What type of content should my company produce?

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT DEL” comes out in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

“What type of content should my company be producing?” This seems to be one of the most frequently asked questions.

Prior to answering this question, there are three things that need to happen within the organization…

1. Marketing and publishing.

The company must accept the fact that they are no longer just marketers. They must accept the fact that in a world where consumers have an expectation of finding content, you must think like those who create the best content. The best content is not created by marketers. The best content is created by publishers. Study publishing. Understand what types of content sells. Create a publishing culture within your organization. Understand how these journalist, editors, and producers nurture a story, and what codes of conduct they use to build credibility (more on that here: Get More Media Savvy).

2. Drive it through strategy.

Without a strategy, all is lost. I’m not talking about a content strategy at this point (which will also be a critical component for your success) — I’m talking about a corporate strategy. Figure out what your overall business objectives are, and build your marketing and content strategy around it. Don’t do something because your competitors are doing it or because it’s the latest and greatest shiny bright object. Know the direction of your business and build your strategy around it (hint: that’s where the real ROI of social media, publishing, and digital marketing lies). There’s no point in doing anything in marketing or publishing if it doesn’t add to the overall economic value of the company.

3. Choose your poison.

Content strategies within the corporate structure tend to fail when the type of media being produced is not in-line with the passion of either the organization or the people creating it. Your organization has options. As popular as YouTube is, I’m (personally) not a fan of creating and editing video. My background in writing, journalism, and some university broadcasting made me a prime candidate for blogging, tweeting, and audio podcasting.

Know your strengths and passions and play to them. You can choose between text, images, audio, and/or video. Knowing — at your core — the type of content you have an appetite to create will have a direct correlation to its success. If your strategy dictates a media format that lies outside of the organization’s comfort zone, ensure that the people you bring in to work on the content production do have that passion.

So, what type of content really works?

It can be best summed up in two words: value-based content. Too often, the people that run brands will say: “We have to be publishing content,” or “We need to get more content out there.” Publishing content for the sake of publishing content adds little to no value.

What makes content valuable?

  • Valuable to me, not to you. It has to be valuable to your consumers (not to you). All too often content produced at the corporate level is self-serving at best and thinly veiled advertising at worse.
  • Unique perspective. While there is a ton of content that is based on similar content that already exists, no one can bring your perspective to it. It’s your perspective that makes the content unique, and it is your challenge to nurture your content and discover your unique voice, so that more and more people find the value in those unique perspectives. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be you because others are already taken.”
  • Shareable. Value content gets shared. It not only has to impress the consumer, but it must be of such quality that the person consuming it feels like they should share it with the people they know because it will also be valuable to them. Great content gets shared not because you have a widget that makes it easy to share, but because it’s truly valuable.
  • Findable. Value-based content gets found. In search engines, online social networks, and offline channels. The audience dictates the true value, and the content that is valuable gets linked to, talked about, and shared. All of these little actions make the content you are producing that much more findable to those who are looking for it — and for those who will just stumble across it.
  • Curate the content. Because there is so much content being created, another way to create value-based content is to curate what already exists and focus (like a laser) on what is important to your audience. Nobody will have the ability to read everything that is being published, so any organization that can make sense of the mess is one that is adding tremendous value. I’ve seen great curation happen on blogs, in podcasts, and in email newsletters. Becoming a respected curator adds value.
  • Value that I can count on. In a world where any one individual can publish their thoughts in text, images, audio, and video instantly (and for free) to the world, it’s hard to tell what is the truth, what is opinion, and, ultimately, what has value. Any organization that is creating content must be trustworthy, non-partisan, and credible. It’s that last word (“credible”) where your time and energy should be spent. Before publishing any piece of content, ask yourself: “How credible will my organization be perceived once we hit the publish button?” The organizations that produce credible content are the organizations that are creating value-based content.

What do you think it takes for a company to produce value-based content?

Bonus: I would be remised if I didn’t recommend the book, “Content Rules,” written by my friends, C.C. Chapman (Digital Dads) and Ann Handley (MarketingProfs). It is a full-on deep-dive into the world of producing value-based content.

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About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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