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“We should really produce more content,” says every business leader and marketing bod up and down the country.

Just. Stop.

No you shouldn’t. The world has plenty of content, thanks. Don’t fart your blatherings into an already cacophonous bog of noise. Not without thinking about it first. I’m not suggesting content is a bad idea, of course (I’m the Head of Content for a content agency, I’d be f*cking nuts to say that. Not to mention I don’t believe it, either). But mindless content without a clear purpose, a clear audience and a clear plan for reporting, is.

Whether you use an agency, a freelancer or produce content in-house, you need to:

Set a goal

Why are you producing content? Brand awareness? Leads? To close sales? You don’t have to pick just one, of course, but you do need to ascertain what’s most important to you and set the metrics accordingly. A caveat here, your goals have to be realistic. You may want to triple turnover in the next twelve months, but judging content based on your bottom line is an unfair expectation.

Still, without a clear success metric, you can’t judge the efficacy of your spend. And a content goal will drive the content strategy: a strategy to drive leads looks very different to a brand awareness push, after all.

If you work with an agency that doesn’t know or doesn’t ask what success looks like for you, you’re with the wrong one.

Know thy audience

You should know who you sell to, and if your answer is ‘everyone’, you don’t. We’ve conducted numerous customer persona research projects which get under the skin of our clients’ customers and potential clients. Surveys can reveal quantifiable data like demographics, but the real value is in talking to them.

Finding out about the structure of their days, their digital usage, their favourite types of content, their stresses, their joys and their life, allows us to build up a real-world character. A human to sell to. Without knowing the ‘Who?’ you’re just closing your eyes and praying.

Report properly

Agencies are very good at producing reports which show how busy they’ve been, without truly reporting on the things that matter – the aforementioned goals. Analytics reports are all very well, but you should receive insight, not stats.

Sessions to the site are up. Great. But, actually…so what? Who are they and what are they doing? Has this had an impact on bounce rate or time on site? Have they moved from the landing page to a case study? Have they signed up to a newsletter? That video you’ve pushed out on Facebook has been viewed 10,000 times. Fine. But official viewability standards define a view as 50% of your video having loaded for more than a second. Is that a reason for celebration?

Again, always nice to see a big green number on a report, but what were the results? Has this activity had a tangible impact on the overall goals? If not, you should be proactively looking for other methods. To dumb it down completely, find something that works and do more of it.

People publish over 2.5 million blog posts a day on WordPress alone; it’s not enough to ‘just do content’ any more. You need the ‘Why?’ the ‘Who?’ and the ‘What now?’.

Featured image:

By ablight  CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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I’m the Head of Content for Future Content and the man in charge of words. As a former journalist for a number of publications, from Chat to MailOnline to that’s Shanghai, I have a wealth of editorial experience and a way of making words do good.