What exactly is content? What does content do for a business? Why is content necessary? In today’s multimedia and heavily digital society the production of content by marketing teams is a given—in order to compete you’re expected to publish content on your website, blog, and even in your Twitter feed and Facebook status updates. Digital marketing is all about content, so much so that it is almost exasperating just how much content you have to filter through on the Web just to get to the information you’re looking for.
Many companies have taken content marketing to the extreme and have made it a priority to push content out there no matter the quality of the content. However, savvy companies are finding out what is really attracting their target audiences and—here’s a hint—more isn’t always better. Companies that are succeeding in reaching their audiences and converting their readership into customers are those who are providing high quality content and not necessarily at the breakneck pace most companies have adopted.
Since quality content is the backbone of success on the web we turned to Chris Butler, Chief Operating Officer of Newfangled (a web development firm on the cutting edge of modern digital marketing and technology) and author of The Strategic Web Designer, to help guide you in managing the creation of high quality content. This is how Christopher describes the necessity not only creating high quality content but also having a content marketing strategy:
“In its purest form, content strategy does not produce content. It produces plans, guidelines, schedules, and goals for content, but not the substance itself, except inasmuch as examples are required to illustrate strategic recommendations. But if you have the ability to create good content, you’ll have a real advantage over content strategists who do not.”
In this excerpt from his guide On Creating Content, Butler explains necessity of having a content management plan:
For those who create content, of course, the content itself is a priority. But no single piece of content, no matter how excellent, will be as successful as a steady, long-term flow of quality content. This is why the success of any content marketing strategy is achieved by committed leadership. While the leader’s job is first and foremost to ensure that the point of view remains consistent with the firm’s purpose and that quality is preserved, various management techniques will also be critical to sustaining the production of fresh material. Ways of dealing with the complexity of content marketing will vary greatly by the size of the organization, but two particular techniques, establishing a work flow—the process by which content is conceived, executed, evaluated, approved and delivered—and establishing an editorial calendar—which identifies topics, content types, authors and deadlines in advance—are essential to teams of all sizes. The various points of the work flow process, especially those that place quality control barriers between the content creators and the websites on which their content will eventually be found, are those which require the team to be role diversified.
Butler further goes on to explain that not everyone who needs to produce quality content is necessarily the best at writing and communicating the ideas that may make them stellar producers of their actual end product for example a prolific graphic designer may not have a way with the written word and thus the creation of content is exponentially harder for them to create the kind of quality content needed to really reach their target audience. Luckily Butler has some advice for those who suddenly find themselves thrust into the role of creating content:
There are four nonwritten disciplines that make for successful professional writing: reading, planning, research and editing. None can be left out; each is just as important as the other. But, if I had to choose one to prioritize, it would be reading. Reading is a discipline that many books on writing strangely leave out. (The other three—planning, research and editing—are all essential pieces of the content work flow that are covered in great detail by many of the excellent content marketing books I have referenced in the notes for this guide.) Yet, there is no writing without reading. Or, maybe better said, there is no good writing without reading. If you want to write, or need to write—the two need not be in agreement—you must make reading a part of your life. (If you are thinking to yourself, I don’t like to read, I’m going to promise you right now that’s not true; you just have yet to find what you like.) Any aspiring writer, for whatever purpose, must actively seek out writing, in any form, that covers the topics they’re interested in, even if those are not the topics they need to cover in their writing. Reading is about exposing yourself to new ideas so that your thinking—which need not be truly novel to merit writing about—can be enriched by the insights of others. There is an art to revealing ideas through the written word, one which good writers practice primarily with restraint, reserving the majority of their knowledge as an unwritten foundation for what they actually put to words—the tip of the iceberg. As reading will supply much of the knowledge that makes up the background of your writing, it is indispensable.
This overview on the creation of a content strategy and the management of your content should give you a starting point on how to approach your existing content marketing plan even if you hate writing. However this is just the beginning of creating a sound content portfolio that is essential component of your overall marketing strategy. To find out more about creating quality content, as well as managing your content strategy check out Chris Butler’s expert guide On Creating Content or his book The Strategic Web Designer.