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Connecting Content with Creation

Are you placing enough value on the people who create your content? Find out why and how you can.

 

This post was anonymously written as part of Blog Secret Santa. There’s a list of all Secret Santa posts, including one written by iAcquire’s Associate Content Strategist Amanda Gallucci, on Santa’s list of 2013 gift posts.

I have some bad news for everyone: Santa is not going to put content in your stocking.

And this is disappointing, I know, because content is pretty valued these days. It’s critical to communication, marketing, customer service, and everything else that makes up our businesses and organizations. It is our businesses and organizations.

So how is it that we value the concept of content while devaluing its actual development?

We all want good content (I’m speaking primarily of written content in this post)—or at least, we want the results of good content: page views, revenue, engagement (whatever that means).

But few organizations seem interested in doing the work it takes to get there: investing in good writing, supporting talented writers, and integrating the content creation process with strategy development.

Bad Habits

We value content in the abstract, but the way we treat the content creation process tells a very different story. Organizations of all sizes undermine their content by:

  • Bringing in writers in at the last minute, someone to plug in the gaps that the designer left or replace the lorem ipsum;
  • Relying on outsourcing or freelancers who have had no contact with the messaging or strategy or any other aspect of the company;
  • Disregarding writers entirely and pushing content creation onto whatever employees they have around.

These practices result in breakdowns in workflow, communication errors, and, of course, content that doesn’t truly work. We end up with quick fixes and slapdash content. Tone-deaf corporate Twitter accounts. Overdone email blasts. Useless click-throughs and ad-saturated pages.

Yes, it’s content, but it’s filler: useless words and pictures in space. Nothing to connect, move, touch, provoke, push, pull. Nothing human.

Disregarding or downplaying writing’s role in the power of your content does your marketing and communication strategies a huge disservice. It results, ultimately, in writing that cannot connect—because it’s disconnected at the source.

Writing is Hard

One reason content creation gets devalued is because, frankly, everyone writes. Everyone has to write. Every office job (and then some) requires basic written communication. And when you’re swimming in written communication all the time, it’s easy to forget that effective, high-quality, professional writing is actually difficult to come by (and very much worth paying for).

Content gets treated as a commodity, an output, something concretely measurable like any product or service. This narrow view takes a toll on process. It encourages a view of content creation as a matter of production: make more, make it faster, create an assembly line.

In Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach smartly remind us that “content that works for your business and that matters to your users is not a commodity. Done well, content can engage your users, answer their questions, and motivate them to take action. Done poorly, it will cause you to lose your audiences’ attention and trust.”

A mass-production approach to content results in cheap content. It prioritizes quantity, speed, and disposability over thoughtfulness, professionalism, and connectivity.

Start at the Beginning

Content that truly connects with users (readers, members, customers) does so because it’s coming from a place of authenticity. And there’s plenty of writing advice out there to guide organizations on authentic content: be human, speak naturally, have a conversation.

But authenticity is more than a style guide. Content creators need to connect with their writing. They need to write from a space that cares about the content and cares about people connecting with the content.

It’s difficult to create that if your writers aren’t truly in the picture—if they’re not treated equally with design, functionality, content strategy, and other elements of your website.

So hire talented writers. Pay them for their talent. Help them understand your organization and help them cultivate the same passion for it that you want your users to have. Involve them early in the process. And give them time to do the work.

If you want good content—clear, conscious, and capable of connecting—start by respecting and supporting its creation.