This anonymous confession from one content marketer was delivered to Rockee HQ in a manilla envelope. Alongside the confession was a note that said:
I wish I was brave enough to put my name to this, but I still make a living creating absurdly bad content for some of the world’s biggest brands. I hope one day we’ll live in a world where we can talk freely about how shit most content is without fear of reprisals. And, maybe then, we can start making it better.
Until then, I remain Anonymous Content Creator.
Confessions of a content marketer
Confession no 1
First confession – I hate the word content. It might be useful for some people as a catch all, but it strips whatever the ‘content’ is of any value. You might as well swap it for the word stuff. Or, preferably, call the stuff what it is – a blog, a film, an article, eBook anyone? Don’t get me started on eBooks. Anyway if Vikki Ross, Bob Hoffman, and Dave Trott all agree on this one, there’s probably something in it. Having said all of that, I’ll be using the word ‘content’ (under duress) for the rest of this.
Confession no 2
Second confession – I’m no more convinced about the term content marketing. Most of the time, we’re just talking about marketing. The word content is pretty much redundant. When we do marketing, we need some ‘stuff’ to do it with. But, this isn’t just about trashing content and content marketing. Although there probably is a bit more to come. It is, however, about looking at a rather inconvenient truth for content marketers and creators.
Confession no 3 – the long one
How many of you recognise this scenario? You create content. You research and write things like videos, articles, blogs, eBooks etc for commercial purposes. You might be quite good at it. You take a brief. You do some research. You write something that you think will be helpful to your audience. You get a colleague, boss, client, village elder to review/approve it. You send it out into the world. And then you move on. You might, if you’re lucky, hear about the number of leads it’s generated a little further down the line. Someone might talk to you about increased dwell time or some other spurious metric…But, for the most part, your content goes off into the ether and you don’t hear any more about it. And, in short, you don’t know if your content’s any good. And, by good, I mean it does what you intended it to do for the audience you intended it for.
From confessions to questions
So, is it just me? How common is this? I’m really interested to know who’s making really good content and how they know it’s good. What kind of metrics do you use? How do you collect, and respond, to feedback? How do you learn what’s gone well? How do you learn from what hasn’t?
I suspect most content marketers don’t have those answers. And that might be part of the reason there’s such a lot of shit content out there. I’ve created loads of it (what number confession are we on now?) But shit content is not a new phenomenon. Remember when Doug Kessler called out the deluge of crap in content marketing. The “me-too blog posts”. The “Three-sentence ideas pumped up into 36-page eBooks”. And the “Microsites full of the obvious disguised as the profound”. Things haven’t changed. The research shows what Doug predicted: content is becoming less effective. People don’t trust it, in fact 57% of content buyers receive from vendors is described as ‘useless’ in a Forrester report.
At the moment, content marketing is like sitting an exam and never getting the result. We don’t know if we’re any good at it. Let’s torture another analogy. If you had bad breath, you’d want someone to tell you, right? Might be a little awkward, but at least you wouldn’t be wandering round offending friends, family, and innocent bystanders with your noxious oral health problem. Similarly, if you’re pumping shit content out into the world, wouldn’t it help if someone told you it stank before too many people had seen (smelt?) it?
Good people make shit content
So, we’ve trashed content. And content marketing. Used the word crap and shit quite a lot. And covered stinky breath. Can we get to a positive and less excretory point? Most of the people I know who create content want to do a good job. They’re always looking for ways to improve their content. They look for, follow and share advice. They do their research. Adopt new tools. Take feedback on board. They just don’t usually get feedback from the right people – their audience. If they had that feedback, they’d do something with it. They’d learn from it. They’d respond to it. They’d make better content. So, content marketers, does any of this ring true? And is this blog just adding to the tide of crap? What do you think? Give me some feedback.