Content Is a Team Sport


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageI LIKE ORDER. I LIKE PREDICTABILITY AND CONSISTENCY. I like anything neatly, efficiently, and intuitively classified, labeled, stored, and accessed. I like data, metrics, and maps. I like clear connections. I like patterns.

I also like to be pleasantly surprised. I like it when helpful information crosses my path right when I need it most. I like when buying is easy. I like to believe in things. I like to trust things. And I especially like falling so hard for a brand that researching loads of other choices in that category becomes completely unnecessary.

My penchant for organizing, planning, and connecting content to the various things it powers makes me a good content strategist. When I combine those skills with years of experience, expectations, and behaviors as a consumer in our always-on world, it becomes clear that developing a strategy to meet myriad consumer needs in a digital landscape is not just a content strategy thing. It's also a brand thing. A technology thing. A design thing. A social thing. A SEO thing. Content touches everything. Content strategy is just one piece of the much bigger puzzle that brands must solve when they set out to create experiences to engage consumers.

I don't mean to say that I represent all target audience segments. (Although, it would be helpful to have access to that crystal ball!) I'm saying I only have to look inward to understand the complexities of the challenge at hand: reaching today's consumers. Sometimes, I prefer the fifth-grade reading level description (anything to do with particle physics). Sometimes, I want what the expert wrote (Frederick Rebsamen's translation of Beowulf). Sometimes, I have time to browse around; other times, I will barely tolerate a single click to satisfaction. Sometimes, I'll read on my phone. Other times, I just need to turn a real page. Sometimes, I will willingly hand over my email address and check the box requesting the newsletter. Other times, I will jump through whatever hoops you give me in a desperate attempt to unsubscribe. Sometimes, I'm booking the flight on the way to the airport. Sometimes, I'm browsing travel sites and daydreaming about my next big trip. Sometimes, I shop online, and sometimes, I make a paper list and drive to the store.

I want all of these expectations anticipated and exceeded at all times. And I'm just one surly consumer. The fact is that anyone engaging with a brand and its content-willingly or unwillingly, digitally or otherwise-has his own very unique patterns and preferences for navigating the landscape of that brand.

How on earth can we accommodate all of these consumers and the changing nuances of their preferences? Being smart and calculated about all things content will pinpoint the best starting place. The strategy, content, and technology needed in order for a brand to be in all the places that consumers expect it to be at all the right times require multiple disciplines playing nice to solve for the content challenges at hand.

The best overall content experiences-regardless of effort, number of phases, or size of audience-involve a blend of researchers uncovering customer insights around behaviors and expectations; user experience folks designing the best interactions for the user and the content; SEO and analytics wizards to recommend topics, keywords, and priority metrics; marketers to tie in messaging and campaigns and provide input around developing the consumer relationship; social media mavens; and brilliant engineers implementing killer technology to make it all happen. (Not to mention skilled writers, designers, photographers, actors, videographers, and all of the other creatives out there who are actually creating the content.) Everyone contributes to answering the question, "What do we do about content?"

When I'm a consumer, it doesn't matter where I am, how many things I happen to be doing at once, what channel I'm in-it's the brand's job to find me and present me with the content I'm looking for at the perfect moment. It's the brand's job to be there.

The problem is no longer whether the consumer changes the channel or spots the ad on the bus bench. The overall challenge of content-that we don't ever turn it off-is much bigger and much more complex now than it ever was, but also more exciting to solve.