Content is getting longer, channels are becoming more complex, and audiences are demanding better experiences. Which means, the life of a content professional won’t be getting easier any time soon.
What does this all mean for the future of content planning?
In his most recent book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, Robert outlines how organizations can put strategy in front of structure. By combining 5 years of research with tactical tips, Robert offers readers a vision of the future where campaigns are no more, and storytellers rule the roost.
We recently caught up with Robert to dig deeper into his insights. Here’s what he had to say.
Q1: What’s the top content planning opportunity for marketers today?
“The biggest opportunity today in content planning is creating long-form stories that take time to evolve. In other words, serializing your content. This is all about taking the time to develop comprehensive long-form stories, and strategies that take time to evolve, but pay off big in the end in terms of audience-building.
We’ve already seen the success of the binge-watching model in the film and TV world. Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and all the other big online hits would have never been possible in the past, simply because binge watching wasn’t possible. But, because media has changed so drastically, successful content creators are now developing deeper storylines and characters that span multiple seasons.
The same opportunity exists for content marketers. Think big, and go deep to learn more about your audience up front. Then, create an incredible content experience that spans weeks, months, or even years. Build a content experience that has a real meaty story to it, and can play out across a variety of mediums.
Don’t write and release chapters of a book in real-time. Rather, write the entire book, and then release it chapter by chapter. That way, you’ll be writing a much more cohesive piece. Chapter 1 can plant ideas in your audience’s head that will pay off down the line.
This way you’re building an audience with a series that can deliver anticipation and excitement for what’s coming next. That long-form episodic storytelling that takes time to tell is one of the biggest opportunities in content marketing today.”
Q2: How can content professionals ensure their planning efforts meet specific audience objectives in today’s landscape?
“It’s simple. Know your audience. A ton of research has been released recently that shows most marketing organizations are still organized by product or service, and siloed functions, instead of being segmented by customer types. People know this needs to change, but it hasn’t changed yet.
Which means most marketers don’t know their audiences or their customers very well. Those that have done some level of persona development typically do it from a product-centric standpoint, rather than an audience-centric standpoint. Product-centric research stops at asking about specific features and benefits, whereas audience-centric research will go into topics that the audience would drive.
Getting past our organizational priorities to truly examine and know what our audience needs is the only way we can ensure our planning efforts will be more impactful with content.”
Q3: How is content marketing changing, as new formats and media types vie for consumer attention?
“We have to go all the way back to the beginning of marketing and examine the original mandate, which is delivering value to customers, and thus the business. This mission is still the same. We still must deliver value at every touchpoint, so the customer ultimately decides to do business with us, instead of competitors.
I believe content marketing is changing to ultimately become simply marketing, and become the primary skillset professionals should have. Content marketing will ultimately merge with traditional advertising, and the project-by-project marketing that we do today. So, it will no longer be called content marketing, it will just be a core competency in the larger practice of marketing.
Content marketing features a different kind of approach to marketing today, which is why it’s separate and distinct. I believe it will merge in and become the primary driver of marketing.
If you look at the general trend line within marketing, and how customers are acquired through media, the most important aspect is the relationships we have with our audiences. Because of technology and how easy it now is to reach people, our value lies in having a direct, and impactful relationship.
Both media companies and brands want the same thing: attention. And because brands can get attention through content, they are becoming more like media organizations. And because media companies need to compete with new players in order to remain valuable, they will become more product-oriented. The business, media, and product lines are blurring substantially. So it becomes a race of who can become more vertically integrated in developing relationships with audiences through digital experiences, physical experiences, and content writ-large.”
Q4: How has content planning changed in the past few years? What do content professionals need to plan for that they didn’t used to?
“Well, it has and hasn’t changed. For the most part the needs have changed – as we’ve added more and more channels, and the types of content have become more visual. So, planning now has to take into account a lot more content, and more visual forms of content. And all of this simply takes longer and is more complex. Whether it’s infographics, video or rich, interactive media – teams are now putting more layered efforts into the creation of pieces. However, what hasn’t changed, in large part, are the collaboration processes and workflows used to manage all of that. Many teams are still using Excel spreadsheets, and email to do this planning. So, the processes and tools have to catch up with the content.”
Q5: You recently joined the DivvyHQ Board of Directors. What are you hoping to accomplish with our team at Divvy?
“The team at DivvyHQ are passionate and hungry and really know the insides of a content team. We all believe that the future of content collaboration tools shouldn’t be a niche, standalone tool. The future should be integrated – and content collaboration fits into a larger set of tools that span enterprise marketing and make their content lives better. I’m just happy to help the guys along this journey and figure out how DivvyHQ can be at the center of that vision.”
Conclusion: the mission remains the same, but the path to planning success evolves
The biggest challenge in content strategy and planning lies in the following duality: our mission of providing value to customers at every stage of their journey is an unshakeable foundation, while the path to providing that value is continuously shifting beneath our feet.
Today’s diversified channel landscape, changing customer behaviors, and intensified media mix require a deeper knowledge of customers, greater mastery of new media types, and a willingness to embrace data. In order to create greater content experiences, we must break down organizational silos, and create the content that satisfies the audience, instead of the enterprise.
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