What’s “Content” Anyway?

I recently spent two days at the headquarters of a global enterprise speaking with various stakeholders from across their marketing organization about content marketing.

The purpose of the discussions was to uncover how content is being conceived, created, used, re-used, published and disseminated within the organization. Is there sufficient sharing and cross-departmental cooperation, or are different divisions reinventing the same wheel? Who creates what content, how is it approved, and where does it reside?

These are all valid questions that any organization should take seriously so they may effectively, as well as cost-effectively, practice content marketing – which, of course, feeds into social media activities, communities, paid advertising and virtually every other form of marketing.

Yet, in the course of these discussions, we continually encountered an unexpected response to one of our key questions: what kind of content do you and/or your group create?

“I Just Write Press Releases”

“Oh, I don’t create content. I write press releases,” said one person from the PR department.

“Content? We don’t make content. I spend most of my time working on PowerPoint presentations.”

“What do you mean by content?”

Mind you, these responses came from people in the marketing organization. I can imagine what the responses might have been if they came from even further afield.

Content Is Everywhere

Content is, fundamentally, any and all material available (publicly or selectively) to the entire spectrum of an organization’s audiences: customers, prospects, clients, shareholders, the media, analysts, even the much more general readers or viewers.

That content creators within organizations don’t know or understand that they’re creating content means something is wrong. It points to:

  • A lack of a coherent content strategy across the organization
  • The absence of a “culture of content,” in which staff from across the enterprise are encouraged and incentivized to surface content and recognize stories that can further the company’s goals
  • Hindrances to sharing/repurposing of content assets
  • An environment that encourages rogue content that does not conform to style and brand guidelines, editorial policies, etc.
  • A lack of awareness, education and training in a core marketing discipline

A Symptom Of A Serious Malady

When people in your organization say, “I don’t make content, I [write blog posts/shoot video/write white papers/produce events/write the newsletter/oversee email/write ad copy/design web pages/compile case studies/manage the Twitter account, etc.].” it’s symptomatic of a deeper problem.

Communications and messaging cannot align across channels and departments unless those who play roles in the entire spectrum of content strategy, creation, production and dissemination understand they’re part of a larger whole.

Cohesive, coherent content marketing strategy requires both an up- and downstream approach. On the one hand, content creators, whether they sit in marketing, PR, branding, advertising, customer support, community or social media, must be versed in the strategy and practice of content marketing. After all, that’s what most of these people do, and they can do it more effectively and efficiently (as well as cost-efficiently) if they understand and recognize this.

Support From The Top

To truly imbue an organization with a culture of content, senior management must also embrace and support content as the glue that unifies virtually every single and every individual marketing initiative.

What does that mean? Senior management must reward and incentivize content creation, but also content sharing. They need to understand content’s value both in and of itself, but also as the source that feeds marketing in earned and owned media. They need to be educated in the importance of agility and speed when content is digital (which so much of it is). And they need to seriously consider content roles within the organization, including appointing an individual to a senior role to oversee content initiatives.

Breaking News: You Create Content

Companies that make software, or widgets, or airplanes or that provide financial services or legal advice understandably don’t consider themselves media organizations. Content creation was once rarefied; the provenance of film studios, advertising agencies and publishers.

Digital changed that, but it’s up to management to change mindsets. In all likelihood, you do work for a media company, and you do create content. The logical next step is to get organized and strategic about it.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Content Marketing | Content Marketing | Content Marketing Column


About The Author: is an analyst at the Altimeter Group where she covers digital advertising and marketing. A consultant, author, and sought-after speaker, Rebecca is the former head of Econsultancy's US operations. She was VP and editor-in-chief of The ClickZ Network for over seven years. For a portion of that time, Rebecca also ran Search Engine Watch.

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  • http://www.reactorr.com/blog/ Mark Nicholson

    Communication strategies are coming of age and going mainstream but like you mentioned, there’s a need for a cohesive approach. Companies also need to understand the difference between informational and inbound.


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