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Why Content may still be king - but only if you do it right



In 1996, the same year that CPL was created, Microsoft founder Bill Gates declared that ‘content is king’.

Twenty-five years later, I don’t think many people would disagree with him on the value of digital content, especially given the exponential growth of digital consumption since the pandemic. The World Advertising Research Center (WARC, 2020) noted a rise in digital consumption of more than 30%.

However, the value of content can only be released when reaching and engaging with your audience – if they don’t see it, what is the value?

There are three big areas I believe you should consider before creating, publishing and promoting your content:

1. Identify your audience

It seems like an obvious place to start. Generally, we know who our audience is . It’s like being in a car park; we can identify our vehicle (most of the time), but if we had to line up the cars and prioritise them by value, we would probably struggle.

If you really want to get under the bonnet of your audience, you need to find out what excites them – what information they are looking for, why and when. The goal is to identify insights to enable you to build a strong content roadmap rooted in your audience’s needs, desires and behaviours.

We also need to think about our audience of the future – not just who they are now, but who we want them to be.

Undertaking such research can feel like a daunting and potentially expensive job, but much of the information you need to get started is often within your reach. Being members of your organisation is just one aspect of your audience. Website and social media analytics, membership profiles, reader surveys and desktop competitor analysis can be the first steps to identifying the direction on which to focus.

2. Agree and share your content objectives

‘Build it and they will come’ is a phrase lifted from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. It just doesn’t hold true with digital content, however, because you have to work extremely hard to attract people to engage with it. Anchoring your content against clear objectives will enable you to drive audience awareness, engagement and content consumption, and drive its success.

There are three key things to consider:

  • Your business objectives: what is your organisation trying to achieve?
  • Your communications objectives: include day-to-day proactive communications, as well as reactive and crisis activity.
  • Your content and campaign communications objectives: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so break down your plan into specific activities aligned with your overall business objectives.
3. Measure and adapt

You are likely to be investing time and money in creating strong content, but if you don’t measure its impact, you won’t know how successful, valuable or pointless your investment has been.

Engineer and management consultant W Edward Deming famously said: ‘Just because you can measure everything doesn’t mean that you should.’

We all know we need to measure, and we know the value of having data that builds a picture of success. However, it is important to measure the right thing.

Quite often, organisations rely on vanity measurement – the higher the number of eyeballs, clicks or interactions, the better the campaign has performed. This isn’t measuring success, just elements that can be measured.

So, create key performance indicators that are rooted in your objectives – ensure your measurement metrics reflect your ambitions and goals.

Identifying the role of your content is the key to its success, so measurement metrics might include behavioural, sentiment, applause rates or conversion rates.

There are plenty of debates within membership organisations about how much content should be placed behind a paywall. Here at CPL, we have considered this in a number of reports, including The Content Connection. The likely impact of putting your content behind a paywall is that your overall audience will shrink and the number of page views will be lower - but by sacrificing quantity for quality, you might create better connections and engagement with your audience.

One final thought

Since March 2020, increased digital content consumption, significant technology acceleration and working from home have disrupted the way we consume content. This trajectory of change was already well under way before Covid-19, however – the pandemic just sped up the pace of change.

For more about planning for change while changing your planning, see this blog by my colleague Martin Bewick.

About the author

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Lucy Oakshott is business development director at CPL, a content marketing agency specialising in working with and for membership organisations. Contact Lucy via [email protected]

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