News & Views

You have the pipelines—but who’s pumping the oil?

There’s a deluge of content about creating content out there. Inevitably a lot of it is mediocre (you could say the same about content in any field) but, like the temples hidden around the otherwise aesthetically disastrous city of Kyoto, there are diamonds if you know where to look.

Gartner, where the always dependable Jake Sorofman provides regular, and regularly good, analysis on trends in content marketing, is one such place. We were struck in this post not by the snazzy London-Tube-Style map of digital marketing hubs and channels, but by the first comment on the page, by David H Deans, Texas-based technology, media and telecoms consultant. It’s worth quoting at length—we’ve added emphasis to the bits that really stand out:

I wonder if one of these Hubs will ever really help the typical B2B CMO solve their top challenge in 2016 — that being, digital marketing talent development. Having enough skilled and experienced staff that can ‘create’ meaningful and substantive content is an unattainable goal for way too many B2B marketing leaders.

Case in point: I recent worked with a large software vendor on Cloud market strategy. It typically took their Product Marketing subject-matter experts ~2 months to create a distinctive PowerPoint presentation and ~6 months to create a forward-thinking white paper. Content ideas were never an issue. However, when you asked a meeting of a dozen or more staff “who can start to write the core narrative for this project?” — everybody looks around the room; nobody is confident that they’re qualified.

This puts a common problem—one that New Narrative was founded to help solve—excellently. You might be confident you have all the right pipelines and distribution channels in place, but who’s actually going to create content that your audience wants to read, watch or engage with to fill them?

The issue can be one of training staff, as Mr Deans goes on to note. To be sure, there are many ways you can lead people through the necessary steps to tell better stories, write punchier scripts, design more eye-catching videos, become more confident presenters and so on.

But editorial nous, the kind learned in the newsroom, is harder to pick up. Astute consumers will always spot the artifice in content created by someone who isn’t confident of their own editorial acumen—or who is too beholden to the marketing department. After the pipelines are built, content expertise needs to be brought to bear—and that’s not always something that can be found or fostered internally. As with all strategies, part of a successful approach to content is knowing when to seek outside help.