There is a disturbing trend emerging from the shock waves of change that are shaking and reshaping our marketing, branding and communications world. People are treating content as if it were the end-all and be-all of the communications process.
The evil deceptionContent strategies are being skillfully developed. Complex message platforms are being devised, revised and restrategized. Elevator pitches are being crafted in one minute, two minute and ten minute units. Content is being prioritized, hierachtisized, maximized, minimized, mapped, scrapped and deployed.And guess what, Skippy, no one who counts (as in customers and prospects) cares.In an age of ever-expanding media, message fragmentation and ever-contracting time and attention, creative engagement (that is making content emotionally engaging) is a requirement. Even in b-to-b markets. Without it, the people who count never get to the content.A few pathetic examplesIn one category I know of, marketers very precisely target many minute audience segments exclusively with online media to dump unbridled and, for the most part, unvisualized content on them. All of it without a compelling, unifying creative idea to support it. The net result of this precise content dumping is that awareness and familiarity of all the competitors in this category is almost zero.Despite the fact these companies have been in the market communicating to customers and prospects for almost a decade, no one knows who the heck these purveyors of online content are.This is beyond pathetic. It borders on tragic. Especially in a category where sales are driven by prospects finding vendors to include in their consideration set for rfps.Follow me, I’m a twitYou don’t have to look far to see other examples of the evil confusion of content and engagement. Go to Twitter and you can follow it. Every minute of every dayOne marketer wraps his followers in an orgy of ego that makes Donald Trump look like Mother Teresa. Apparently he thinks we have the time or the desire to care about where he is and what he is doing every hour of the day. Especially when it revolves around killing wild life back home in Montana, being interviewed by various publications and appearing on a variety of red carpets. Not as a celebrity, mind you, but rather crawling on all fours in the background as an almost invisible sponsor.I tweet therefore I amIn the middle of the Twitter spectrum are those marketers with their own self-serving, well-planned content agenda. They push out the same stuff on a repetitive schedule driving people to the same self-serving blog content hour after hour over and over and over again. This is the modern equivalent of the old paradigm of telling people what to believe about your products and expecting them to accept it just because you said it.None of this is engaging. It is content for content’s sake. In and of itself it does not stand out and get attention, nor keep attention, nor sustain a dialogue.A special tweetAt the other end of the Twittiverse are people who use their tweets to expose us to information we never would have known without them. Some are about their products but many are not. In fact, most are not.They create a compelling personality for themselves 140 characters at a time by creatively providing what we value in an engaging voice that we want to follow.Chris Brogan is one of those people. It’s well worth following him. Guy Kawasaki is another. So is Peter Cashmore. As well as Sean Duffy. And if you are totally research challenged, Mashable will show you what’s going on online right now right here in a straightforward but none-the-less engaging way.We’ve been sold a bill of goodsAs the digital world developed someone declared that content is king. You can pretty much bet the declarer was a techno nerd with the creative flair of a C++ manual and the engagement quotient of a 35+ year-old guy living in his parent’s basement with a bunch of goldfish.Content is not engagement, my friend. It never has been and it never will be.Because without creatively and emotionally involving your audience they will never get to your masterfully developed content.As a great man once said“However much we would like communications to be a science – because life would be simpler that way – the fact is it is not.”“Finding out what to say is the beginning of the communications process. How you say it makes people look and listen and believe. And if you are not successful at that you have wasted all the work and intelligence and skill that went into discovering what you should say.”“It’s not just what you say that stirs people, it’s the way that you say it.”
Bill BernbachContent is a carton of eggsI don’t mean to denigrate content. Obviously, it is vitally important. It is the strategic base of all that a brand is and does. Especially these days. Because content now is not only what you say, it also includes the interactive devices, brand experiences and social interactions that make content more involving.But before people will ever get involved in your content you will have to emotionally engage them.I define engagement as the creative elements that gain attention, keep attention and make people want to have a dialogue with you around your content.Engagement is a souffléSo let’s get the two straight. To say that raw content encased in media is engagement is like saying a carton of eggs is a soufflé.It is not. It never will be. It is what you do with the content of the carton that makes it special.If you’d like to delve a little deeper into what makes content engaging you might enjoy the Mobium ebook entitled The Age of Engagement. Because without this special, creative, emotive element of being engaging your brand and your marketing will be about as interesting and involving to your customers and prospects as Ben Stein’s Audio Book narration of the tax code.But that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.