There’s No Excuse for Bad Content

ken.dowellBy Ken Dowell, EVP, PR Newswire

Content marketing is the outgrowth of a number of long-terms trends in the communications business. The ability of anyone to be a publisher.  The shrinkage of traditional media.  The questionable effectiveness of online advertising. The changes in search.

But ultimately it is about producing content that is exactly what your audience wants to read.  Exactly what they are looking for.  The answer to their search for information.

Commercially produced content has rarely been any of the above.  Traditionally it has garnered views by trying to be in the right place at the right time so that the viewer/reader sees it in spite of the fact that he or she is really looking for something else.

Sponsored content, advertorial, paid content, pre-roll, whatever you call the output of marketing  and PR it has no doubt been considered B-list, isolated from the somehow purer editorially-produced content or the presumedly more valuable organic search result.

So content marketing is about moving up to the A-list.  Not trying to hitch a ride on the coattails of the seemingly more popular.  It’s about being the destination, not hanging around in the same neighborhood.

Image via Velocity Partners. Click to access a great deck about content quality.

Image via Velocity Partners. Click to access a great deck about content quality.

Which brings us face-to-face with the issue of content quality.  It is the prerequisite, the precursor, the minimal requirement, the absolute starting point for content marketing.  Because, let’s face it, marketing content traditionally just hasn’t been that good, focusing as it has on tweaking the reader’s wallet rather than his or her interest.

I’ll be the first to admit that I think journalist-produced content written for independent publishers is going to be better and more interesting to me than something that comes out of any organization’s marketing or PR department, but there’s also no reason that has to be the case.  Good writers aren’t that hard to find, and neither the number of opportunities nor the salaries paid by the media are going to make them inaccessible.  Photos, videos, and other types of images are easier to produce than ever.

And when you have good writers, good photographers, good videographers, you have to turn them loose.  Carefully-crafted, on-point, closely controlled organizational messaging isn’t going to work in content marketing, just as it doesn’t work in social media.  Take advantage of the diversity of voices and styles within your organization, don’t squeeze them.

And finally, produce content for your reader, not for your boardroom or your attorneys or for the search robots.  Create stuff you’d want to read, want to see.  Or…go back to buying banner ads.


Author Ken Dowell is PR Newswire’s EVP of social media & audience development.

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