By Mark Schaefer
I was sitting in a workshop with my friends at a big multi-national company and, like many companies, they were struggling to come up with a comprehensive content marketing plan. The company had little pockets of activity across their divisions but they were just not gaining any traction.
After listening intently for a couple of hours, the marketing director said, “we have to stop creating random acts of content.”
She nailed it by pinpointing the company’s lack of cohesive direction and plan.
I think this also describes much of the content-creating activity I see going on for both brands and individuals. I’m not sure if they realize exactly what this is costing them in terms of both wasted resources and perhaps diminished brand value. Let’s unpack this a bit.
The hidden cost of content
Content is intoxicating. We can just open up our laptop and create a video or pound out 10 snaps a day from our smartphone. Nothing could be easier right? But there is a cost to every activity.
I recently wrote a post about the importance of focus on our critical business drivers and saying no to the quick and easy opportunities that come our way. The most precious resource we have is time and I’d like you to take a moment today to evaluate how you are spending your time when it comes to producing content. In a big company, a single piece of content may take days of planning, prepping, and approvals. So you need to spend your content time wisely!
I also believe that if you’re not creating content with a plan you may be wasting an opportunity to cut through the clutter and connect to your audience in a meaningful way. If you’re random, you’re not conditioning them to expect consistent, great things from you.
So today I’d like you to take a moment and reconsider what you’re doing through three filters: Your plan, RITE, and sustainability.
Facebook Live has largely become Internet litter. So many people see this as an easy way to create content on the fly. But how is this tied to a plan?
In my book KNOWN I talk about the importance of your sustainable interest — determining what you want you to be known for. Although this is a book focused on personal branding, it really applies to ALL branding. What is your aim? If you create content for two years, what is the desired end result? If you determine that, then you should be on a mission, and every single thing you do should add to that mission.
Sitting in a coffee shop talking about the weather and your sandwich probably doesn’t add value to that mission. In fact, it’s probably detracting from it. Be intentional. Be focused. Just because you CAN create content doesn’t mean you SHOULD if it takes up time and confuses your customers.
If your content is not focused on your business goals, stop. If you’re not enjoying it, stop (your customers can tell). If you’re creating content for other marketers instead of your customers, stop. If you’re creating content to feed an ego instead of a bank account, stop.
Here is a more detailed post that describes the importance of the RITE content method, which means that everything you create should be:
I recently had an interesting talk with my friend Chris Brogan. He told me that he had ended his well-known podcast and was starting a new one … because it was simply time to start a new one. That takes some guts but it also shows that Chris is tuned into what he needs to do to remain relevant with his audience. The man is in a constant state of reinvention.
If you’re creating content in a certain way because this is what you’ve always done, perhaps your effort is turning into Random Acts of Content. What are the current needs of your audience? Are you interesting every time you post (or are you reviewing sandwiches?).
And the big one on the RITE list is entertaining. You are not really “creating content.” You are in a war for attention. Every post. Every day. You need to fight through the overwhelming information density of our world and stand out. Not too many companies are thinking “how can we be more entertaining today?” but I’m not sure you have a choice. You’re competing with ALL content.
Creating real business value through content is a long-term commitment. Review what you’re doing today and consider if this is the type of content you should be creating consistently for the net two years. Seriously. Two years.
Puts things in context, right? Is your content random, or another chapter in a story that is unfolding over the next months and years?
One of my favorite content success stories is about Stephen Cronk and his winery Mirabeau. I started working with Stephen in 2011 and over the ensuing years he created content consistently that captured “The Magic of Provence” — part of our long-term marketing plan.
Over three years, Stephen created 300 blog posts and 230 videos, all of them focused on this theme. In video number 222, Stephen showed his audience how to open a wine bottle with his shoe:
It became one of the greatest small business success stories in the history of YouTube with more than 14 million views across all channels.
Here’s the interesting part. Before Stephen created this video, there were five other videos on YouTube showing how you can do the same trick! The most views any of them had received was 1,000.
What was the difference?
This video was not a party trick. This was chapter 222 in a relevant, interesting, timely and entertaining story Stephen had been telling about his business for three years. The other “shoe videos” on YouTube were Random Acts of Content. Stephen’s video was part of a mindful plan to connect with a global wine audience and when he created this two-minute story his audience was prepped and ready to share it.
I want today to be the day you stop creating Random Acts of Content.
Be focused on a plan and deliberate about what you do. Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Stop content littering.
Get it RITE.
Commit to the long-term vision and create every piece of content to support that vision.
Are you in?
Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.
Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Aaron Tang