When I ask marketers if they have any problems creating content at an appropriate rate they sometimes don’t understand the question. At other times they simply say, ‘No, of course not.’
Marketing teams have long produced words and graphical content (diagrams, photos, animations, video and more). There’s usually a creative process and a sign-off process. But these are rarely at Content Speed.
Now I usually eschew that kind of capitalisation – even ‘light speed’, which is the analogy I’m drawing from here, doesn’t get that treatment. But Content Speed is new for most organisations. It means moving at the speed of a professional media organisation. Not all non-professional media entities can do this, though there are some great examples these days of those not only trying but also succeeding.
And note, not every media entity does news. Sometimes this is about considered, longer-form analytical or deeply entertaining content. Either way, it takes focus, investment and deadlines.
But perhaps the more interesting question is the second one I posed in the headline. And there’s a parallel. Even five years ago plenty of organisations, large ones with large marketing resources rather than stretched smaller businesses, were questioning whether they really had to engage with customers and critics over social media.
If you’re an airline or a mobile phone network operator and someone tweets criticism on a Saturday morning, can you wait till 9:00AM on Monday to reply? Old marketing said yes. The new marketing realised that wasn’t good enough. Plans were put in place, people were put on hand for big decisions beyond simple customer service and companies became more responsive.
It’s my hunch – probably a bit stronger than a hunch, given how many executives I know who’ve had their weekends disturbed – that only a small proportion of organisations welcomed this. Let’s say it’s 10 per cent. In that tenth, I’m guessing the progressive ones are those who saw the upside for customer service and loyalty, those with confidence who also saw a chance to steal a march on competitors. Some today even measure social media reaction times in sectors such as retail.
This is now happening with content. Whereas everyone used to play to a similar beat to develop similar assets, today a lot of those tried and tested assets haven’t disappeared – think direct marketing (physical or email), brochures, advertisements, events and so on – but they are complementing content marketing.
Again, maybe 10 per cent of orgs got ahead. Now most are looking at how they produce this at – wait for it – the Content Speed. It’s table stakes. A two-month sign-off on a newsy blog post (trust me, I’ve witnessed it) just doesn’t cut it.
The good news is that this isn’t an all-or-nothing game. Organisations can experiment with certain pieces of content. With one client we had two years ago, we briefed them on the release of a certain influential annual report. We knew we could create the corresponding piece of content within two hours of the report being released (in the US) but to have it up on the client’s brand publication (in the UK) the following morning they would have to be engaged in sign-offs the night before.
Now this was slower than the much-criticised ‘real-time’ that some people talk about. But it was necessary, as anything later would have meant readers in the UK would have seen this report covered in depth by dozens of other places, most of them media websites.
How did it end up? We got there, hit the deadline and got good results with the article. But it was a shock to the system for the client, who felt quite relieved that most of their content is timeless and more features-y.
But maybe the big lesson is that most organisations, even big ones, can move at Content Speed. Can you?
* photo credit: Autostrada via photopin (license)
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