Recently Forbes.com contributor Chris Perry posed an interesting question in his blog: Do organizations need a chief content officer? Personally I don’t think so, but to his point, I believe companies should be more strategic in considering, managing and developing content. As companies consider those issues, a solid understanding of how to use content for different audiences and outcomes is critical.
As Perry responded to one commenter, “What you publish to drive sales may be a lot different than what’s needed to inform the press. Or investors. Employees too.”
Perry is spot on here, and he’s identified a basic editorial principal: Who am I writing for? Who’s going to read this [fill in the blank here—article, blog post, tweet, etc.]? What message am I trying to convey?
The audience for trade publication eWeek.com, for example, which serves IT professionals, is obviously very different from the readership of Popular Photography magazine, which caters to consumers interested in, you guessed it, photography. If your company produces a portable photo printer that connects to a smartphone, for example, there may be a story for both pubs—but the tone and content must change accordingly.
In the traditional way, a press release distributed to the business or trade publications (print or online) will broadcast the arrival of your new printer, which is critical for keeping the industry aware of what you’re up to. Sending that press release to the new products editor at Popular Photography is also a good idea, especially if that magazine is planning a roundup of smartphone accessories. But it’s doubtful that potential customers will make a buying decision based on that information alone.
Write a case study about how someone’s using your product for business gain, however, and you’re one step closer to that potential sale. Let’s say you identify a really cool application for your portable printer, such as an interior designer who captures fabric, paint, trim and lighting ideas on the fly at the latest design conference, then produces mood boards instantly for his clients. By identifying the user’s challenge or business opportunity—and detailing how your product solved those issues—it’s possible that another potential customer will be intrigued.
Now imagine the next step: Find a blog where real, live smartphone users are talking about specific issues surrounding accessories (even portable printers), such as how to use them outdoors or protect them from the elements, and you’re even closer to the audience you’re trying to reach. If you can prove that you’re listening and responding to actual customer feedback, versus broadcasting your product strategy, your voice (aka content) might make a real impact. Here’s where a press release or case study won’t fit—and can even work against you—but a seemingly casual discussion (written in a friendly, conversational tone) about product innovations and the issue they solve could be the perfect fit for this channel.
There’s little doubt that interest in content will continue to grow, and that folks will continue to debate who should take responsibility for it. Keep this in mind, however: Not only is all content not created equally, most content is not interchangeable. Identifying the right format and tone for the right audience—and the intended outcome—is one cornerstone to really harnessing the power of content.
Barbara R. Call is director of content for Greenough. She can be reached at email@example.com