Why are we so fixated with content?
I don't get the recent fascination with content. It is neither 'king' nor something buzzy or new: we've being creating it since the dawn of time.
Even 'branded' content has heritage: Nike's 'Just Do It' (and the related activity) has being going since the late 80s. While I'm no Kristina Halvorson, I believe content's allure is because, when done well, it can be powerful. It can generate and retain user interest, launch new and revive old brands and, in conjunction with other workstreams, grow market share (and, of course, revenues).
Unfortunately content is often hard to get right. A lot of agencies, and specialists, say they do it. Yet an awful lot really don't. They can't articulate the difference between content marketing and strategy, and talk a lot about engagement scores yet fail to relate your £ investment back to actual returns.
With that in mind, you'd think digital content would be the golden ticket for a lot of marketers, what with the audience figures and shorter time to market, yet even this can be a struggle. Content agencies who understand content (and have specialists on the payroll) tend to have an immature digital offering. And, conversely, digital agencies who can create wonderful destinations fail to understand or prioritise the importance of the content their shiny code is housing.
Despite this, the good news is there's been a recent evolution in how agencies generate and respond to content briefs. Where once an agency would ask a client for their content when development has concluded, and crowbar it into whatever space they've allocated, nowadays a content strategist is involved in the early briefing or discovery phases.
It's not just about affording time for content generation either. The digital content service line now extends to audits, persona development, App Store Optimisation, CRO, persuasion architecture, labelling, calendars, keyword methodologies, mapping, mobile-first tactics, offsiting, personalisation and tone of voice guidelines.
As a result, content strategists have an increasingly important role in a digital agency and, as well as fulfilling their own work, act as a bridge between client services, strategy and UX, design and development.
Whether this change in focus is a result of growing demand, or because digital agencies realise that the need for content is a longer-term requirement (and thus more £) remains to be seen. One thing's for sure, in taking content seriously their client services team can likely prove that the whizz-bang digital deliverable is delivering on X, Y and Z business objectives.
And that, as we know, means smiley, happy marketing people.