Content Marketing: Creating vs. Engineering Content — Part 1

The Ecosystem Has Changed … Duh
Almost every digital (and nondigital) marketer in the world is now faced with the task of creating content. Google has made it impossible to appear in the search rankings if you aren’t producing fresh content. Facebook and Twitter are built on the concept of content, and engagement on those platforms is predicated on the ability to create, curate and share quality content. If your business is going to be successful, it must start to succeed in publishing content to satiate the appetite of your audience, amplify your earned media and make your paid media more efficient.

You are now faced with a difficult decision: Are you going to merely create content, or are you going to engineer it?

What Is the Difference?
Instead of a guy locked in a room with a whiteboard late at throwing ideas out onto sticky notes, picture a live sound engineer at a control board, constantly monitoring the sound coming in and the sound going out. He’s moving dials up and down to change the sound waves, watching the audience’s reaction to the changes and making more small refinements. There are inputs, there are outputs, but more importantly there are mechanisms, measures, people and processes that control the flow.

Brands do a great job of distilling data, finding their target consumers and determining when to deliver them a message. They pour tons of money every year into crafting a uniform message to deliver to the right person at the right time in the right way. But does that information tell you about all the conversations potential consumers like to have, the types of content they are looking for, where it is appropriate to engage with them or how any of this is going to translate into fulfilling a business goal?

That was a rhetorical question.

So How Do I Do That?
You can go ahead and begin brainstorming and forming a few personas you’d like to reach, brainstorming until your brain becomes soup. To be truly successful with your content marketing program, you first have to ask yourself several big whys and a couple of whats to enable you to engineer  content instead of just making it. You can lead with your gut and assumptions, or you can lead with your left brain and some insights. Success is inherently built into the latter option.

The real difference between content that is created and content that is engineered is that the engineered variety is fueled by insights and analysis, optimized for organic, endemic and paid distribution, and designed in every way to feed the appetites of your content’s audience. Also, engineered content benefits from living on owned platforms that are designed to achieve that very goal: satiating the audience’s needs. There is still brainstorming in content engineering. There are still sticky notes and whiteboards involved. But there are also tools, analytics and measures involved in every step of the process.

Over the next few blog posts, I will demonstrate how to engineer content for your audience in each phase of the content marketing process, including planning, editorial development, distribution and optimization.

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Catherine Salzman
Catherine Salzman

Catherine is Empower’s first Data Journalist, converting data into stories and linking consumer insights through execution. She also has significant Latino research experience, having been published in several peer-reviewed journals. Catherine lives in Bellevue, Kentucky with her husband and daughter.