I’m frustrated at the tendency to place content on a pedestal it doesn’t quite deserve. Never mind about the consumer’s physical experience – what about the content? Never mind about how, when or even whether you should engage – what about the content? And never mind the fact that you have got a decade’s worth of abandoned publishing models in the closet (rather proving my point) – what about the content?
Too often, content has not had the scaffold of data, insight and creativity to support it. We have jumped the gun, getting personal without building the foundations. We have been over-enamoured by sexy production standards without stopping to ask what the point of all that sexiness is. We have kept content and data strategy apart, which is a bit like attending a gig where the rhythm section is in one room and the vocalist is in another.
Over the next couple of years, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will put the way we engage under greater scrutiny than ever before. If consumers are going to want to hear what brands have to say, and share information with them, then content is going to have to climb down off its pedestal and integrate.
Permission to speak?
The GDPR is not going to mean the end of all email marketing. But it is going to give permissions the sort of currency usually only associated with US dollars in Cuba.
The GDPR means content will have to work harder to earn and protect those permissions. It should cultivate the journey from the initial privilege to communicate, to securing the long-term relationships that make people want to share their data.
With this in mind, Amaze One commissioned research* to understand how UK consumers feel about the information they currently share. Seventy per cent of consumers said they were concerned about the way their personal information is collected and used. Only 18% feel they have some degree of control over their data. Four out of five have concerns about the way their data is sourced and sold.
The research revealed a feeling of imbalance in the ‘value exchange’, the quid pro quo of reward in return for personal information. Consumers feel they’re giving a hell of a lot of quid for very little quo. That would be worrying even without the GDPR on the horizon. But with the marketing landscape about to experience seismic change, now is hardly the best time to be alienating customers who just want a fairer deal.
I believe a fairer deal looks a lot like the diagram below.
“Too often, content has not had the scaffold of data, insight and creativity to support it. We have jumped the gun getting personal without building the foundations”
The right to share your content starts with clear permission. That is what gives you the privilege to engage (and the responsibility not to mess it up). So let’s be transparent about the ask. Let’s make requests big and bold, front and centre: permission that says, ‘here are some of the great things we are going to be sharing with you – and here is how you get to see them’.
There is a transparency about this that is appealing, but there is pragmatism too. The GDPR does not have to be scary or difficult. If we embrace it, we get to share the benefit with consumers. If we don’t, we get to spend the next few years testing the boundaries of GDPR compliance to no real purpose.
Crucially, the model ensures content is not the headline act. It forces it to work with data, strategy and consumer experience, and that forces us to ask questions about the nature – and even the need – for content before we dive headlong into creating it:
• Is content desirable and appropriate? How does your brand sit in your customers’ lives? How does that inform the content you create?
• What is the role of the content? How does it fit your communications strategy? If it doesn’t fit the strategy, why do it?
• How does the content fit the customer experience of your brand? Walk the journey in your customers’ shoes.
• What is the publishing model? Let the data, strategy and customer journey guide you to a production, publishing or newsroom model that is a natural fit.
How personal is personal?
Amaze One’s research showed that even a simple breakdown by age reveals major differences in the way we want to consume content.
• Preference for visual (including video) content is strongest in younger groups (18 to 44) and falls away with age.
• Entertainment is a key determiner of channel appeal among younger groups (18 to 44).
• Being informative is a universal preference, but peaks in the 25 to 34 age group.
• Trust in the originating brand/sender is a key factor in brand interaction. The older the target group, the greater the trust required.
So be personal. Do tailor your voice according to your customer. Mass marketing is fine when you are issuing a change of terms and conditions to every account holder, but it is personal content that generates interest and inspires a response.
New time and place for content
Traditionally, content has been created in a universe parallel, but often not quite connected to other marketing activities, CRM-driven communications and distribution strategies.
But if content is to help drive sharing in a post-GDPR world, it needs to be constantly in the mix, a part of – but not superior to – the data and insight that informs the initial brainstorms and briefings.
It is time to take content off its pedestal? Next time someone suggests you should just ‘do content’, pull back and ask what you are doing it for. When you do, you will find it’s a far more effective tool at generating the trust, permissions and sharing we are all going to need.
*Survey completed March-April 2016