Not Content with the Usual Content

April 30th, 2013

It’s been said that content marketing is in the midst of a revolution right now. I wholeheartedly agree. At the same time, I also firmly believe it is important to note that the principles of the revolution are not exactly revolutionary.

As content marketers, we’re not re-inventing what content is, or how it gets made. Rather, we are returning to a focus on content: how important it is, how well it can be developed, how it can initiate a dialogue, how it can hold someone’s interest, and how it can persuade. In re-focusing on content, we are unpacking what content has meant to us and what it can mean to us. We’re redefining the how, when, and why of content.

A few weeks ago, I was scanning over Facebook and noticed that a former colleague of mine had posted as her status the following quote: “Design is a behavior, not a department.” To me, this felt like a bit of a rallying cry. The quote is attributed to David Milne, the founder of DMD Retail Design, and it reverberated with me. I held on to it for some reason, and just couldn’t put it down. It was as if that simple statement were a good book I wanted to read over and over again.

Why?

Most likely because it is a really eloquent and to-the-point way of saying something our content team at Sales Engine has been discussing for many months. We all love what we do. We bring passion and knowledge to what we do. We are also all very dedicated to the process of continuously re-defining and re-scoping content marketing.  I’m not hesitant to admit that as a content group, we spend a lot of time discussing a fundamental issue: what is content exactly? We’ve defined it as the intersection of text, design, and user experience.  Again, none of these unique fields is undergoing a phase of massive re-invention. But all of these fields relate to behavior: the behavior of the person who consumes the content, and the behavior of the person who creates the content. Behavior is consistently evolving and being re-defined.

David Milne’s quote resonated with me because the underlying call to action in his message is what we’ve been in the midst of remembering ourselves. Content marketing is evolving, and we are part of its evolution. For our content group, once we acknowledged who we are, it was no longer enough to just be a functional department. We set out to produce content that behaves, and understanding that content development itself is a behavior.

Defining our identity this way meant that how we work—and how we organize our work—simply had to undergo some adaptations. We anticipate that those adaptations won’t be a one-time thing. Rather, kind of like an agile work environment, we’ll be making adaptations along the way, and we’ll be better positioned to act on them because we accept that adaptation as part of the behavior of what content is.

Our first major shift was to re-categorize the types of content we’ve produced and are producing. We stepped back to ask what the common formats in content marketing are, and what other formats in different forms of media perhaps should make their way into the world of content marketing. We all know people are bombarded by messages—by content—all day. As an industry, we know we want to make that content better and more relevant.  For us at Sales Engine, a huge part of that process is determining what formats people actually use every day and redefining our content offerings accordingly.

Visit the Resources section of our website when you have a moment. Those of you who have been following us for a while will note that things within that page of our site have shifted a little bit. There is, quite suddenly, a whole new type of resource we’ve made available to readers. For those of you who have only recently started following us, allow me a moment to explain. Previously, the Resources section of our website had the standard types of content you would come to expect from a company that provides MaaS, demand generation, and content development services. There were the ubiquitous white papers, case studies, and webinars. And they are still there of course, as they should be. Because people want and need those things.

But our clients and our reader-base were asking for more. Furthermore, as a content team we wanted to produce more. Let’s flip David Milne’s quote and make it explicitly about content. Content development is a behavior. There have been a lot of changes within the realm of content marketing in the past several years. We have started creating content differently and our clients are seeing things differently. The more things have changed, however, the more desire there has been for them to continue evolving.

As it turns out, our clients want more than just facts and data. They want to know our opinions, and they want us to demonstrate why those are our opinions. So, we added a new format of content—a new behavior. We call the new format the Op-Ed. Ladies and gentlemen, the Op-Ed is a new type of resource we’ll be delivering from here on out.

Funny thing, the op-ed format. Most people assume the term is short for “opinion editorial.” Actually, that’s not the case. The format was created as a page of content in newspapers to stand in opposition to the page of editorials written by a newspaper’s staff members. In other words, the traditional op-ed is a format of content that is opinion-based, but from a fresh perspective. While the traditional editorial page was designed to carry an established point of view or opinion, the op-ed page was designed and formatted to create a perspective that could complement or contrast the page of content directly along its side, resulting in a dynamic dialogue within the publication.

Open and transparent sharing of knowledge is what we are going for in our Op-Ed format. We’ll use it to share a combination of good principles, ideas, and patterns we’ve seen, as well as our opinions about them. These pieces are to complement and contrast overall approaches we’ve taken ourselves and seen within our industry.

Watch this space. We’re committed to evolving, and we’re dedicated to influencing how content marketing evolves. This is only the first step in a long journey.