You’ve heard the phrase “content is king,” which is the title of a 1996 essay (which turned out to be exceptionally perceptive) from former Microsoft boss Bill Gates. But given the ever-changing world of digital marketing and the rise of new technologies, does that expression still ring true today?
Innumerable pundits have shared their two cents regarding what’s usurped content’s throne and, at the risk of the message being drowned out by the metaphor, we’ll summarize a few of King Content’s top challengers here.
1.) Relationships: Content specialist Kristy Korcz recently claimed that relationships are the rightful heir and will serve you better than any digital marketing strategy.
2.) The Audience: In Smedio! founder Douglas Idugboe’s view, today’s attention-driven economy has put the audience firmly in the driver’s seat, while content earns its meager wage based on how absorbing it is.
3.) Communication: Lion Brand marketing VP Ilana Rabinowitz reckons the age of social media has thrust communication into the limelight and content that doesn’t provoke a reaction is worthless.
At risk of being overly pedantic about the “content is king” phrase, I’m of the view that, while content may retain its throne, the definition of the monarchy has changed. Content no longer (and possibly never has) fit the role of an absolute ruler but is perfectly defined as a constitutional monarch (i.e., in which the head of state is guided by a set of precedents and principles and shares power with several other bodies).
The Role of Content
The common theme among all of the above points is that while content remains a valuable weapon in the arsenal of marketers, it is by no means all-important—nor does it exist in a vacuum.
Content is never the starting point of a campaign—only a means to an end. Even the greatest content is wasted if it doesn’t help you to meet your aims. Likewise, if content isn’t supported by promotion, engagement, and targeting, it will fall flat on its face.
That’s not to besmirch the good name of content, however. Its role is prominent and public-facing, which is probably why it attracts so much of the glory.
Given the hype surrounding the role of content, getting wrapped up in its importance at the expense of other, equally valuable aspects of a campaign is far too easy. That’s why creating a system of checks and balances to keep your aims firmly at the front of your mind helps.
In her 2007 essay, Razorfish content strategy lead Rachel Lovinger beautifully summed up the role of a content strategy:
“The main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.”
As content touches (or at the very least brushes against) every department, the trap of too many cooks spoiling the broth is possible. While teamwork is certainly important, as with much of content strategy, you’ll need to set clear limits on this and ensure collaboration helps to meet your end goals.
Throwing reams of content at a problem won’t solve it, and the needs of your users have to inform every aspect of your content strategy, including tone, style, timing, and relevancy. Lovinger’s approach to this is to form a small team of creative and user experience staff in the initial stages and then bring in expertise from other departments once this foundation is laid.
Sweating the Small Stuff
If you’ve worked in a small or medium-sized company, you are well-aware that not everyone has limitless resources to throw at content and more importantly, content collaboration. One can easily get wrapped up in the content hype before realizing you have teams working in isolation or a shortfall in capability.
So, be down to earth with your content plan and ensure you’re deploying resources in the best way possible. Before embarking on a content overhaul, audit what you already have and see if there’s a way to improve your current offering. Doing so can have the added benefit of highlighting any gaps in your content portfolio, although you’ll need to be realistic in terms of what you can achieve and shy away from being overly frugal with your resources.
A Balancing Act
Having a content strategy is a balancing act in more than one way. Content both supports your business goals and also is supported by them in turn. Similarly, you’ll need to strike a balance between the informative and engaging, the promotional and interesting, a call to action and a call to share.
You should always be looking for ways to improve your strategy. Don’t be afraid to co-opt or discard elements as necessary. Obsess over your content heroes and competitors; delve deep into what works for them and what falls flat on its face. The bottom line is you should never be complacent with your current content offering.