Content should be an asset for your brand, not a chore. However, to make it work for your business, you must realize that content is everything. It’s also all-important, meaning that it helps to fuel all areas of your business, from sales and marketing to internal communications, events, and hiring. Given the important role that content plays for your business, it’s easy to understand a stance that I have taken for years. That is, all brands should take it upon themselves to produce at least some of their content, be they blog posts, guest blog posts, service pages, product pages or e-commerce descriptions.
After reading a post where I mentioned that businesses must begin to produce at least some of their own content, a friend of mine sent me a chiding email.
“How can you say that businesses should produce their own content?” she inquired. “You know as well as I do that most businesses don’t have the staff or the know-how to produce their own content. That’s why they hire content writers and strategists, like you and me. So you’re saying they should [write] all of their own blog posts, e-books, white papers, Web pages?”
First, I made it clear that I never said “businesses should produce their own content.” What I wrote—and will vehemently defend—is “In the ideal situation, your company should produce at least some of its own content. That should be the long-term goal.”
Why your brand should produce at least some of its content
- Companies must take ownership of the content created for their brand(s), and the only way to ensure that happens is by having some familiarity with what suffices as quality content.
- Folks inside the company charged with promoting content should have a level of comfort with producing and curating content, which can only happen if their hands have been in the squishy parts of content creation.
- To safeguard against crappy content being produced on behalf of your company, you must take ownership of the voice, tone and meaning of your content (i.e., the quality must be consistent).
OK. I’m being very polite here, so I’ll come right out and say it: Too many of the agencies and companies charged with creating content for brands wouldn’t know quality if it hit them in the face every day at noon. And you know what, the shoddy content they’re producing for you is largely your fault.
If you don’t care about the quality of your content, why should they care?
Take ownership of your business’s content
I explained to my friend that I was not, however, assailing freelancers and agencies who are committed to producing amazing content. My point was companies must (a) own the content they share and (b) in order to do that, producing at least some of their content should be the long-term goal.
What’s more, not even the best freelancers and/or agencies should be entrusted to create all of your content. You should care enough about content to have at least some internal folks charged with producing and overseeing it.
A quote from (fantastic) writer Jean Spencer, formerly of Kapost, explains my reasoning to a “T”:
“In-house content marketers understand the broader goals of the organization and how a content asset contributes to the big picture. They also know the company’s stance on particular topics, and develop an insider’s perspective on industry needs, shifts, or interests. Not only that, but they can respond to sensitive news items in a way that out-of-house staffers, can’t. Can you get projects done with freelancers? Yes. (We do, all the time!) But it’s hard to pull off a comprehensive content strategy with only freelancers.”
I can hear you already, saying, “OK, wise guy, we’re a three-person business. Maybe we can publish a post or two a week. Maybe. But please tell me how in the hell my team is going to find the time to come up with all these ideas?”
That’s easy. It starts with mindset, and the understanding that content is the entirety of the experience your brand conveys, online and offline.
Understand what content really means
It’s not that you and your staff lack the ability to come up with ideas. It’s that you’ve yet to see, truly, what content comprises. Still confused about what content comprises? Check out this (by-no-means-complete) list:
- Social media
- Customer service
It’s tough for most business owners to see beyond text and images when it comes to viewing content in its entirety. Getting them to view PPC ads, email and social media as content is a solid first step. But getting total buy-in, having them realize the full scope of content, is an altogether different matter.
However, doing so is beyond useful—it’s necessary. The businesses that are winning and will continue to win the content marketing race are/will be those whose owners value, sincerely, the importance of content.
Philz Coffee gets it right
Myriad examples abound, but one of my favorite examples is California’s Philz Coffee.
I had the privilege of visiting the San Jose, Calif., location in March. I was blown away by the quality of the coffee, but I was no less impressed with the staff, the ambience, the signage, the food and efficiency of the operation.
When I returned to my hotel, I checked social media and was equally wowed. The company was engaged and active on social media, shared compelling stories on their website and showed real personality wherever Philz Coffee was visible.
Clearly, this is a brand that has its content ducks in a row, leading me to believe someone inside the company shares the content is everything ethic.
Making content work for you
You can do the same. Here are seven ideas you can put to action right away:
- If you’re creating a new company, brand, or line of products, choose a name that has the potential to mean something to the consumer, instead of blindly choosing a name after, say, your dog or whatever non-sense-ism that pops into your head (the Dasani and Febreze brands are great examples here).
- Create a brand tagline that’s catchy, highlights who you desire to be in the mind of your customers, and is share-worthy (e.g., M&M’s “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”).
- Use your About Us page, which is likely one of the most-visited pages on your site, to showcase who you are and what you’re about in a novel way. (e.g., use video instead of text, and make it about the team, not individuals).
- Make your homepage inviting, uncluttered and novel (e.g., ditch the slider and create a compelling graphic that invites comment and is easily shared).
- Use the blog to profile customers, clients or members of your community (e.g., a weekly or monthly personalized post about a reader would serve to humanize the page and foster a sincere connection to the brand)
- Answer questions on the blog from members of the larger community (e.g., keep a running list of the most prevalent questions being asked online in your vertical, then answer them on the blog).
- Make social media a natural extension of customer service (e.g., strive to be helpful, not pushy or sales-focused when active on social media
The goal with this post is to get you to thinking about content more broadly, helping you and your team visualize all that content is and all that it can be for your business. The more you come to fully comprehend the depth and breadth of content, the easier it is to make content work for your business.
Give these ideas a try. I’m certain you’ll be happy you did.