicated! Remember that the buyer’s journey is nothing more than a series of questions that must be answered. The buyer—a business leader or just a happy dad looking for a cradle for its daughter, is always looking for credible information wherever he can find it. Why wouldn’t you be the one who provides it?
Photo credit: pixel2013 @ Pixabay