My Rant About Online Content.

Part 1 of a 3-Part Series

I’m going to be frank. I don’t think people truly understand the power and role of content, even though it’s been a tired buzzword for years. Nobody seems to know what to do with it or who should be in charge. I’ve seen journalists, web designers, social media pros and even proposal writers get stuck with the misguided content strategy chore.

Who’s Doing What?

To illustrate my point, try searching for “content strategist” on The job descriptions and requirements for this role vary radically. By the looks of it, anyone from front-end developers to junior public relations specialists are suited to take on the huge responsibility of owning and curating a company’s content. This thinking can lead to mistakes and problems down the road.

When organizations start feeling content pain, team leaders often make a plea for strategy and management, but typically they have no idea where to start or what skills sets are required to get the job done right.

Let’s start with some clarifications. Content management, development and strategy are not the same things. Sure, when you get into the weeds with approach, these roles can vary widely from one organization to the next. Fundamentally however, your content team works with marketing to decide the voice of your brand, what it’s saying, who it’s talking to and how, and how it will remain relevant and persuasive to target audiences. Your content team actively manages and leverages your assets so they are lock-step with your brand and always safeguarded and accounted for.

A content strategist is the mastermind who looks at desired, overarching business objectives to develop a sustainable framework for all content assets. This is not a tactical role. A content strategist is like a skilled chess player, anticipating market and competitive moves while laying the foundation for the marketing team. The strategist is the architect of your content facility.

One aforementioned job posting for a content strategist solicits a strategist to, “Create localized content including landing pages, collateral, and ads.” Face palm. That’s not strategy, that’s tactical execution.

Getting Down to Business

The content marketer is that tactical person (even though they, too, need a strategic mind). Content marketers serve as the contractors, builders and maintenance managers for your content facility. Content marketers put strategy to work, overseeing the development of blog posts, videos, articles, social initiatives — whatever is needed to tactically execute the master plan. In most cases, the marketer is tasked with producing and managing content that is specifically designed to pull potential customers through the sales funnel. Conversions, baby! Micro and macro conversions alike sit on the bottom line. It’s the content marketer and the content developers who should be tasked with creating landing pages, collateral, ads, etc.

These are distinct, yet related jobs. Can they be successfully accomplished by the same talented individual? Maybe. Not every organization has the budget to sustain a full-scale content team. But content should not be dumped on someone who is already responsible for 40+ hours of other work
— getting the most bang for your content development buck required experienced, trained professionals dedicated to the task at hand.

The Price of Content

Content is valuable. In fact, you’ve probably heard from gobs of bloggers and conference speakers that it’s king. But why? And what do we mean by valuable?

Content is what your customers and prospects consume even more than your products and services. It includes all of your photos, videos, apps, blog posts, white papers, case studies, social media posts, technical documentation, sell sheets, annual reports, and even advertising.

The price tag on content isn’t just dictated by its potential for return. It’s an asset in the most basic sense of the word. How much money have you spent on stock photography? Or video production? And what about salary and time expended to writing, designing and printing collateral?

Even the smallest marketing department spends tens of thousands of dollars developing, distributing and managing content. Not to mention, well-crafted marketing and visual assets ultimately contribute to revenue, remember?

All of it costs money and an investment in time. Content needs to be the responsibility of a person — or ideally a team — with the know-how to marshal it like an investment firm. That should be the litmus test when assigning this big undertaking to your staff, or hiring a third-party content team. Do they have the chops to run your content portfolio as a profit center?

Deputize Your Team

Your content team needs authority to design an execute upon the strategy. It needs the power to say no. Content is worthless if it doesn’t compel and influence your audiences. The C-suite, sales reps, investor relations and other departments may want or need content to solve their problems, but it must first and foremost serve the end user. Customers are savvy, and quickly turned off by shtick and high-pressure, brand-centric messaging. Your content must bolster your customer experience, not tank it, which is an integral duty for the team responsible for managing it.

Content development requests originating beyond the marketing department aren’t all bad, and are often necessary and smart — but they must be vetted against customer experience, brand essence, marketing data, business objectives and channel relevance. It’s the content team’s job to decide if it’s ultimately going to be worth the investment.

Make sure your team is continually asking itself if existing content is working hard enough. You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel. Efficiencies can be gained by reengineering content that has proven itself in your data. Further optimize it, or modify and test it as a means to achieve a different KPI.

Tools for the Trade

Last, but not least, your content architects and builders need their power tools. If you don’t have the budget to orchestrate a deluxe martech stack, don’t fret. There are myriad free and low-cost options available to support and automate search optimization, analytics, curation, trending and listening. There are even decent, low-cost providers of digital asset management platforms, inbound software and snap-on marketing automation offerings. Not to mention open source content management systems with integrated plugin-based tools to handle a lot of the heavy lifting. If you work with a digital agency like Jigsaw for your advertising and marketing, make sure your content team and the agency analysts are aware of the tools everyone involved is using.

Content is one of your organization’s most valuable assets. Guard it. Invest in it. Have high expectations. Cavalier thinking about content is costly and short-sighted. Do it and do it right.