Content: Not Another Channel

Content this, content that. Content marketing, content strategy. Everyone’s talking content, all the time.

The question being most frequently asked is: who’s responsible for all this content. Is it communications? PR? Social media? Marketing in general?

The honest answer to all those questions is yes. All these divisions (and more) play a role in content marketing and in content strategy.

Too many marketers, and the organizations they represent, 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, conform to checks and guidelines (e.g. legal and brand). 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, and social media are just the beginning. All of these require content to function.

Email is a container for content. Search optimizes content. In advertising, content masquerades as “creative” (because it’s more expensive), but at the end of the day, that’s just a gussied-up word that means content. Social platforms and websites would be dismal destinations indeed were they not continually refreshed with content.

Essentially, content is the lifeblood of digital and offline channels, but content itself is not a channel.

Still, marketers have difficulties seeing past channels, which is why content struggles to gain a foothold across the enterprise. Like converged media, content requires players throughout 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, more often than not 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.

A text, and email message and a banner ad have little in common, other than the fact that all are, in the end, content delivery systems.

Here’s where organizations will be challenged in the coming months and years. They will go out and build content teams. In fact, they already are. We’re 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 we’d collectively realized when embarking on this content journey.

Content is not a channel.

To start thinking about your own company’s content efforts as a broad initiative that crosses all channels, download the Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Content Marketing.

Author Bio: Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist. Her areas of specialization are digital marketing and media, with a concentration in content strategy, content marketing and converged media. She works with many of the world’s leading brands on digital marketing innovation. Clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries, including Facebook, Home Depot, Nestlé, Anthem, Adobe, Honeywell, DuPont, Fidelity, Gannett, IBM, Save the Children, Pinterest, Cisco, ad and PR agencies, and The Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Author Bio: Larry Levy served as the Co-Founder and CEO of Appinions Inc prior to its acquisition by ScribbleLive, where he now sits as the SVP. As a serial entrepreneur, Larry brings a wealth of hands-on experience. Prior to Appinions, Larry served as co-founder and CEO of Semagix Group, which was sold to Warburg Pincus in 2006. Larry was also the founder and CEO of Protégé Holdings, recognized as an “Upside 100” company, as well as the founder of Citria and Delrina Europe. He holds a BCom and BAcc from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and is a chartered accountant CA(SA).

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