PR consultant John Warren explains why 30% of the content created by your PR and marketing agency is probably never read, and what you can do about it.
What if you realised that 30% of your content – press releases, blogs, social media and video – delivered no engagement. That’s 30% of your budget going absolutely nowhere.
A study by the Microsoft revealed that 30% of what it produced online delivered no return whatsoever.
The software giant drilled deep into the data way beyond clicks, referrals and bounce rates, to understand how its content, including, blogs, print, digital and social media, impacted on the purchasing decisions of its customers.
It discovered that clicks didn’t lead to engagement, and engagement didn’t always lead to a decision to buy. But most significantly, it found that some of its content just wasn’t good enough and fundamentally failed to engage its audience.
Whether content leads directly to a decision to purchase, or simply contributes to brand reputation, it needs to be engaging to stand a chance of doing either. And for content to be engaging it needs to be relevant to your audience. Not ‘relevant’ because you think it is, but relevant because of what the audience gets from it.
So what makes good content?
- You need a hook, an angle, a decent headline. Give people a reason to stop and listen in a world overloaded with ‘white noise’. Give your content context – it’s not just about what you want to say but why someone should listen.
- Be creative. Content can be almost anything that your audience is likely to engage with: press releases, case studies, Q&As, guides, polls, podcasts, opinion pieces, video, white papers, infographics, timelines, etc.
- Structure. A well-written headline increases the overall number of readers or click-throughs but not the percentage of readers who stay. The content you create needs to be well structured, accurate, informative, well-written or produced.
- Imagery. Your content may be fantastic but a picture speaks a thousand words. Poor quality images, or the same image over-and-over again, will switch audiences off to your message. Creative, well composed shots will pull your audience in and help to keep it interested
- Create content for where your audience is in their buyers’ journey. It starts with brand building, and leads to a product or service-specific purchase.
- Frequency. Sporadic posting of content is ineffective; you need to sustain your presence, and reiterate and reaffirm your message.
- Go long when you can. There may be limits on print media but research shows that the most widely shared B2B online blogs last year came in at a heavy-weight 2,250-2,500 words long. Remember, the only limits online are set by your ability to create meaningful material. We don’t advocate waffle.
- Maximise ROI from content by re-purposing it for different channels. Link online content back to your website and specific pages within it.
- Make sure that you employ a call to action in the content you create. You want your audience to engage with your content but what do you want them to do next?
- Understand what your audience wants. If your content is going to be engaging, you need to understand what works with your target market and why. Digital methods of communication can deliver real insights into customer behaviour. Use the freely available analytics for your web and social media platforms.
Analysis suggests that most b2b prospects are already far advanced in their buyer journey, completing 60%-80% of research in print and online, before reaching out directly to suppliers. That means that before you get a call or an email, your customers or potential customers have more-or-less made their decision about whether or not they’re going to buy from you.
Content is also important in how your customers find you. Hits to homepages are on a downward trend and search engines – ie, Google – will increasingly find you through your content, based on how it rates it for relevancy. Think carefully about the words that your customers might put into search engines, write long but write well.
Shocked? 30% or more of your content could be going nowhere.
John Warren is a former daily newspaper journalist and has worked with some of the UK’s leading brands.