As a commercial graphic designer, I saw a lot of projects stall because there was no content. This arose for several reasons:
- The people assigned to write the content didn’t schedule time to do so, and so it never got done.
- There were no people assigned to write the content.
- The people assigned to write the content were unable to enlist cooperation from others in the company to develop or review the content
- And more. I could go on, but you probably get the point.
In all these cases, the people who wanted the project to be created somehow thought the content would be produced automatically. They didn’t assign it enough value to budget time, money, and personnel for its creation. My studio even once wrote some text as a placeholder in a web design project — and the client liked it so much they adopted it as their mission statement.
Is it any wonder that half the marketing consultant industry seems to be producing content that argues that content has value? If you visit most marketing blogs, you will find at least some of the following kinds of content:
- Content has value! Don’t forget to hire someone to produce it. (Like me).
- Content has value because it (drives Google traffic, attracts inbound links, appeals to your audience) . . . pick an argument.
- The more content you produce, the more results you will have.
- It’s not as hard to produce content as you might think! Blog daily and you’ll feel better. (Hire me as a cheerleader).
This highlights a basic conflict. People who create content want to be paid for it, therefore they must argue it has value. People who hire content don’t want to pay for it, so they assume it’s “easy,” “quick,” “inexpensive,” therefore valueless. How can someone who creates content (that is, “writes”) make sure that their content has value?
The key is alignment. Whoever is hiring you to produce the content — whether it is an internal sales team within your company, or an external client — has a goal they’re trying to meet. Their goal can usually be measured quantitatively, although the procedures to do so are not always in place. You will ensure that your content measurably contributes to your client’s business goals if you:
- Define the goals up front
- Agree on a method by which the goals will be measured
- Gain some understanding of your client’s follow-up strategy
- Produce content that aligns with your client’s goals and works with their strategy
- Follow up at some agreed-on date to assess how your content performed
Taking this kind of approach has two main benefits. First of all, you are managing the project in a similar way as other business projects — thus you are speaking the same language as your client, increasing your client’s comfort and improving your credibility. Second and most important, you are assigning and agreeing upon a measurable definition of success. Whatever it costs your client (in fees, time, or staff allocation) is justified by the results.
In our next five posts we will dig into the process of managing a content creation project.