Digital leadership thought of the month: Engagement not content is the real king in digital marketing

Content is king is a fashionable trend in digital circles at present that has gained traction. Content Marketing is a critical element of all brand and corporate marketing today but the real truth is that content in and of itself can never be king. This is because content has to be engaging to stand out in a sea of online content and the reality is that not all content produced by brands today is engaging. Engagement is a necessary component of content marketing because without engagement with your target audience you cannot truly start to build a relationship that leads to conversion with them. For me it is for this reason that engagement is king and not content in itself.

If we believe and accept that engagement is king we need to look at how we design and produce content that is engaging. Engagement is a subjective term in many respects in so far as it can mean different things to different brands and there is no standard universal definition of engagement. That said to be engaging content marketing has to be creative. We invest significant financial resource each year in training and development of Digital Marketing staff. This investment is an inescapabale necesseity to remain competitive as the Digital Marketing sector itself is a fast paced industry which means training and CPD investment is heavy but critical to keep up with developments and change in this sector.

For me much of the training and development investment we make in Digital Marketing teams annualyis typically on hard digital skills. By this I mean it is usually spent on how to use the latest features from the social networks, digital marketing skills such as coding and digital analytics. Yet here is an interesting question for us to reflect on. How much of the annual investment in development of your Digital Marketing team members is focused purely on developing their creativity? If we stop and think about it we realise that investment in developing the creativity of your Digital Marketing employees is equally if not more important. There is a correlation between this and leveraging brand competitive advantage online in an increasingly crowded and competive digital content space.

While strong creative’s may naturally and instinctively think creatively that does not mean we all can’t develop our creativity. As a starting point I believe those who do not consider themselves creative just need a mechanism to develop and aid development of their creativity.  Three common mechanisms used regularly today are brainstorming, lateral thinking and distortion.

Brainstorming was invented in 1941 by Alex Osborn. It is good for generating lots of ideas but not for analysis our decision making. In terms of being a mechanism to aid the development of increasingly creative content for Digital Marketing it can therefore be very useful as a technique. However, it is important to remember that the brainstorming ideas will still require analysis and fitting to ensure they align with brand values and business objectives as outlined in the corporate plan.

Lateral thinking involves considering challenges from different perspectives.  In the context of Digital Marketing I would use it more at the strategic level than tactics level in my lecturing work with businesses.  It can be a useful technique for broadening employees perspective to see the bigger corporate, organisational or brand development picture when planning and creating digital content.

Distortion works on the premise that most problems will have dimensions of time, cost or spatial dynamic. By distorting those parameters in a safe environment the thinking is it can be powerful in aiding the development of creative thinking. Clearly any new ideas derived from this process will still require an element of analysis before deployment and compatibility with your brand values. It would also used more at the strategic level in Digital Marketing to inject an element of creativity into digital marketing strategy options appraisal.

However, arguably perhaps the most cost effective way to develop the creativity of your digital team is to allow quiet space in the brand for the development of new content and ideas. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said in their 2004 IPO letter:

“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”  

While not all brands have to become like Google there is recognition that creativity and innovation can often in the quietness of the mind. By creating quiet space for your Digital Marketing team to take time out to develop their creativity real competitive leverage and value can be derived for your brand. It can help your digital content stand out and be more engaging for your target audience in an increasingly crowded online content marketing space.

I want to conclude this piece with the following quote from Zig Ziglar who said: “You don’t build a business you build people. And then people build the business.”