Curing the content headache

More than nine out of ten companies have produced more content this year than in the previous 12 months while 88 per cent plan to produce even more next year, according to new analysis by SAS, part of MSLGROUP.

The Curing the content headache analysis found that 29 per cent of companies plan to increase the percentage of their marketing and communications budgets that will be invested in creating and distributing digital content this year, while 44 per cent already have more budget than they did last year. Not one company is planning to reduce the budget for digital content.

MSLGROUP surveyed 100 top tier communications professionals from global organisations in April, with tapestry research in association with CorpComms Magazine and the Branded Content Marketing Association.

This analysis revealed that, while the majority of companies plan to produce more content than ever before, most are ill-prepared to do so. Just one in four companies have conducted a content audit, while only one in five have a content repository. ‘This shows a dramatic imbalance between the ambitions and the implementation,’ says Stanislas Magniant, head of digital and social EMEA at MSLGROUP.

Fewer than one in five companies have enough employees dedicated to creating and distributing digital content, while just 28 per cent claim they have the right skill set internally to do so. And just one in four companies believe they have the right skill set to measure the impact of digital content.

The analysis also found that only 21 per cent of companies have the appropriate internal structures to ensure that they utilise all the content that they produce, while only 17 per cent say content is easily retrievable.

As one respondent said: ‘The scale of the organisation means that content probably exists within various business units which would make good corporate content, but we have no way of knowing that it exists.’ Another added: ‘It exists in pockets around the company and isn’t shared proactively unless you ask for a specific needle in the proverbial haystack.’

Some respondents claimed that ‘an internal culture’ to encourage content sharing did not exist within their businesses. ‘There’s a huge amount of knowledge and expertise on the company, but trying to get team members to provide information in a timely and non-complex manner constantly proves almost impossible,’ said one respondent. ‘Those in more functional departments are not interested in providing information for digital and social media, despite senior management showing interest in this.’ Two thirds of the communicators surveyed (65 per cent) said that they had more interest from senior managers in their company’s digital strategy as compared to a year earlier.

Many respondents said that it was hard to define good content and that it was a challenge to get colleagues to think about digital content first. ‘It’s actually more about getting the content in to the right shape first and then harvesting,’ said one.

But companies also concede that there are ‘growing pains’ associated with the rise of digital content. Just over half (51 per cent) have more expertise internally in creating and distributing digital content compared to a year earlier, while 38 per cent have more staff dedicated to this.

‘When we asked the companies how they dealt with the internal challenges of content harvesting and management, different levels of maturity appeared, with some companies ahead of others,’ says Magniant. ‘Most of the feedback we received could be clustered in three buckets.’ The research found that companies were either siloed, where content probably exists but there is no way of finding or identifying it; centralised, where everything is seen and signed off by the corporate communications department; or integrated, where the communications, marketing and digital teams work together to ensure that content is used across all channels.

The bucket into which each company falls is determined by three factors – people, where there is a culture of sharing and collaboration; governance, where there are clear processes and responsibilities for content management; and technology, having the requisite sharing tools in place.

The respondents agreed that they face three major challenges as they seek to create a clear content strategy – people, processes and budget. They need people with the right skills. They need better processes and governance in place to make the most of the content available. And they need to obtain sufficient budget.

But Magniant believes that companies are failing to take into account the external environment. While 94 per cent of respondents believe good content is an effective way to engage their audiences, and 71 per cent view it as a new way to reach them, they are paying scant attention to changes in search engine models.

He claims that algorithm changes by Google are ‘raising the bar’ for high quality content. Its Panda tool, that trawls search engine results, penalises websites with low quality content, while its Penguin tool penalises those that have low quality links.

Similarly, Facebook is ‘progressively turning off the tap to preserve the experience for its members, who would otherwise have to sift through 1,500 pieces of new content every day on average’, which means that brands will increasingly find it necessary to pay to gain exposure for their content.

‘Content will become a ‘pay for play’ game’, says Magniant. The survey found that 19 per cent of respondents have more budget than last year for ‘paid for’ media and 44 per cent have the same budget, which will give them visibility. But eight per cent of respondents have less money for ‘paid for’ media while 29 per cent have no budget, which will mean their content will achieve ‘oblivion’.

The result, according to Magniant, is that companies producing content will need to consider quality over quantity if they wish to achieve breakthrough. But, more importantly perhaps, they will also have to recognise that ‘paid media’ now needs to work hand in hand with ‘earned media’.