The Hot Mess Dumpster Fire That Is Corporate Content

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How many brands are creating content that you just can’t wait for? 

Go ahead. Make a list. I’ll wait. You’re done, aren’t you? Are there any brands on your list? Stop for just a second and think about that. We’ve been looking at this content marketing space for some time now. My blog, Six Pixels of Separation, started back in 2003. It wasn’t the first corporate blog. It won’t be the last. Since then, we’ve seen so many new and exciting forms of media (text, images, audio and video) come into their own. On top of that, we’ve seen platforms grow beyond many of our own wildest imaginations. Seriously. Think about it: Facebook is closing in on two billion users. Snapchat has over 160 million daily active users with an average of 2.5 billion snaps per day. Instagram is racing past half a billion users. The list goes on from YouTube to LinkedIn to Medium and beyond. In short, any brand can create content (in short and/or long form) and have that content distributed (in text, images, audio and video) for free (well, almost free) to the entire planet. These brands can put that content on their own website, app, blog, etc… or choose one of many of the platforms listed above (and even more that are not listed). This has been going on for well over fifteen years.

If you sit back and think that, it’s staggering that advertising is still (primarily) the best that most brands can do.

Of course, this is painting a pretty wide brush across the business landscape, but it feels true. From small, medium and large brands to those that are focused on B2B and B2C, there are many that are creating, publishing and distributing content in new and interesting ways. Many brands are getting great response from the content that they’re producing. Still, how many of these brands have “must see” content. The kind of content that you actively seek out, pursue, like, share, comment and engage with? As a consumer, you may appreciate the fact that there are some smart brands who are speaking to you, rather than screaming at you, but it’s not the vast majority. Now, if you lay that raw fact on the table, and compare it to how many talk the talk about their content marketing strategies, platforms and more… something doesn’t add up.

It’s not a real interaction. It’s just an interaction.

You can go back to the early 2000s and read me saying things like: the beautiful thing about social media (when done right) is that it enables and empowers a consumer to have a real interaction with a real human being at the brand. That all of this publishing empowers brands to speak in a more human, humane, friendly and relevant voice and tone. The more like-minded a brand can now be with their consumers, the better. Yes, many brands capitalized on this moment in time. Still, many more brands commoditized this moment in time. I agree with my friend, Chris Brogan. Today, he posted an article titled, Nobody Reads Your Corporate Blog Because It’s Boring. It’s true. Make a run through some of the brands that you admire most. Most of them have blogs. Some of them have abandoned ship. Some of them have slowed down on their publishing frequency. Most of them are not fresh. Most of them are self-serving. Most of them are nothing more than a slightly personalized press release. Chris lays out the blog problem like this:

“But there’s a NEW challenge afoot. The attempt at a solution for most companies was to either outsource their content creation or to assign the task to someone internally. In both cases, the person usually tasked with creating the material just isn’t all that into the company, the customers, and the space that they’re covering. Meaning, they don’t really talk about anything useful or interesting to the person hoping to learn more and get involved in some way with what the company does or sells. Plus, they’re writing ‘me too’ and boring content.” 

It’s not just blogs. Check out the Twitter feed. Check out their Facebook Page. Go ahead… stomp around.

Most social media spaces are being used to put out fires of one sort or another. Customer service complaints, the promotion of the day, an attempt to newsjack something that has happened in the media, an opportunity to shine the light on someone in the organization who did something right, a platform to distribute their traditional advertising on, and more. In my second book, CTRL ALT Delete, I wrote about something called, Utilitarianism Marketing. The hopes of this opportunity were that brands would now create something (an app, a website, a tool) or – better yet – content that consumers actually need. Sounds simple enough, but there are so few examples of brands that have been able to make this happen, that it’s scary.

If you care about your brand…

Go ahead and do your own quick audit. It’s a simple exercise. Grab the last three months of content that your brand has put out into the world. Grab everything. Every tweet, post, article, video, etc… Split the content into these three lists:

  • List number one: self-serving content (stuff that’s about you/your brand). 
  • List number two: all customer service related content (stuff that’s about issues that your consumers have with your products/services).
  • List number three: content that adds real value to the consumer’s life (that doesn’t have a self-serving ask/call-to-action at the end of it).

How to improve your brand experience…

Odds are that most of your content will come from lists number one and two (sorry). Here’s the challenge: inverse the results. Try to make the most content that you produce, content that adds real value to the consumer’s life (list number three). This will one of the toughest marketing challenges that you will ever take part in, but I can promise you this: your content will actually become valuable. Your consumers will take notice. They will become more valuable to you and anyone else who may touch your brand. And, slowly, over time your content will stop being the hot mess dumpster fire that it probably is these days.

Are you up for the challenge?