A new frontier for comms pros

There is little question that because of online direct-to-customer communication, the shrinking number of paid journalists, and the exponential increase in the number of news and information outlets, there is a dramatic need and hunger for worthwhile editorial content.

My previous column was the first of a two-part series focused on the impact of digital on the corporate communications function. I addressed the growing centralization of the function even in highly decentralized organizations. This piece will focus on a key driver of that phenomenon: the growing emphasis on content creation and syndication.

There is little question that because of online direct-to-customer communication, the shrinking number of paid journalists, and the exponential increase in the number of news and information outlets (including microsites, blogs, etc.), there is a dramatic need and hunger for worthwhile editorial content.

As such, many companies are becoming “content factories.” They are realizing that their customers and business partners want credible, helpful information and that producing such content can also be valuable to a wide variety of other constituents – not the least of whom, ironically, are journalists.

What are some consequences of this trend? Here are five:

Alignment. There is a rapidly evolving trend toward much tighter alignment between communications and marketing. Why? Product launches, for example, increasingly require a fully integrated online strategy and the content and approach to that inevitably requires close collaboration among these functions.

Recruiting. The prioritization of content creation and syndication is also driving changes in recruiting. Communications executives seem to be placing less emphasis on industry knowledge (i.e. you no longer need to be a “healthcare person” to work in healthcare or a “car guy” to work in automotive). Greater emphasis is now being placed on storytelling and the ability to write and produce that story for multiple platforms. The presumption is industry knowledge can be more easily learned.

Shareability. Another aspect of content generation and syndication: virtually everything produced should be shareable. A growing number of companies are tracking how content is shared as a critical performance metric. And shareability is as relevant to internal communications as it is to external communications.

Visualization. You must be investing more and more money into the visualization of information – from infographics to short-form video. Many communications executives are still more comfortable with the written word and see visualization of information as “additive” to the core work product. That's wrong. Visualization is a primary means by which people learn and absorb. It is arguably more important now than the written word. At minimum, for either internal or external consumption, consider production of content a 50-50 proposition for the written/visualized word.

Paid/earned media. The walls between paid and earned media continue to diminish. The implication: You can work with certain high-profile sites for which you can sponsor conferences, run banner ads, provide event speakers, and have them editorially cover your product announcements. Again, we're seeing the tighter alignment of communications and marketing. This generates less credibility than The Wall Street Journal, for sure, but it can be effective.

It's a new world, but progressive thinking around content creation and syndication can enhance the scale and effectiveness of your communications in dramatic ways.

Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a digital and management consulting firm. He can be reached at bfeldman@pulsepointgroup.com. His column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.

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