What is content?
I introduce myself, and my profession, in a variety of ways. I am a journalist. I am a copywriter. I often describe myself as a content writer – mainly because some don’t know what a copywriter is, and also because a ‘content writer’ covers a lot of the many different services that I offer. In a nutshell, I am a writer, and offer content for a host of clients in many different guises – but all in the written word.
So what IS content if it isn’t writing?
Dave Trott, legendary copy genius (my words) has had trouble defining content, (shown here) http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/view-dave-trott-content-content-content/1370207. If he had trouble, how can others be expected to?
The only person I know who has come close to defining content well enough so that everyone can understand the concept is Mark Masters, owner of The ID Group, content marketing consultancy. He says:
‘Effective content marketing creates better experiences for your customers. We help brands stand for something, find their niche and deliver useful information across channels. The objective is to build an audience, drive profitable action and grow your business.’
I understand more now. But do we need to define content?
Should we define it? If we are using this big word of content in many different guises, video, social media, blogs, editorial articles, photographs, sketches, interviews, and MANY others – does it need to have one finite definition? I attended my second content workshop, hosted by Mark Masters. MM says in his workshops (well he did in the one I attended) that the most important thing you can do as a business is to not define content, but to BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE. It makes sense – if there is no audience to enjoy your content, what’s the point in producing it?
Build your audience. Build your business.
This really resonates with me. I have to go against Sir Trott and argue that we don’t actually need to define content – we just need to concentrate on building an audience in order to grow our business. Content can be defined any way you want, as long as it allows you to reach the same end goal.
So what does this involve?
Mark talked (actually we all talked – this was a workshop!) about how to connect to your audience. Tell your story! We can all be storytellers, without even knowing it! He says: “We’re not just telling and selling; we’re building relationships.”
We had some great guest speakers at the workshop – all connected via the medium of Skype. (SO digital. Impressive or what?!) The first was Geraint Holliman, Head of Strategy at King Content. He had some great advice and pointers, which we all discussed. Here are a few:
- Think in the same way as the person who is listening to your story
- The reader hates gaps – fill those gaps!
- It’s important to have an emotional connection
- Think – what does the customer want to hear?
- Take time to understand who your customer is
- Why did you get into this business? Tell that to your audience!
- People want to be educated – the more info, the better
We also spoke with Ian Rhodes, digital marketer, influential businessman and one half of content marketing podcast ‘Marketing Homebrew’ with Mark Masters. He spoke from his own experiences and got everyone at the workshop talking. He asked the question: what does storytelling mean? He discarded the notion that ‘marketing has changed’; we just have MORE channels to connect with our audience.
We all discussed building your audience and realising that audience. He suggested that we needed to take a step back and really decide what they want and need. Ask yourself – what can you do for them? What information can you provide them with – and what value is it to them?
He really made the workshop think – that this content that we provide cannot be a flash in the pan, it must be informative and become an authoritative piece.
Robert Rose, content marketing strategist, author and speaker from Los Angeles was our third and final speaker. He had some excellent points and discussion topics.
He says that he asks himself:
- We have the solution to your (the client) problem. Now how do we tell that story?
- What differentiates us? We have to tell our story around that!
He suggested that we should use content as ‘…a bridge to get to the consumer’, and that we shouldn’t waste the opportunity. He did press the fact that content ‘has to be consistent’. We shouldn’t start a weekly blog and then get bored and miss a few weeks. Keep going with your content plans and your audience should build organically.
What did I learn?
I always learn a lot from the workshops – not just from Mark and the guest speakers but also from the attendees. What do they think and feel about shared content in the digital world? The biggest points that I took with me were:
Make your content relevant for your audience. Go off on a tangent – talk about something irrelevant and your audience will just stop following you, and, most importantly, listening.
Define who you are. No one wants to learn from someone who is unsure of who they are. IT company? What exactly are you offering your customers? In which areas? Do you specialise in any particular subjects that others don’t? That’s what you need to tell in your story.
We can all tell a story. Can’t write? Tell it through video, images, put stick men in photographs, record audio notes, whatever. And if you really want it written, ask someone who can – like me! (shameless plug).
The competition out there is growing. What can you offer that others can’t? How can you tell them? Via the power of content. Get to one of Mark’s workshops and discuss with others that have tried. I promise you their business is better since they explored the world of content.