If you were to ask 100 marketers to define “content,” you’d get 100 different answers. I know this because that is exactly what happened on a prominent LinkedIn group devoted to the discipline of content marketing.
It’s hardly a surprise: As more brands continue to move their focus, investment, and, in some cases, their entire business models to digital, we now have more teams—branding, PR, social media, customer service, SEO, and sales, as examples—producing more content for a wider range of objectives.
The issue, however, is larger than just nailing down a definition. At the highest level, when CMOs, CEOs, and the rest of the C-suite start asking questions about the value of investing in content, they’re looking for the impact on the bottom line. But it’s at best difficult and in many cases impossible to provide that reassurance when we as content creators and marketers don’t have a united, strategic front. Rather, our arguments are based on our own metrics, priorities, and goals—not the wider needs of the business.
At a time when terms like “digital transformation” and “omnichannel” are a part of the marketing zeitgeist, content is a tactic that needs to reflect the sum of the business whole, not just the constituent parts.
This is where the idea of a complete content strategy comes to the fore, built around consumers, what they are looking for, and how they consume content as part of their purchasing journeys. This concept is designed to shift an organisation from a culture that sees different departments creating content for their own ends, at their own pace, and towards a strategy that delivers an end-to-end experience that is aligned to the business goals.
By better understanding our target audiences and their needs, and how they use content to satisfy these needs, it becomes much easier to build a joined-up, cohesive, strategic approach based on the four key types of commercial content: functional, informational, engaging, and advertising.
The optimum blend of these content types will ultimately depend on your business objectives and what you want your content to deliver. If brand awareness is a priority, your strategy will most likely focus on direct messaging content that requires heavy distribution. If organic search visibility is the priority, more indirect content types that requires less of a paid push may be more appropriate.
But the important feature here is that this strategy is orchestrated in a way that reflects the entire business. It requires open communication across teams, and that dialogue feeds into this strategy to identify the content priorities on an ongoing basis with the purpose of delivering a commercial return.
Effective content could be something as simple as a FAQ page that answers a common query that would have otherwise resulted in a call to your already overburdened call centre. That is one example of a simple piece of content having a clear and measurable commercial return.
And this is why we need to tackle this departmental arms race, because when our respective needs and ideas are so detached from the needs of other departments, and when the return on the investment in content is so poorly defined, content starts to look less convincing as an investment.
A complete content model allows content teams and stakeholders to remove their respective blinkers and, instead, think much more about the overall commercial value of their content, the needs of the audiences that they are trying to reach, and the overall objectives about the organisation.
When we start to think about content in those terms, we’ll start to really address the problem that has been holding back the power of content for so long.