Reclaiming content

I've had the term "content" on jargon-watch for a while now, and I fear it's just about crossed the line.

I've had the term “content” on jargon-watch for a while now, and I fear it's just about crossed the line.

Flip open the Monday New York Times media section, read any industry trade, and start counting. Hyper mobile-enabled consumers simply can't get enough content. Marketers are at it 24-7 cracking the content code. Agencies are setting up divisions, gobbling up smaller shops, binging on J-school hires and seasoned journalists, because if we don't get it right about content, well, someone else will. (Probably already has.)

To be sure, now that that everyone can publish, there is no doubt: content is king. Make that, good content is king. For a moment, let's get way back to basics, and remember precisely what good content is: stuff people want to spend time with, because it gives them a laugh, makes them think, gives them useful information, or otherwise enriches their lives.

That's tough enough. Now layer in that this same stuff, when produced by or for marketers, must check a second, huge box of serving a well-defined objective. All too often, those objectives get lost in the rush to feed the beast, whether prepping next month's content calendar, producing high-end video, or anything in between.

We need to take a not occasional “content time out,” and consider what we are doing, why are we doing it, and whether or not all that doing is making an impact. It goes beyond post-campaign measurement. We need to start on the front end.

I can see content ombudsman becoming a viable role both in-house and at agencies: someone with the creative gravitas and marketing insight to look at output and give thumbs up or thumbs down, before any of it sees light of day. Time was, editor-in-chief was a groundbreaking role at agencies, that at its most basic kept lousy, lede-less, poorly punctuated press releases from seeing light of day. Now, we all need the thickness of skin to hear that something isn't funny, or clear, or won't leave those we so desperately need to influence with any reason to act.

Let's reclaim content for what it really is, and needs to do, and save it from jargon's ash heap. Let's take content back, and get on with some fantastic work.

Rob Bratskeir is GM of 360 Public Relations' New York office and EVP.

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