This article was originally published on the eSocialMedia blog
I recently sat squeezed into the basement room of a pub in London’s East End. Even though we were within hearing range of old Bow Bells, this wasn’t a place of cor blimey Cockneys having a knees up. It was a packed house of around 100 people who all shared a single passion — content. We whistled through 11 content strategy lightening talks using the Ignite format (five minutes x 20 slides x 15 seconds and then a mop of the brow) that explored how best to craft and deliver great content strategies. Nothing unusual there you may think. But then a surprising thing happened, when the audience was asked how many were in marketing, just a few put their hands up.
And there’s the rub. Content is finally moving out of the shadows of marketing to carve out a dominent space of its own and be one of the single most important factors in driving business growth. There’s a huge amount going on in the world of content right now, and rightly so. Media convergence offered by the latest iPads or smart phones is delivering a multi-media on-demand experience. People are engaging via search, social networks and with established brands in completely new ways. It is pure empowerment, and unless businesses look to jump on board and start feeding and nurturing content channels they are destined to perish.
The technology is fuelling fundamental shifts in consumer behaviour that is driving change in publishing, and increasingly, washing over other organisations. These days the consumer decision journey has changed from a straight-forward funnel where people would gradually narrow their choices before making a decision, to something far more complex. And as for brand loyalty, the message is beware. Unlike the past where brand was in the vanguard and everything else followed, these days brand is increasingly subservient to its content.
McKinsey & Co’s David Edelman, in a blog posting at the end of last year, asked a very simple question: “Who’s your brand’s editor-in-chief?”. Although he was talking about retailers, his words rang true for any business looking to engage with its customers or audience. “If you’re a retailer and you’re not generating a non-stop flow of customised, interactive content, the writing’s on the wall: Publish or perish. Publishing has become an essential tool for keeping customers close…,” he wrote.
- Consumer decision journey (HBR, Dec 2010)
I hear more and more stories of companies large and small from outside the publishing space recruiting editorial professionals to build their content. One global oil major has just appointed an editor-in-chief, while the really innovative are going a step further and installing Chief Content Officers who can oversee not just editorial but who are also responsible for how the business positions itself through its bespoke, curated and aggregated content together with social media engagement. These positions are, for the first time, giving editorial a seat at the top table, and subsuming the other more traditional roles of marketing, communcations and PR while being a critical stakeholder in sales, e-commerce, IT and customer relations.
But for a company that does take a punt on creating a Chief Content Officer, what exactly can this deliver? John Gelberg is just such a man. As Chief Content Officer at New York web design and marketing agency Blue Fountain Media, he has overseen his agency rising to become a trusted source of critical intelligence. They now employ two nearly full-time editorial staff and the brand is recognised as being a source of digital expertise. Over the past two years Blue Fountain has steadily grown its original content to include articles, a business learning centre and sections offering advice to companies looking to build an online presence. Blue Fountain’s CEO writes for the American Express Open Forum and a column for the New York Times, while Gelberg, a former sports journalist, contributes to Inc magazine and is in demand as a speaker at events. “Through building a compelling content strategy client buy-in comes quickly once the links start coming in, once we can show real metrics,” Gelberg said.
And it doesn’t stop with pumping content out to clients, it also includes sharing content with — or creating content for — clients. It’s a huge job, and not something that can be done simply, quickly and with little thought.
It’s not a case of selling, it is a case of informing, listening and engaging. It is no longer concievable to push potential customers through a sales funnel. They need to be nurtured, educated and entertained. They also need to be reassured by peers. In a nutshell they need to be empowered. To do that requires tact, guile and not insignificant doses of skill in delivering great content that is highly relevant to its target audience. It needs to be trusted to carry a deep value proposition and it needs to be everywhere. That vision can only come from on high, from the umbrella view belonging to the Chief Content Officer.
- The Rise Of The Chief Content Officer (contently.com)
- Content is Key (goldensolutionsblog.wordpress.com)
- “Content Rules” That All Marketers Can Use (buildmediamarketing.wordpress.com)
- Content Strategy Success in 5 Steps | Shelly Bowen’s Pybop: Exceptional Web Content (serve4impact.com)