Content marketing – it’s more then just being in the attention business

I’m working on a post for our company blog, thinking about how companies need to engage their employees when they are rolling out customer experience or digital transformation projects.

The post is about “breaking down the silos”, that is often discussed by industry commentators and vendors and I contest that there is another way; that we need to admit humans love silos (we’re tribal) and we should get over it and get these silos working together.

One of the points I make (or will make, as I am still working on it and it’s not scheduled to be posted for a couple of weeks) is that you need to bring people together behind a single mission. It’s the first thing I do with clients, to understand the highest level business objective we are driving towards.

When I think about the mission, I don’t mean “raise the share price”, although of course any digital transformation or content marketing project needs to be connected to an improvement in however success is measured in that business; whether it’s profit, share price, margin, customer acquisition or  (rather refreshingly with a charity I work with) the number of people they touch – otherwise the project won’t attract the kind of executive sponsorship needed to bring the required business change.

So trying to define what I mean by “mission” in this context, if it’s not those hardened business metrics – I’m tempted to suggest that it’s like Theodore Levitt’s point from his classic essay Marketing Myopia; that the railway companies back in the 1950’s needed to figure out they were in the transportation business,  in order to compete with the newly built highways and the automobile and not just competing with each other over rail travel.

Wise words and it’s not the first time old Theodore gets a mention in this blog – yes, organizations need to look outside their traditional competitors and take a look at a broader sector for the business they are really in.

However for digital marketers the competition is everything else someone could be doing, rather than engaging with their message and content. Youtube, Facebook and any number of top 10 distraction posts vying for their attention.

Ah, their attention.

It’s often written that we are all in the attention business.

A maxim that’s probably been uttered since man advertised their hunting prowess with hand crafted owned media on the walls of their caves.

Plus, rather handily – attention is easy to measure; it’s web hits and page views. We can put that in a KPI or even a marketers comp plan.

Attention is easy to get, as I have said on a number of times in my writing and speaking – I have the perfect digital strategy for that – we just need to train a cat to play the Harlem shake on the piano and video it.

Splendid – I can return to writing my company blog post. The mission is to get people’s attention.

Oh hang on…

Unless you are selling advertising, attention is not a business objective for most organizations – its more than that.

I explored the idea that it’s about consent in a post on this blog a few years ago, that the audience is giving you permission to message and engage with them.

But having that permission is not a goal either, it’s the start of (hopefully) a conversation  – you need to spend this consent wisely by providing something useful or interesting, something they will care about.

Now you’ve got their attention, gained their consent and provided them with something useful or interesting.

Now you’ve engaged them.

That’s more like it – we are all in the engagement business.



Seeking attention image shared under creative commons license courtesy of Jonny Hughes.

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