Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 5, 2011 8:14 AM

What Type Of Content Should My Company Produce?

"What type of content should my company be producing?" This seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions.

Prior to answering this question, there are three things need to happen within the organization...

  1. Marketing and Publishing. The company must accept the fact that they are no longer just Marketers. They must accept the fact that in a world where consumers have an expectation of finding content, you must think like those who create the best content. The best content is not created by Marketers. The best content is created by Publishers. Study publishing. Understand what types of content sells. Create a publishing culture within your organization. Understand how these journalist, editors and producers nurture a story, and what codes of conduct they use to build credibility (more on that here: Get More Media Savvy).
  2. Drive it through strategy. Without a strategy, all is lost. I'm not talking about a content strategy at this point (which will also be a critical component for your success) - I'm talking about a corporate strategy. Figure out what your overall business objectives are, and build your marketing and content strategy around it. Don't do something because your competitors are doing it or because it's the latest and greatest shiny bright object. Know the direction of your business and build your strategy around it (hint: that's where the real ROI of Social Media, publishing and Digital Marketing lies). There's no point is doing anything in Marketing or Publishing if it doesn't add to the overall economic value of the company.
  3. Choose your poison. Content strategies within the corporate structure tend to fail when the type of media being produced is not in-line with the passion of either the organization or the people creating it. Your organization has options. As popular as YouTube is, I'm (personally) not a fan of creating and editing video. My background in writing, journalism and some university broadcasting made me a prime candidate for Blogging, tweeting and audio Podcasting. Know your strengths and passions and play to them. You can choose between text, images, audio and/or video. Knowing - at your core - the type of content you have an appetite to create will have a direct correlation to its success. If your strategy dictates a media format that lies outside of the organization's comfort zone, ensure that the people you bring in to work on the content production do have that passion.

So, what type of content really works?

It can be best summed up in two words: value-based content. Too often, the people that run brands will say: "we have to be publishing content," or "we need to get more content out there." Publishing content for the sake of publishing content adds little to no value.

What makes content valuable?

  • Valuable to me, not to you. It has to be valuable to your consumers (not to you). All too often content produced at the corporate level is self-serving at best and thinly veiled advertising at worse.
  • Unique perspective. While there is a ton of content that is based on similar content that already exists, no one can bring your perspective to it. It's your perspective that makes the content unique, and it is your challenge to nurture your content and discover your unique voice, so that more and more people find the value in those unique perspectives. As Oscar Wilde once said, "be you because others are already taken."
  • Shareable. Value content gets shared. It not only has to  impresses the consumer, but it must be of such quality that the person consuming it feels like they should share it with the people they know because it will also be valuable to them. Great content gets shared not because you have a widget that makes it easy to share, but because it's truly valuable.
  • Findable. Value-based content gets found. In search engines, online social networks and offline. The audience dictates the true value, and the content that is valuable gets linked to, talked about and shared. All of these little actions make the content you are producing that much more findable to those who are looking for it - and for those who will just stumble across it.
  • Curate the content. Because there is so much content being created, another way to create value-based content is to curate what already exists and focus (like a laser) on what is important to your audience. Nobody will have the ability to read everything that is being published, so any organization that can make sense of the mess is one that is adding tremendous value. I've seen great curation happen on Blogs, in Podcasts and in email newsletters. Becoming a respected curator adds value.
  • Value that I can count on. In a world where any one individual can publish their thoughts in text, images, audio and video instantly (and for free) to the world, it's hard to tell what is the truth, what is opinion and, ultimately, what has value. Any organization that is creating content must be trustworthy, non-partisan and credible. It's that last word ("credible") where your time and energy should be spent. Before publishing any piece of content, ask yourself: "how credible will my organization be perceived once we hit the publish button?" The organizations that produce credible content are the organizations that are creating value-based content.

What do you think it takes for a company to produce value-based content?

Bonus: I would be remised if I didn't recommend the book, Content Rules, written by my friends, C.C. Chapman (Digital Dads) and Ann Handley (MarketingProfs). It is a full-on deep-dive into the world of producing value-based content.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by C.C. Chapman
    Mitch Joel

    Dead on post and thank you for the shout out for the book.

    Reply
  • Excellent advice! I only recently lifted my head from under a rock and started working with clients, and found your stuff as inspiration, I thank you for the re-inforcement of the message I'm trying to figure out how to get across to the people I talk to.

    I see you're coming to Winnipeg in April! I won't be at the seminar directly but I trust there'll be video footage posted of your speech!

    Jill Lampi
    Winnipeg Social Media Strategy
    http://WebGrrl-Enterprises.com

    Reply
  • Posted by Paul Flanigan
    Mitch Joel

    The one thing a company needs to produce content is at most internal alignment and ad least internal understanding.

    Good content doesn't come from just one desk in the building, it comes from a collective strategy that understands all of the above in your article. Simply getting that alignment can often be the most difficult thing to do.

    Occasionally I would ask for forgiveness and not permission if I believed in something strong enough, but that was an exception, not a rule. In any given company there are dozens to thousands of different ways to engage a customer. You need to make sure that there is understanding that the effort is for the best purpose.

    Reply
  • Posted by Joe Sorge
    Mitch Joel

    What a great post Mitch. A guide to content production nearly.

    Curation is such a great way to get started sharing important and relevant content isn't it? Plus the bonus side effect: I can't tell you how many people think I'm way smarter than I am because I share some of your greatest content :)

    In the end is some content better than none? Can you produce or even curate the wrong content?

    Reply
  • Posted by Craig Peters
    Mitch Joel

    Well said. As someone who spent more than a decade on the editorial side of magazine publishing before developing digital content and marketing communications (which I've done for 15+ years), I'm watching with fascination as the marketing currents are starting to shift away from social media and more toward content marketing.

    Which boils down, I think, to companies and marketers understanding this: Don't just say something, say something worthwhile -- or, as you so pithily put it: Publishing content for the sake of publishing content adds little to no value.

    One thing I would like to add/emphasize: When developing that valuable content, do so with a tone of voice that isn't so corporate that it turns off the reader. Remember the context in which you're writing and the audience you're looking to reach. Don't just say something valuable -- say it in a human voice.

    Reply
  • Posted by Travis Gardiner
    Mitch Joel

    Great post as always Mitch. I am very interested in curation and was wondering if you or anybody else here has any suggestions for free online curation tools?

    Reply
  • Posted by Ann Handley
    Mitch Joel

    Cheering over here.. you nailed it, Mitch.

    I'd add another adjective to your list: Sustainable. The content that has the most value for your audience or would-be buyer is produced regularly, via a sustainable schedule or editorial calendar. You can set your own frequency, but if you can't sustain some kind of regularity.. the value for your readers/listeners/whatever nose-dives.

    Thanks for the Content Rules shout!

    Reply
    • Frequency and consistency is key... can't argue with that. Imagine if a monthly magazine switched to a "whenever we're in the mood" publishing schedule... not sure how that would work out.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Great post Mitch. Looking forward to seeing you in Winnipeg.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jeff Ogden
    Mitch Joel

    Great post with super tips on content marketing. I also agree with Ann's tip on Sustainable. Content production needs to be ongoing. I also highly recommend the book Content Rules.

    In addition, I urge marketers to follow my LSL rule on human nature. What engages the human brain? Laughter, Stories, or Learning (something new and of interest) By mapping your content to human nature, you can ensure it gets the kind of reaction you wish.

    Jeff Ogden
    Find New Customers
    http://www.findnewcustomers.com
    @fearlesscomp

    Reply
  • Posted by Nick Trendov
    Mitch Joel

    "What type of content" may not matter as much anymore as two other perspectives-- 1. For Who and 2. Content Brokerage.

    Creating or curating content typically results in content value that mirrors the perspective of the author rather than the reader regardless of the 'quality' attained in the process.

    Deliberately creating content as an input or raw material to serve people offers us the opportunity to let readers or customers determine its value according to their goals and measures, current or future.

    The difference between creating 'for Who' versus creating great content may seem trivial yet my belief is that the perspective will haunt most authors if the embrace it.

    Content brokerage is less subtle though should worrie content purists even more as the idea is to fin content 'created elsewhere' and tune it to serve readers.

    Note the url included above describes the shift from corporated seach oriented content to social media island oriented content to the newest trend, small closed group focused content http://tinyurl.com/fear-groups

    Today 'spammers' follow people into 'groups' within LinkedIn and other spaces and this requires different content creation than e-zine content.

    'For Who' and content brokerage matters but soon content creators that don't adapt will learn to fear groups.

    Cheers,
    Nick @Groups_Groups

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,

    I agree with your intent, however I would stress one of your items much more thoroughly: "Valuable to me, not to you."

    The social media framework I apply with clients always start with audience segmentation. Sounds old school? Not at all! Old school provides great foundations when applied thoughtfully.

    The example I often use relates to one of my first clients. Within the first hour I found out that they were trying to engage patients, parents of patients, doctors, nurses and legislators. It was immediately clear that they weren't producing the content that would engage any of the audiences. They just didn't have the foundation in place.

    I love this Irish saying: "To get there, I wouldn't start from here." The starting point matters.

    Reply
  • Posted by Alan
    Mitch Joel

    Nice post Mitch. I particularly liked the "value to the reader" item, and have found through experience that providing free information and how-tos to be effective in blog marketing.

    Reply
  • Posted by Elissa
    Mitch Joel

    This is probably one of the more insightful posts I've read on content managment in a long time.

    Anyone creating a content strategy would be wise to consider all these points...

    Reply
  • Posted by Charlotte
    Mitch Joel

    Definitely agree with your point on who the content is really for:

    "It has to be valuable to your consumers (not to you). All too often content produced at the corporate level is self-serving at best and thinly veiled advertising at worse."

    Working with brands I often find they have a lot of difficulty accepting that blogs and articles shouldn't just be self-promotion. I'd love to be able introduce a strategy that included talking 90% of the time about topics that managers would consider completely irrelevant to my companies product. People can't be forced into reading boring advertising pieces.

    In a similar vein, I've been wondering what the web would look like without SEO promoting pages. Would the best content be on top?

    Reply
  • Posted by Tara
    Mitch Joel

    One thing I think it takes for a company to produce value-based content is a two-way channel. I think companies who listen to what their customers/clients want and build that into their content (and business processes) develop stronger relationships. I've also found that content that is timeless has a greater ROI; you create it once and use it over and over again.

    Reply
  • Posted by Brendan McCrain
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    great post! I especially like "Pick your poison", some of my clients get overwhelmed trying to decide which platform to use without considering which fit their strengths and interests. Even if twitter is considered "necessary" you won't be successful with it if you don't actually want to put in the time to use it. It's much better to focus on one or two social media channels and work 'em good.

    +1 for "Content Rules." It has the unique feature of being an excellent resource on content creation and it's perfect to use for a mouse pad when I'm sitting on the couch. I don't know if Ann & C.C. thought about this when they published, but the book's rigidity has ensured that it's always by my side.

    Reply
  • Posted by Andy
    Mitch Joel

    I think the 'shareable' part is often overlooked, especially in video production. If you're going to go to that short of effort to create a video, it needs to be something people will want to share, and maybe even watch again themselves, because it has value. Great list.

    Reply
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