One of the most common issues companies seem to grapple with as they get pulled, kicking and screaming, into a content focused world of digital marketing is content creation.
Of course, anyone with half a brain can create information, but “content” implies usefulness or utility. Content has purpose and content marketing is meaningful information designed to be useful for a certain audience with the intention of inspiring an outcome or action. A lot of companies are creating information, not content, under the label of “content marketing”.
Giselle Abramovich recently posted an interesting article in Digiday, Why Brands Struggle With Content Creation, that really represents some of the most common issues brands like Nestle, AARP, Kellog, Cisco and Capri Sun have with content creation. This post will outline those common challenges and share tips on how to fix.
Challenge 1: “Quality content at a pace that “feeds the beast” of socially relevant content is challenging.”
Sustained content of quality is one of the most common challenges companies encounter with a “brand as publisher” approach to digital marketing. In fact, many companies resist initiating more robust content creation efforts due to the fear that content quality cannot be maintained.
The reasons for not being able to sustain high quality content range from lack of resources for creation to issues with planning, internal approval and not tapping into readily available content sources.
Solution for Sustained Content Quality: Companies that lead their content creation efforts with the brand agenda will inevitably run out of interesting things to say. Customer and community focused content marketers tap into customer insight and develop a content strategy that is not only designed to provide segmented customer groups with useful information throughout the sales cycle, but continues to engage in the community to mine topics, measure content impact and “optimize” content marketing tactics and topical themes.
Front line staff like Customer Service and Sales are consulted for the most common or difficult questions which can inspire editorial. As long as the brand is connected to the feet on the ground of their community, they will never run out of useful, interesting and impactful things to say. That is the way to sustain content quality.
Challenge 2: ”Blurring of the line between content creation and journalism – workflow, marketing and job descriptions.”
It’s a new world for companies to hire Corporate Journalists and Brand Editors. Companies are hiring journalists as fast as they can find them and many marketing , PR and communications departments are challenged in finding the right processes and staffing.
Solution for Corporate Editorial & Marketing Workflow: This is a tall order, but one of the first things I would recommend is to pick up Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose’s book, “Managing Content Marketing“. It’s literally a whole book that answers this question. Another book to check out from a strategic content perspective would be “Content Strategy for the Web” by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, which will help you audit, plan and design workflow.
Challenge 3: ”Being able to create breakthrough content and still have the budget to fund distributing that content.”
As I like to say, great content isn’t great unless people can find and share it. A lot of brands run into the budget issue because they rely so heavily on advertising or paid inclusion/advertorial to get content exposure. Leaving SEO best practices and not incorporating social media networks as part of content sourcing and amplification is literally creating a disadvantage to the competition that is employing those practices.
The focus on campaigns and making a splash with a specified start and stop for content marketing efforts results in high initial promotional costs for advertising content and leaves a lot of value that can come from the long term, unrealized.
Solution for Content Creation AND Promotion Within Budget: Content promotion must be “baked in” to the content creation process. It’s simply naive to think creating great content and paying for traffic alone will achieve marketing and business objectives. At least not within budget. Community development, social networking and media as well as industry and public relations are essential for companies that want to improve the reach of their content investments.
Understanding the dynamics of influential communities, individual centers of influence and end consumer information consumption preferences can help brands make smarter choices about content formats and media types. Advertising, PR, social media, email, SEO and other means can be employed appropriately to introduce, promote and amplify brand content investments. Tactics like sequenced content leaves communities in anticipation of what the brand will publish next, inspiring social shares and organic, earned amplification that costs nothing and pays huge dividends.
Check out books by: Ann Handley and C.C. Chapan “Content Rules” and of course “Optimize” for step by step guides on planning, implementing and measuring high impact, efficient cost content marketing.
Challenge 4: ”Balancing adding value to the consumer and communicating your brand message. Creating both consumer-relevant and brand-building content.”
How to sell without selling is another common concern with companies that want to use content more effectively to reach customer acquisition and revenue goals. Increased investment in content creation brings higher expectations of performance, so there’s pressure for content marketing efforts to result in immediate conversions or other business outcomes.
Solution for Brand Content Customers Will Love: Start by figuring out what customers and influencers care about. What are their goals and pain points? What are the information trends? Then figure out what stories you can tell that illustrate consumer-centric value while including brand messaging at the same time. Understanding customer interests and storytelling are the key to creating brand content customers will love.
Give customers and influencers what they want and the brand will get the business outcomes they’re being held accountable for. Brands that create value around the reasons why customers would buy vs. focusing on trying to covertly “sell” within content will build goodwill, brand awareness and brand preference.
Challenge 5: ”Getting buy-in to our approach to content creation from our peers.”
Introducing a content centric approach that focuses on storytelling and creating value before expecting sales from consumers is a pretty big minshift for a lot of corporate marketers. Not being able to see immediate returns or a cause and effect ROI as you would with advertising or direct marketing can leave peers feeling unconvinced of the value increased content creation will bring.
Solution For Converting Legacy Mindsets to a Content Focused Perspective: Legacy mindsets about content’s role in marketing is an obstacle that can be overcome through education, showing value and making meaningful connections between the outcomes of content and goals for the overall business. This is easier said than done, of course, but it’s important to know that organizational change is a long term commitment. Also, that commitment means understanding what those peers value and communicating how your content creation approach will help them achieve those goals.
For example, if you can show how mining customer service questions into a keyword optimized and socially sharable FAQ leads to an increase web traffic for that content and a reduction in customer support calls and customer service web requests, you can probably get more Customer Service department support.
These are all reasonable struggles that top brands are having with content creation. I doubt they are much different than the challenges most companies face with increased demand for content creation.
What are some of the top challenges with content creation that you’ve faced? Are they industry specific? What about variances with media, such as the increased popularity of visual content?