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Avoiding the digital content landfill dump

Content Strategy.

Content is king, so they say. But with so much digital noise out there, how do you avoid creating just more digital landfill junk.

Quality trumps quantity. Yet, many a content strategy seems to be based around “let’s churn out X posts a week, regardless”. No wonder much of today’s digital content is consigned to the digital landfill dump.

“Proper Planning Prevents P***poor Performance” goes the 1980’s planning mantra. Yet despite this, few organisations have a coherent digital content strategy. Better planning is a highly effective use of scarce and valuable resources whilst achieving greater reach and engagement.

The growth of WordPress (other CMS platforms also available) and the democratisation of content production interlaced with the search engine’s move to site-based indexing. Getting started may seem ominous, but it doesn’t need to be.

I’d be tempted to ignore your average digital agency if they tell you about their amazing “turnkey self-starting digital content planning strategy” package and how it will change your life. It won’t. If you’re new to content, or if you’re light on resources then you’ll probably need a hand but you certainly shouldn’t outsource your brand value to a bland content factory.

Great digital content should convey core values, embedded philosophy and the culture of your organisation. This is not something easily replicated by the average agency or outsourcer- not unless they know you really well.

Even if you’re not going to “do it all yourself”, at least take the time out to do some planning first – you can always run it past your favourite agency afterwards.

Starting the plan

You will have different categories of content designed for different purposes and audiences. It may aim to engage, educate, entertain, support, retain, share, convince, inform, and even reject. You should start by trying to categorise your existing content – a content audit, if you like.

Next, consider your audience, who is likely to find, read, engage, and share it. Build a matrix with content type on one axis and audience on the other. Now you have a content matrix, you’ll be able to see where you’re strong, and where you have holes in your content.

Bonfires and fireworks

Most content has a lifespan, decaying in value similar to radioactive half life. Short-lived firework content should blaze brightly for short periods of time, whilst bonfire content burns slower, changes less and provide sustained value over a much longer period.

Long-life content

With a much longer half-life, you should be prepared to spend more time and effort creating this cornerstone content. It’s also the content that’s likely to have the most views and should, naturally, reflect the long-held core values of your business. If you can’t write it yourself then pay someone to do it for you. And pay them well, their work will be on show for years to come.

Choose your subjects well, avoid current trends or fashions unless you’re confident your viewpoint will stand the test of time. Finally, think about your audience, who do you want to read this? Not everyone is a technical audience who love 3-letter acronyms?

Finally, make it opinionated, pick fights and show your company has some fire in its belly. So much content today is churned out, homogeneous, and inoffensive gruel that sends folks to sleep.

Fireworks

How often you release content, how quickly it dates and how contemporary it is should define the size, trajectory and bang of the content.

If you are lucky, you can ride on the back of popular culture and trending stuff. And don’t forget events such as seasons, holidays, high-days and other pre-determined events.

Ideally, fireworks should burn fast and bright, you should aim to be transient, short-lived and deliver big bang.

Rolling it out

Start with an even mix of content types to cover the holes first, and then up your game in the other areas. In simple terms, create a fluid content plan that consists of a list of titles with the relevant categories against it and a probable release dates or publication order. Remember also, that to support the new content you should consider imagery, video, and other assets.

Share the plan with your organisation to drive internal engagement. You may find you have fab writers in your organisation that you’re not even aware of yet. You’ll need to consider reporting, social media engagement tools, web-site analytics and advertising trackers.

Tactical opportunities

Sometimes an event comes aong that’s not covered on the plan, so stay agile and be prepared to move “off-plan” to take advantage of unforseen events.

Still worried that you’ll just be adding to the digital landfill?

All content eventually finds its way there, just focus on avoiding creating rubbish in the first place. And remember QUALITY beats QUANTITY.

If you’re still really stuck, and your content budget is more than £5k, drop us a line and we’ll see what we can do to help.

First published: 21th May 2015, updated 18th Mar 2017.