Nobody Wants More Content

A few weeks ago, I took the presumptive step of telling a would-be client that I thought her brand’s recent blog post was generic and unwanted, and she lectured me on the merits of a balanced content marketing strategy.

The response echoed arguments cereal manufacturers once made that the addition of fruit and dairy to servings of their bowls of empty, sugary calories constituted “a balanced breakfast.”

I stand by observation I made to her, though: Nobody wants more content.

It’s weird, if you think about it. On one hand, people want more transparency into what businesses do, authenticity from what they claim, and real involvement in how they’re run.

On the other hand, most content marketing is an online volume play, often using computer programs that can generate it autonomously, including all the requisite buzzwords, or outsourcing it to factories of human writers who churn it out based on the sketchiest of prompts.

The stuff that gets called “thought leadership” or “storytelling” is intended to get indexed and “visited” by online bots, or promoted by paid influencers who can push it to “followers” who have their own filters set-up to ignore or file away much of what they receive.

All of that activity generates numbers that can be viewed on marketing dashboards, rendering moot John Wanamaker’s now-ancient concern that half of his advertising spend was wasted…but that he didn’t know which half. Now, the spend works because content strategy is configured to deliver proof that it works.

This essay is content. So was my unsolicited critique of that could-have-been-client’s blog post. Here’s a content marketing expert at a firm that promotes content marketing producing content to encourage clients to produce content in 2020.

Here’s an alternate worldview to consider:

Nobody wants more content. No human being wakes up in the morning hoping to see some generic stuff that declares that your brand knows that water is wet, created by robots and sent to them by an automated scheduler.

Worse yet, much if not most of what you produce is inherently untrustworthy, and your intentions are suspicious. Some, if not much of this distrust is the result of marketing communications that isn’t sincere or, again I believe but cannot prove, the product of content strategies.

Unconvinced? Name the brands that you think evidence quality or relevance to your life, or at least prompt your curiosity. Apple? Amazon? Tesla or SpaceX? Maybe a local brand?

None of them generate content, yet all of them achieve visibility either by doing something, daring to reveal mistakes and challenges, taking novel, bold positions on topics, and talking like real human beings.

That’s the opportunity for your business.

People have always wanted more news, better insights, and more meaningful and trustworthy information. Today’s technology allows marketers to look beyond the blunt and broad goals of traditional selling — hoping to deliver the right message and the right time, which usually meant trying to trip over people just about to make a purchase decision — and get involved in more touchpoints along the way by talking in new and different ways.

But don’t confuse process with purpose.

The drivers aren’t blanks in a Twitter or blog post schedule, a marketing plan that specifies buzzwords that need to be promoted, or executives who want to repeat what their management consultants have told them; the communications challenge is to say something when you have something to say.

Everyone wants better, more authentic, relevant, and memorable information.

Nobody wants more content.

By Jonathan Salem Baskin

I'm a writer, musician, and science junkie.

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