How Marketers are Rethinking the Content Generation Process [Interview]
Recently, the “2016 Content Report” from Rundown uncovered that just 28 percent of content ideas developed by marketers are actually backed by data and research. Additionally, none of the marketers surveyed said they were “thrilled” with the tech tools available to help them with content marketing.
For more insight into this report, we spoke to Taulbee Jackson, President and CMO of Rundown:
WHY DO YOU THINK MARKETERS HAVE BEEN SLOW TO DEVELOP A BETTER APPROACH TO CONTENT GENERATION?
“I think it’s a cultural challenge more than anything. Marketers, for years, thought in terms of months and quarters and years, and campaigns, but media doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s an always-on, real-time, two-way, omni-channel media environment, and the way marketers have done their jobs for the last 40 or 50 years just flat out cannot accommodate the demands that consumers, and the way they engage with media, place on marketing.
The literal workflows — the way the work gets done — is just outdated. Not only that, but people don’t fully understand that there is a difference between what marketing needs to accomplish, and what a content team is trying to accomplish.
Marketing needs to sell things. Content teams are not just responsible for helping marketing do that, but they are also in the business of establishing, growing, and engaging an audience for marketing to access. That is tough to do when you’re always selling, and many brands are not comfortable with the idea that they are in the entertainment business now, assuming they want to leverage “Owned Media.”
They are directly competing for consumer attention with media outlets, as well as your neighbor’s post on Facebook, your friend’s Snapchat message, the text from your mom, and so on. Your audience is telling you what is relevant to them, and you have to find a way to connect that to your brand in a topical, engaging, remarkable way.
That takes an incredible amount of specialized technology, as well as smart, creative resources, working together differently than your in-house marketing department has the last few decades.”
WHICH STATISTIC FROM THIS REPORT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
“I think the number of roles people are asked to cover was somewhat surprising; it reflects the general lack of understanding that people have of what it really takes to make great content — not just in terms of man-hours but also the special skills required.
Just because you can type doesn’t make you a writer, AND just because you can take a picture doesn’t make you a photographer. Very few people that responded to the survey had a clear understanding of their resources from not just a skills perspective, but availability as well.
Another one was how unhappy content teams seem to be with their tools and technology — that was a real surprise. Literally zero percent were “thrilled” with their technology, and only a few categories of software made it beyond a 50 percent approval rating.
I think this has everything to do with the fact that content teams are being forced to use tools that were never meant for content creation. Project management software has to work for everything from law firms to little league teams to construction contractors and real estate offices.
Making content is not a project, it’s a process — a very specialized one — and trying to use tools that were meant to be very broad, like project management software, or tools that are having to be repurposed from number crunching and accounting, like Excel, for content creation — it just makes things harder. It’s like trying to turn a Phillips head screw with a hammer.
Finally, the general lack of understanding about analytics and using audience data to guide your efforts was pretty disturbing. Lots of creation by opinion doesn’t always lead to the best results, but, again, it reflects how early it is in the history of content-driven marketing and audience development for owned media.
People are really just now starting to understand how to tie back metrics to insights that guide their decisions on what types of content to create — and, by and large, most creators are not analysts, so that is a little outside the expertise of many content teams.
We also noticed the number of dedicated analysts was very low, so I think many companies have a long way to go before they are really connecting data back to story-telling and audience development in a way that drives value.”
WHAT TYPES OF CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN B2B MARKETERS MAKE TO OVERCOME CONTENT-RELATED OBSTACLES?
“B2B marketers are interesting. I think specifically in the content marketing space, there is a massive difference between how B2B thinks and where their focus is, versus a B2C company.
B2B companies are very focused on more one-on-one interactions, personalization, and content that moves an individual through a lifecycle to a purchase or conversion.
Conversely, we see the B2C companies much more focused on audience development, and growing and engaging their audience, and on more of what we would call ‘hearts and minds’ metrics — perceptions, awareness, preference, those types of things.
They’re both right, but one cannot exist without the other. Customers only come from audiences, so you have to build audiences, but an audience full of people that do not convert to customers is not really accomplishing most business goals.
It’s a bit of ‘mad men versus math men,’ and I think both parties would benefit greatly from attempting to see each other’s point of view as not an ‘either / or’ approach, but a ‘both’ approach. It all works together, and both approaches are critical to success.
It all comes back to how well you use your content resources, at the end of the day, and I think B2B companies are just starting to understand that.
A LACK OF HELPFUL TECHNOLOGY SEEMED TO BE A CHALLENGE FOR MARKETERS. WHAT TYPES OF TOOLS COULD HELP THEM WITH CONTENT CREATION?
“I have spent the last several years really digging into this question — not just with the Content Survey, but with tons of qualitative interviews, user observation testing, trial and error with clients, and direct experience seeing how content is produced in more than 50 different companies.
The key word is ‘helpful’ — this is what is missing from the technology that’s out there today — it doesn’t actually help anyone do anything, it only enables them.
Most marketing tech can generate tons of data and beautiful visualizations of it, but it cannot connect it back to a meaningful, actionable insight for creators. It can give you a way to publish, but not a ‘what’ to publish. It can’t answer the key question, ‘Given our specific strategy and goals, and what our audience wants, what should we make next?’
Most tech today allows you to do things like assign tasks or send messages, but it can’t give you any insight into workflow efficiency, production status, where things sit in the approval process, resource allocation — the things you actually need to know as a creator, or a manager of creators. Most first-generation tools can’t tell you this information. It is a tough nut to crack.”
DID YOU DRAW ANY OTHER CONCLUSIONS FROM THE RESULTS?
“Content teams today, and in the future, are not in the business of ‘managing projects’ — they are in the business of managing the ongoing, specific process of content creation, in real-time.
I think that is the key takeaway from this report. Content teams are trying to execute for today’s media climate with yesterday’s tools, processes, and mindset, and that is causing a lot of pain.
People are being overworked and company expectations are often out of line with the reality of their content production resources.
What’s more, the person trying to manage the content team is kind of caught in the middle, trying to patch together spreadsheets, emails, shared calendars, file sharing tools, and project management software that was all built to solve different problems than the ones content teams actually have.”
To learn more about the content creation struggle, visit the Rundown website to download the full report and results.