Let's talk about process for a second. No, wait, wait, don't click away. I promise this isn't going to be some nitty gritty, granular examination of workflow in the enterprise. Though, to be honest it wouldn't kill ya to get some of that as well.
So, one of the most common content marketing failures I see in all my travels is the inability for the business to create an "operation" around the creation of content marketing. What I mean by that is that, right now, the process of creating content is kind of like, "Well, who can do it?" Content is kind of everybody's day job in the business right now. In fact, it's a pre-requisite for many a digital marketing job these days: "Must write well." Everybody, in varying degrees, is expected to be able to create content, and so what inevitably happens is that those who are most prolific usually end up with the job.
But as we all now understand, this does not usually end up well.
Strategic Content Creation Used To Be A Thing
Content and business communication used to be a much more strategic and considered practice – even if only because of the lack of technology. Fifty years ago, every advertisement or marketing brochure had to be strategic because it took weeks or months to create one creative asset. Now, companies dash off new versions of sales and marketing collateral with no more than an "copy/paste/save as" routine.
Thirty years ago, rich media was an incredibly considered process and purchase. Creating a high quality audio or video piece required teams of people, equipment that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and a post-production process measured in weeks.
Today, our iPhones have the same video and audio capture quality that could be played in any commercial projection cinema. And we can click off digital edits on our mobile tablets in hours.
As recently as 25 years ago, we still sent carefully typed interoffice memorandums that were photocopied, placed in large envelopes and stuck into small mail cubicles and delivered via cart. Today, we dash off hundreds of emails per day, often with little thought.
It is truly ironic that the democratization of content has been mostly realized at the expense of both the value and the evolution of content itself. Many, if not most, businesses are still stuck both in the industrial revolution notion of "busy = productive." And that brings us right back to the notion of everybody must do it. We say to ourselves, "Well, we've got to get more content out – and so everybody needs to be able to produce it."
Thus, the democratization of content creation and publishing technology has simply created marketing and content as a disorganized "content factory," billowing its black plume of digital pollution of ever more digital ads, pages, infographics, white papers, articles, blog and social posts, videos and micro-sites.
Creating A Strategic Process For Creating Content
Today, forward-leaning brands are treating the process of creating content for marketing purposes more as a product-development methodology than a traditional campaign-focused approach.
Here, we see examples like Kraft's Food and Family magazine, the ubiquitous Red Bull media house, and Indium's simple but powerful From One Engineer to Another blog network. These successful programs get their strength from treating the process of content creation as a means to increase the value of their content product, rather than feeding direct marketing campaign needs. This means changing the workflow processes to reflect a collaborative editorial product-oriented process.
Thus, I'd argue that content as a strategic process may be the most important thing for today's businesses to get right. For content to serve a strategic marketing function, it can't be relegated to a small group of people solely charged with enforcing the style guide. As David Packard might have put it, content is too important to leave to a content department. Your content needs to be adaptable, flexible, scalable, enterprise-wide, and worth the considerable investment required to create and manage it all.
As Carla Johnson and I explain in our book Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, understanding and creating a strategic creation, workflow, governance and publishing model that looks more like collaborative product development is critical. But the important word in that sentence is "creation." As businesses, we often start workflows once content is finished. They are "approval processes" not "development processes." It's now time to start extending it back to the creation stage as well.
So, as you take your first (or rebooted) content marketing strategy forward in your business, consider how content is created as a strategic process. I don't think you need to go back to the Mad Men days of razors and glue as you assemble your next one sheet or banner ad. But look for methods to create collaborative, strategic workflows that can help you actually consider what you're creating more strategically. You might just find that thinking about workflow adds to your ability to be creative.
About the Author
Robert is an author, a speaker, a consultant, and the Chief Strategy Officer for the Content Marketing Institute and a senior contributing consultant for Digital Clarity Group. He innovates creative and technical strategies for a wide variety of clientele, such as AT&T, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Petco, Caterpillar, ADP, Fairchild Semiconductor, and KPMG.Follow on Twitter More Content by Robert Rose