Bad content seems to be everywhere, highly contagious and ignored. However, all bad content has consequences beyond just ineffectiveness and a waste of resources — it’s a stain on your brand’s reputation that can’t be covered up.
A BRAND OR COMPANY?
I rarely refer to a corporate entity as a “company,” because companies just exist on paper, but brands sell a product or service to customers. These sales are a result of a customer’s perception of the brand’s identity (“brand identity”) and perceived value (“brand value”). If you don’t have a brand identity and brand value, stop reading, put 9-1-1 in the subject line and email firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.
If you have established your brand identity and brand value, AND you’re still reading, then it’s likely that you have been under-appreciating the importance of brand management. Most brand owners think “brand management” implies contentment and sitting idle. But in actuality, you want to grow your brand and promote your brand.
Consequently, this misunderstanding leads to a half-baked directive to increase content generation with a lack of focus on creating content that is consistent with your existing brand identity and brand value. This is an attempt at a marketing “quick fix” and, rest assured, this will result in bad content.
TREAT THE SICKNESS, NOT THE SYMPTOM
In an attempt to cover up bad content, the only changes made by most brand leaders are to push harder with condensed timelines for “creating good content.” This merely treats the symptom but doesn’t cure the cause. In fact, this disproportionate amount of focus on creating content is actually perpetuating the bad content problem that many brands are facing right now. And the source of the bad content problem is that not enough attention is being paid to brand management.
The heart of all great content is an extremely deep understanding of your brand identity, brand value, and that of your competitors. So here are 5 prescriptions to quickly cure your content problem by healing your brand management.
5 PRESCRIPTIONS FOR BRAND MANAGEMENT
- Annual Audits
- Objective Reviewer
- Adequate Marketing Bandwidth (AMB)
- Adequate Marketing Expertise (AME)
- Omni-Channel Goal
1. ANNUAL AUDITS
Marketing departments must be audited! The consequences are too high and there are too many platforms, too many mediums and too many variables to micromanage content on all your owned and paid mediums to not audit them. And the audits must become routine and standard operating procedure.
I’m a fan of annual marketing audits. Twelve month marketing reviews produce a large enough sample size of deliverables to facilitate a fair review, while still providing an opportunity to quickly minimize and overcome failures. Meaning that, an annual audit allows you to survive and fix failed creatives and bad content.
2. OBJECTIVE REVIEWER
If establishing a marketing audit is 1A, then having an objective review is 1B, because the Creator and Assessor cannot be the same person.
While this should sound like common sense, the fox usually guards the hen house. CMO’s defer to their subordinates to create an assessment of their own marketing campaigns. And agencies are asked to provide assessments of their own campaigns.
With marketing analytics and sexy infographics being commonplace today, content creators love using data to play the role of Objective Assessor of their own work product. But that assessment relies on data that is subjectively and purposefully chosen to create a picture of rainbows and unicorns. I mean, marketing professionals are trained to identify and maximize marketable assets, what do you think happens when job security is involved? So, don’t let it happen to you!
There’s a very important reason why the first thing M:7 does when we bring on a new account is to conduct a significant audit of recent marketing deliverables and work products. It’s because a professional and objective Marketing Audit helps our client just as much as it helps us, and since, it’s almost never done, it’s an early win for us in a new relationship. In fact, M:7 has been hired just to conduct marketing audits of another agency’s work, and to objectively assess marketing content created internally. Objective reviews are common sense.
3. ADEQUATE BANDWIDTH
Adequate Marketing Bandwidth (AMB) is achieved by having a sufficient number of work hours dedicated to your brand’s marketing efforts. AMB includes all brand management, brand promotion, growth marketing and product marketing across all owned marketing platforms and any paid marketing campaigns. AMB can be achieved through hiring internal marketing employees, contracting with external employees (hiring an agency), or, by what is often the most efficient way, a balance between the two.
4. ADEQUATE EXPERTISE
While AMB focuses on the number (or quantity) of work hours, Adequate Marketing Expertise (AME) focuses on the quality of those hours. AME is achieved by having the right people with the right skill sets in charge of your marketing. But for many, a more objective metric is needed.
First, in general terms, to create Effective Marketing Content (EMC), one needs both visuals and verbals. Meaning, good marketing content equals Visuals and Verbal, or V squared. For the pragmatic types, to create effective content one needs designers and writers to make marketing magic. [To hear more about this idea, read my blog on why M:7 is Different.]
While EMC=V2 is a simple-looking formula, don’t be mistaken: it’s not easy, because designers and writers must be specialized to the specific medium or channel. Writing scripts for your video production and TV commercials needs to be done by a scriptwriter; your website copy needs to be written in long form; your press releases by a PR writer; and social media content needs to be done by someone with the skills to curate awesome social content. And then there’s a big difference when writing LinkedIn content for a B2B audience versus an Instagram photocopy and caption. While this might be convoluted enough for you to stop reading immediately, remember your brand’s identity and brand value are at stake. So, yes it is really nuanced and frustrating, but necessary in today’s economy?
For most companies, it’s impossible to hire all those people in your marketing departments, and most “established” (old) marketing firms haven’t adapted to the industry in order to recruit, hire and retain the talent.
However, there are agency heads like myself who have structured our entire agency around the concept that designers and writers need to design and write to maximize each platform and channel in an omni-channel universe.
5. Omni-Channel Goal
Your goal should be to market on every channel and do it in a consistent way. Your press releases, emails to your customers, video scripts, your website copy, your print materials, and every social media platform available, is an opportunity to gain customers. Those mediums should be prioritized strategically, but it doesn’t take much for M:7 Agency and other like minded laboratories to tweak content to maximize across other platforms. A well-crafted press release can be easily broken down into social media content for each platform, flipped around into fresh website content, and adjusted to a video script if you have the right mindset and players on the field to execute.