The concept of “content” isn’t new or revolutionary, as we communications veterans know. Press releases, earned-media coverage, articles, blogs, collateral, data sheets, video, webinars, podcasts, short- and long-form ads, and infographics (before they were called infographics)—it’s all content. Only the packaging and distribution has changed.

Yet, agencies and clients echo the rallying cry: “More content! We need more cowbell, er, content!” Entire agencies have formed to supply content and distribute it. Content farms like iWriter crank out content faster than leftover client-meeting food disappears from the lunchroom. There is a mad rush to win the content race.

Creating content with a purpose
I argue that in many cases we don’t need more content. Instead, we must have better content with a strategic perspective.

So much is done reactively—a knee-jerk response to internal or external pressures—and a lot of content lacks a strategy that supports business goals. Content that’s a source of measurement? Sure. Content that Incites action in target audiences? Debatable.

I received an email from a client asking my team to write content that “spreads automatically and makes consumers want to buy the product,” and to do it immediately. The client’s digital and social presence was next to none. I spent almost two years counseling them to build an online channel to distribute what we created.

Developing, managing and measuring the effect of content to adjust and improve it is a full-time job. It’s not enough to throw it out there and see what sticks. Experiment with new channels and types of content, but you have to apply a strategy.

The measure should not be how much content. It’s the time the audience spends with each piece of content that matters, along with their level of engagement.

Metrics and the bottom line still matter. Entertaining and bringing people into digital is great, but if they don’t interact with you, if they’re not inspired to action, that content is as useful as an ejector seat in a helicopter. You won’t be happy with the result.

Setting the foundation
That takes lots of time, but also a commitment of persons and money. It takes education, experience and an understanding of how social and search algorithms have changed because of the deluge of content. Organic content simply isn’t enough; if you don’t play (or pay) by their rules, the content won’t get seen by the lofty numbers clients demand.

Don’t forget the preferences of different audience segments, either. A two-minute corporate video won’t impress Generation Z and its eight-second attention span.

So, before you pump out your next round of content, ask yourself or your client:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is their preferred channel or medium?
  • What do I want to convey to them?
  • What am I asking them to do?
  • What is the desired outcome and how will I measure it?
  • Does this support my broader business goals?

This is only a partial list, but it sets up a framework for a true content strategy. Once the strategy is in place, create smart, relevant content tailored not just to the channel, but also the audience. Here are some pointers I share with clients:

  • If they’re new to the brand or segment, the content should introduce and entice.
  • If familiar, the content should deepen the engagement or relationship.
  • If they’re rock-star brand ambassadors, the content should engage and reward.

To win the content race, brand managers must employ an integrated strategy. PR, social media, advertising, interactive and digital media and SEO/SEM content must be checked and re-written to match the messages and style of the new strategic content.

Only then will brand managers maintain consistency in their messages and inject value into every bit of content. Only then will they move the library off the shelf and into the hands of their target consumers.

Am I simplifying the issue? Perhaps, but the fact remains that content for content’s sake is simply more noise—and people hate noise.

– Jeff Dillow

This article originally appeared on PR Daily.

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