Thanks to the consumerisation and mobilisation of digital devices and IT (the means of production), the media has become real-time, more personal (on-demand, citizen-led) and global in reach and scope (networked). It has also become more dynamic, multi-dimensional, and instantly searchable and sharable. Contrary to the belief that social networking, syndicated online publishing and citizen journalism have somehow diluted both the value (‘for free’) and quality of content however, it could be strongly argued that high quality, authoritative content is more valuable today than ever before. Indeed, the rise of content marketing and the move towards brand journalism are shining examples of how the reverse has been true: that those producing content have been forced to improve its quality in order to successfully compete for eyeballs and crucially, to meet the ever more discerning guidelines set out by the world’s largest publisher – Google.
In the world of communications, marketing and public relations (PR), content can describe information made available via traditional printed media, website or other electronic medium. This information can be in written form, it could be a video, a graphic, or a piece of audio content. It can even be a combination of two or more of these – an infographic being a good example. Creating content as part of communications strategy is much like finding a perfect blend between two of the Oxford English Dictionary’s most recognisable definitions of ‘content’: i. That which is contained in anything ii. Satisfaction, pleasure; a contented condition In other words, you need content with substance. Content that engages, informs and influences your audience, but at the same time keeps both your clients and your audience contented. The more cynical of the editors manning the gate between your clients and your audience would argue you cannot achieve both; that a PR-led article, sound bite or video clip will be too subjective, too tainted by ulterior motives or simply too ‘on topic’ and thus be wide of the mark. Granted, this is a real danger. But it is the ability of a communications agency to identify the most relevant angle, build the arguments around it, and then carefully craft the facts into content that both matches the aims and messaging of the client whilst delivering an objective story satisfying its intended audience that ensures content has every possible opportunity to make it through the editor’s gate.
So what exactly makes good content?
Content that is well-written, informed, and accurate, is an obvious starting point when looking to identify the key traits of good PR. This is why it pays to employ a communications agency with former journalists amongst its number. Not all journalists make good PR writers, but those that have fully embraced the ‘Dark Side’ (as the PR profession is still known to many of them) and successfully made the transition can help you achieve these essential yet often neglected aims. At the same time, creating quality content depends very much on serving the needs, expectations and desires of the audience. This is where a communications agency’s sector experience comes to the fore, because knowing the industry and the nuances of its verticals, its corresponding media and what its audience really wants will dictate just how well the content produced is able to engage with and ultimately influence its audience. Consistency of content is also crucial. The spelling of names, places and titles can easily become confused, as can style. These might seem like simple hygiene factors but again, are all too often overlooked. Once you have settled on a style, be sure to follow it across all pieces of content, otherwise both your audience, and your client’s messaging could be lost in translation.
Content works at so many levels
There are a number of factors that make the creation of good content infinitely more challenging than in the past. The number of media channels has mushroomed and from the ‘hearts and minds’ perspective of PR, there is a dizzying array of channels available today. Combined with the ubiquity of the mobile phone (sometimes referred to as the ‘fifth screen’), the web, and social media, a vast mass of content is instantly accessible to users – wherever they might be. The Indexed Web for example, contained at least 3.3 billion pages at last count, but since most savvy users know how to search this seemingly infinite universe of information, quality content can and will be found – regardless of subject matter, sector or industry vertical (i.e. whether it is long or short tail). The ability of the communications agency to understand its client’s search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy, and identify and weave keywords, phrases and hyperlinks throughout the copy is therefore crucial, as is the ability to find new and interesting ways in which to present it multiple times and distribute it across and through multiple channels. Moreover, quality content is vital to the sustainability of a campaign. Your company has a wealth of content that can be used to keep your PR engine properly fuelled and the coverage pipeline flowing, so why not find an agency that can keep the engine well lubricated and drive your company’s success even further?
Emphasis on quality content
When it comes to selecting your communications agency, you cannot afford to be content with lacklustre content. Given that the web comprises an almost limitless volume of information that can be accessed almost instantly via the internet, and that consumer devices mean today’s citizens are now the potential journalists of tomorrow, the pressure to deliver quality content has never been greater. Great ideas and great stories make a significant difference, but they are wasted if poorly designed and delivered. This is why employing a specialist communications agency with the ability to find the right blend of ingredients and to prepare intelligent and creative content that is easily digestible, is crucial to gaining the competitive edge in today’s media-fuelled economy. Some dos and don’ts for producing good content:
- Don’t forget Rudyard Kiplings’ six honest serving men; don’t be too subjective; and [this will make my ex Editor-in-Chief smile] don’t over write or over elaborate
- Do be persuasive, original, and emotive; do ensure accuracy of copy, facts and sources; and above all, do make content interesting
- ‘Veni, vidi, vici’ – always remember the power of three…