Content is still king

As the year draws to a close, 2010 will likely be remembered in communications for the continued rise of social media, the growing dominance of smartphones, and the emergence of the iPad and other tablets. Marshall McLuhan once exclaimed that “The medium is the message.” What happens when the medium diminishes the message? The focus on which communications channel is most important and whether to plan a wake for the PC obscures a more important point: these channels and devices are a means to an end, not the end.

As time becomes more precious and attention spans get shorter, more and more energy is going to devising ways to attract an audience. Unless the content provides value, however, users aren’t going to be satisfied. Worse, you may actually be doing damage to your company or brand by displaying poorly developed ideas. We’ve all experienced searching for a topic, finding an entry that promises exactly what you’re looking for, and then being totally let down by what you find. Standing out in an ever-growing crowd has led many to focus on search engine optimization and keywords, but in the rush to attract a crowd with a catchy headline or pithy 140 characters, it takes you back to something that got lost somewhere somehow along the way: compelling content.

So what’s the answer?

For starters, the need to produce a steady stream of content invites mediocrity—unless there’s thought and consideration providing a supporting framework. Not every post needs to be the Best.Blog.Ever. However, all blogs should have a purpose, be consistent with the tone of the brand and its messaging, and provide value for the reader. Setting up an online publishing schedule to maximize milestones, promote events, and repurpose existing content (press releases, media alerts, webinars, and others) can bring some order to the process.

Second, if you don’t have something valuable to say, link to others who do. Pointing readers to other interesting content can demonstrate that you’re up to date on the latest trends and understand the dynamics of your industry. It’s the equivalent of putting together a great song mix—there’s a talent to it, and people do appreciate the skill involved. If you frame up the discussion well, your taste can still be insightful and offer value to the reader.

Last, a little preparation can go a long way. If you have something important to say, don’t assume that blogs allow for a lower standard of communication. Misspellings, rambling narrative, stream of consciousness, and free association are at best distractions and at worst a disqualifier. You can’t expect your audience to respect your thoughts if you don’t expend the effort to render them respectfully.

An old proverb states, “In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” There’s a lot of mediocrity out there, and if you’re going to put effort into getting people to pay attention, make sure you have something to say and say it well.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of LEFF. He’s spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he’s had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of “lean content creation” as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.

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