This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Culture of Content. Let me know what you think!
When I was a sophomore in college, I took my first marketing class on a whim. The teacher opened the class by writing a big question on the board: WHAT IS MARKETING? As she went around the class, the answers seemed as diverse as the students. “Advertising,” said one girl. “Selling,” said an older man. “Brands,” said a student with a thick foreign accent. When the question came around to me, an answer formed in my brain and exited my mouth before I could think about it too much. “It’s the bridge between a company and it’s customer,” was my response. The professor paused and gave me a knowing nod. At that moment, I knew I had found my calling.
Today, I’m posing a similar question to you. What is content? If we went around the room and asked, chances are, we’d get a similar result to what happened in my marketing class so many years ago. “Blogs,” one person might answer. “Social Media,” another would say. While these terms are definitely aspects of content, they don’t represent this complex topic completely. And that’s what this book is all about.
Content is any piece of communication, in print, digital, or verbal form, that is created with a purpose. It’s the lifeblood of your organization. Just as our body pumps blood from our heart to our limbs, businesses, non-profits, and government organizations have content that flows from their core vision to the extremities of execution. You can often judge the health of an organization based on how content flows, because content is synonymous with intentional communications.
Forms of Content
Just as advertising, sales, and branding are all aspects of marketing, content can take on a variety of forms. None of these describes the complexity of the system completely, but looking at the different forms of content is useful to help us understand the variety of communication that takes place in our organizations.
If ink touches paper, that’s content. Of course, it’s easy to think about the plethora of marketing materials: brochures, one-sheets, posters, and fliers, just to name a few — but there are other pieces of content that are important in other departments, too. That memo your CEO sent out? Content. The instruction manual that outlines your core business processes? That’s content, too. How about the spreadsheets from finance? The annual report from your foundation? The employee handbook you read on your first day at work? You guessed it. Content.
If there’s one place where the idea of content naturally resides, it’s in the digital landscape. Websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and SnapChat are all channels where we create intentional communications. But if we look closer, we’ll find other digital channels, too. How about the email you sent to that customer? The way you name and organize your files on the shared file drive? The text you sent to your friend who asked about a job? While these digital examples may not appear obvious, they do fit our definition of purposeful communication. Therefore, they’re content.
When we think about content, we often default to written forms of communication. But content can take many forms and engage many senses. Verbal forms of content are likely the most overlooked, but they’re one of the most important. What does our body language say when we’re at a client meeting? Or how does our tone come across when we’re on the phone? Think about when one of your team members is at a party and someone asks that all-important question: “What do you do?” How do they react? Do they know concisely how to find sales opportunities? Are they genuinely happy? Providing a consistent message that others can repeat can go a long way in building lasting relationships and finding new opportunities.
Content is complex. It’s a big system that reaches far beyond the marketing department. Everyone in an organization, from the big-picture CEO to the detail-driven technician, is responsible for generating content. Every person on every day communicates in print, digital, or verbal form with a specific purpose. The question becomes, does your content make your organization healthy or does it hinder progress and slow you down? Let’s find out.