Customer Facing Content as a Conversation

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The Four Cs of Content Marketing

I’ve written about content as more, and different than, format. While working with clients recently, I’ve heard them wrestle with questions about what content to create, and how to make priority decisions.

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I think some deeper distinctions about content can help here. When I consider content work, I think about the Four Cs of Content:

  1. Conversation
  2. Context
  3. ContentS
  4. Container 

Notice that container — format — is my last consideration. This is a big change from the traditional approach to content creation.

Typically, format, as in “what do you want to create?” is an early consideration. For example, your approach as well as resource and vendor selection might depend greatly on whether you want to create a blog or whitepaper, PowerPoint or video.

This thinking and approach is too limiting for today’s content requirements and challenges.

Start with the Conversation

Thinking about customer facing content as a conversation is a helpful starting point. Not all conversations are conducted live and in person.

With online on demand audiences, more conversations are taking place through content. Even in person conversations can benefit from “visual support” such as whiteboard, slide graphics or napkin drawing.

Mapping key touch point conversations is a useful practice. Work with your sales professionals to leverage their experience with conversations about key topics, to primary personas, at different stages, and in different industries.

This will also help your content strategy, planning and preparation work. It will help you determine what content to build (topics and key points), why and how it will be used (purpose and use case requirements), and therefore how it should be created (what to say, and how to say and package it).

Context

All conversations take place inside a specific context. Content must too. People, place, situation, goals and objectives are key components of context.

Content quality is a function of content relevance and usefulness. Relevance is a function of context.

Have your functional constituents — those people within different functions who require content for their tactics such as demand generation, sales and insides sales, or channel sales — define and document their content use case requirements. Make sure they are specific, right down to the level of situational context. Use a Content Requirements Document and Content Header to support this effort.

ContentS

I use this term, and spelling format, deliberately. These distinctions are designed to break through the general ambiguity of the word content, and the problems that can ensue.

ContentS defines both What to Say, as well as How to Say it. Essential inputs for content creators are key points to include in copy for specific work products, as well as those to exclude.

I have found it useful to extend keyword lists for SEO into broader vocabulary lists of words and phrases. This makes it easier for the ever-expanding universe of content creators to write using your relevant phrases. It makes distributed content creation more efficient, consistent, and saves review and repair time making corrections.

Images, graphics and related content such as links to articles, documents or videos are also an important part of contentS.

Container

ContentS are edited, configured and packaged into formats that support specific use case requirements. Different versions will be required to address different purposes, audiences, lengths and formats.

To make content ready for reuse — to share, re-purpose and leverage — contentS must be separate from containers. For example, it requires considerable time and effort to rework content in PDF, video, webinar archives and image formats. In reality, it is seldom done.

We have entered the age of real-time marketing. Real-time content “creation” is integral to this. How are you preparing for this evolution?

Apply the Four Cs

Use the Four C’s to help your team rethink your content process. This should help them see the imperative to change. The current content process of crafting one content work product at a time doesn’t come close to supporting requirements for audience relevance and real time assembly.

Outdated thinking about content and the content creation process puts organizations at significant risk as they execute content marketing tactics . There is a considerable process shift, and associated learning curve, required to develop content operations that can meet new requirements. Playing catch up will be painful and expensive.

How is your team rethinking content, and content operations?

What insights can you share from that work that you have found useful?

Let’s continue this conversation on Google+.