I “watched” last week’s Google+ Hangout lead by the team at Velocity Partners in the UK: Content That Stands Out: A Content Strategy Google+ Hangout. The link will take you to the recorded show, or click the video image below.
I have learned we tend to apply new technologies initially, by using old paradigms. Google hangouts are a new technology most likely requiring a new paradigm. The Velocity sponsors openly acknowledge this.
Video and group communication methods raise additional challenges. I have learned that video programs require tight production efforts, guided by strong moderating skills, based upon significant preparation. The ad hoc group conversation felt disjointed and didn’t work well for me. I lost my attention and interest rather quickly, despite being highly interested initially.
Content That Stands Out
In this morning’s email Ryan Skinner from Velocity responded to a question I had previously submitted. My question sought to clarify the meaning of “content that stands out”.
“Stand out implies high impact design, perhaps interactive, etc. — what about nurturing / educational content that delivers a compelling POV, influences buying criteria, brings an important perspective that buyers appreciate? What about content that sales people find useful? What about content that empowers channel partners?”
Ryan’s response contains important insights:
I think that “stand out” can mean many things. High impact design, interactivity and the like can definitely mean stand out – those are things people often innately respond to.
But a deeply researched piece that educates your target market on a topic important to them can stand out just as much or more. We like to refer to David Ogilvy’s sales letters – not interactive at all, but very “stand out”.
We wanted to raise the issue of making content that stands out because the tendency to see the content as a box-ticking exercise is growing. Content as commodity obviously won’t do the things you mention above – salespeople won’t find it useful, channel partners will not feel empowered, etc.
Content that has intrinsic value in the eyes of your target audience will usually stand out, provided you distribute it effectively.
I think we’d probably agree on the fact that stand-out content isn’t created by a technique or a given sum of money, but rather strong principles, a good framework for its creation and appropriate distribution.
The “Content” of Content
The core premise of this hangout is right on: “me-too” content won’t cut it, we must create content that is both valuable for intended audiences and differentiated from what’s already published. It is the content of content that is often of poor quality, as a focus on style or impact overwhelms content substance.
Ryan also makes an important point about research. Too often, when working with customers, we reveal their lack of understanding about customers. This is especially true in the areas of customer buying decision making. Without this insight, words and phrases in content lose effectiveness. While a vendor might know “what” to say — key points they want to make — they often struggle with the “how” — to find effective ways to say it. They simply do not know what will attract attention, resonate and stick with buyers.
Well-structured and executed interviews of even 10-12 customers can yield a wealth of insights that guide marketing and selling strategies, plans and content.
Principles and Frameworks
Ryan’s most important point for me is his last. Remember this as you read your next batch of tactical — “7 ways to make great content creation really easy” — articles. Content strategy implies a coordinated set of activities designed to achieve strategic outcomes. Input and operating structures — frameworks — are critical to not only achieving specific content objectives, but broader business and operational imperatives.
Five of the top six challenges content marketers complain about — producing enough, engaging, varied content, budget constraints, and lack of knowledgeable, skilled resources — are caused by having ineffective content operations models. After investing in new and better tools and adding new resources and skills, it will be process changes that create real breakthroughs.