One of the parts many organizations miss when considering a content management system (CMS) is the importance of valuable content. Simply having a means to deliver content should not be the goal when looking at a CMS; the value of that content is what drives people to your site.
This insight might not seem like a revelation. But when looking at much of the content delivered by companies big and small, it becomes clear that a focus on the mechanics of content delivery often overrides the task of delivering truly worthy content.
So how can you evaluate and ensure content value? The answer often depends on the type of content you’re serving up. Is it a short-term piece, something that needs to be viewed only for a specific period? Doe it communicate long-reaching goals? Will people need to refer back to the content on a regular basis?
Let’s look at various types of content and where their value is derived, which formats best fit certain demands, and how you can employ different content types to deliver the message you want—and that your audience finds useful. Like any good story, delivering content of value requires understanding the “5 Ws”: Who, What, Where, When, Why — and in our case, How.
Blog posts often take the What position in the “five Ws” content structure. There was a time, not long ago, when the blog at any given tech company acted as a complete diary of all activity: events the company was sponsoring or speaking at, new features that it was delivering, messages from C-level executives … even hiring news. All were encapsulated in that single blog space.
There is value in this approach, in that your blog provides a long-lasting picture of happenings in your organization. The drawback is that although your company naturally changes and grows, the blog remains the same. And what was true in 2010 is probably not so true in 2019.
Blog content is not ephemeral. Once posted, a blog post often remains public for years (especially if captured by an archival site such as The Wayback Machine). This can be beneficial when it comes to things like mission statements or evergreen thought pieces. But for content around technology — a constantly changing entity — something more organic and less static is likely more helpful to your audience.
Where blog posts fall short, documentation often takes over. Documentation relates How something is accomplished or implemented.
A blog post might focus on a new feature. That info is important in the moment. Butt when it comes to how to use that new feature, documentation is far superior and holds value longer than a post. Documentation can help to alleviate confusion for customers and work for your application-support team. Proper, well-written documentation enables consumers to solve their own problems in a way a blog post simply can’t.
Again, though, the key element of successful documentation is that it must be of value to the consumer. Poorly written documentation can actually be detrimental to those who plan to use an application or feature. When it comes to documentation, clarity and usability heavily influence its true value.
For tech content, white papers provide the Why. If documentation explains how a particular feature is implemented or used, the white paper details why the feature exists in the first place.
If we think of technology as science — as we should — we can look at the white paper as an illustration of how the scientific method was applied and which theories were incorporated when building a piece of tech. White papers provide a glimpse into the motivating factors for bringing customers capabilities that they might not understand or see the need for at first glance.
One drawback of white papers: They are often delivered from a dry, academic perspective. This can lead content consumers to avoid white papers in favor of documentation. Balancing the highly technical with the accessible can be difficult, but it is the driving factor when developing a white paper.
Who is using the things we make? Who is driving a product or organization forward? Case studies provide the Who of your content.
Case studies are often viewed as something of an outsider. Their value is derived from seeing how consumers use a product outside the purview of its creators. We get the end user’s perspective, which often differs from our own or that of our organization. This content adds value in that it shows how flexible a product or application can be.
To avoid any pitfalls with case studies, be sure to balance self-promotion with explanation. Some case studies involve internal consumers and are never released to the public. But case studies that are created for outside consumption should focus on who is using the product, and their struggles and triumphs, rather than the product itself.
With everything you are trying to deliver, it’s important for people to know Where things are being done. Social media content is great for this purpose.
Yes, there are difficulties with all social media platforms. But no organization can survive in modern industry without some sort of social media presence, even if it’s just a brief bit on LinkedIn or a team following conversations on Twitter or Reddit.
The key to social media content is interaction. The value of this content doesn’t like in a one-way communication of your organization’s goals, actions, or desires. Rather, consumers expect organizations to participate in conversations in the public space.
For years, the webinar was the only way to communicate things quickly and conversationally. Now, the podcast has become a convenient way to deliver digestible, extemporaneous content.
In many ways, podcasts cover the When of your organization’s actions. They become a snapshot of ideas that you want to communicate at a particular time. This format isn’t dependent on a timeline in the same way as documentation or white papers. Its value is gauged by the time listeners spend listening to it. And that time is spent when consumers decide they need to hear the content, not necessarily when podcast producers release it.
The key to content
With so many ways to communicate your initiatives, it’s important to build a content management plan that lays a foundation of solid content across all these avenues. After all, delivering a comprehensive message is key to motivating the engagement you want by the people you want, in the activities you want.
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