Content: It’s Not Another Channel
Think content is a channel that should be departmentalized? Think again! Rebecca Lieb explains why team members across your marketing organization need to collaborate and align on content.
Content this, content that. Content marketing, content strategy. Everyone’s talking all content, all the time these days.
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently (as recently as lunchtime today, in fact), is who’s responsible for all the content. Is it communications? PR? Social media? Marketing in general?
Briefly stated, the answer is yes. All these divisions (and more) play a role in content marketing and content strategy.
Here’s what should be coming into focus for marketers (but sadly isn’t): Too many marketers, and the organizations they work for, mistakenly view content as a channel.
Like social media, email, search, media, or direct marketing, they want content to be departmentalized, siloed, circumscribed and cleanly defined.
Content does indeed require an enormous amount of domain expertise. A content strategy is required to set goals for content marketing initiatives and to define how those goals will be measured.
Editors and project managers work to build governance around those goals and define how content will be created, approved, distributed, find an audience, be measured, optimized, conformed to checks and guidelines (legal and brand, for starters).
Within this paradigm, areas of hyper-specialization might exist: Web and app developers, writers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, editors, legal — the list can go on nearly ad infinitum.
And that’s not to mention the involvement of the aforementioned channels: search, email, media, social. All of these require content to function. Email is a container for content. Search optimizes content.
Content Is At The Heart Of Digital Channels
In advertising, content is called “creative” (because it’s more expensive), but at the end of the day, that’s just a fancy word for content. Social platforms and websites would be dismal destinations indeed were they not continually refreshed with content.
Otherwise put, content is the lifeblood of digital channels (and offline channels, as well). Content is not itself a channel.
Yet marketers have difficulties seeing past channels, which is why content struggles to gain a foothold in the enterprise. Like converged media, content requires players from across the marketing department, and indeed, across the organization, to collaborate and to align.
Precious few content initiatives these days happen without paid media, for example. Whether social promotion or ads that drive audiences to content executions, media — and by extension, advertising — are integral to content campaigns.
Yet content and advertising are still viewed by the overwhelming number of companies (with notable exceptions, such as Intel) as very different divisions, the Mars and Venus of marketing.
Search teams, email teams, these look to disparate sources for content, leading to inconsistencies in voice, tone, look and feel.
If content (and brand) aren’t aligned across a panoply of paid, owned and earned media channels (that become more numerous each month), they risk consumers not recognizing the brand, voice, message or product as they flit across media, channels, screens and devices.
An Apple Watch, and email message and a banner ad have little in common, other than the fact that all are content delivery systems.
So here’s where organizations will be challenged in the coming months and year. They will build content teams.
In fact, they already are. I’m seeing hiring move up gradually from manager/director level roles to VP-and-higher job descriptions with “content” or “editor” in the title.
But those roles can’t be siloed off. They can and must be defined as being on par with, equal to and collaborative with all the channel-centric marketing initiatives the enterprise undertakes.
That can only happen with this one big step forward, more of a mindset challenge than I’d realized earlier, in all the years I’ve been studying and researching content marketing and content strategy.
Content is not a channel.
Spread the word.
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