Content Strategy: Avoid Format Blunders

(If you like this blog, please share it. Thanks!)

Are you deploying multimedia content strategically – or are you doing it because “that’s what everyone is doing?” Do you have an effective content strategy?

Sure, we’ve seen lots of statistics touting the dominance of video – that video will account for a staggering 80% of Internet traffic by 2019. Yes, we know that infographics are the fastest-growing content category in the B2B space, currently used by 62% of marketers, up from 51% a year ago.

Does this mean that you need to produce a video and infographic for every client campaign? Hardly. You shouldn’t succumb to a “checklist” mentality here, according to a thought piece from Michele Linn, vice president of content at the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). It’s better to choose the format or formats which most effectively convey the intended message to the target audience.

To drive toward that end, consider the following guidelines on selecting formats:

Video/webinars. Video works best when you’re attempting to express emotion, which is difficult to pull off in text-focused marketing pieces because – let’s face it – we don’t read marketing materials to get all choked up. The history of television tells us that short, emotion-inspiring “stories” on video can significantly enhance brand connectivity with audiences, from the classic “Mean Joe Greene” Coke ad to Eminem’s “This is what we do” Chrysler spot.

Yet, if you’re promoting, say, a tech trend report or a findings-loaded industry survey, video is simply not going to work. Nor will the ubiquitous webinar. Journalists are constantly pitched videos or webinars, for example, in which report details/survey results will be discussed. This is highly ineffective. Why ask journalists to watch a video or listen to a webinar – and take notes throughout the presentation – when you can email them a complete PDF report/survey findings that they’ll process much more quickly (and more accurately, since they won’t have to take notes)?

“Every time we ask our CMI community if they like video,” Linn writes in her piece, “the majority respond that they prefer to read. It’s faster and it does not require as much of their attention (i.e., with video you need to listen and watch) For example, does your ‘talking-head’ video offer viewers something they could not get from reading a Q&A article with the person? Ask yourself: Is there anything that would be lost if the viewer did not have the visual and sound?”

Infographics. I’ve stated my less-than enthusiastic sentiments about infographics in this space before. Yes, I remain utterly convinced that infographics are the modern, marketing equivalent of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.” Still, they have their place in a society that’s increasingly dominated by “visual learners,” i.e. people who are adverse to reading.

However, I’ll admit that (good) infographics neatly summarize a messaging theme with compelling visual flourishes. When campaigns are presented solely in the form of text-based talking points and data bullets, they often fail to “plant an image” inside the audience members’ heads to help them frame the concepts. Infographics fulfill this need – with much more immediacy than video.

That said, infographics are far from a ‘be all/end all.’ If a client has invested time and effort on thought leadership research and development and/or an elaborate survey, you’ll shortchange the resulting value by limiting the presentation to an infographic. The vast majority of infographics don’t depict a “complete picture” of a message, concept or research findings. Nor should they, lest they “flood the zone” of your computer screen with a crowded mishmash of confusing visuals and text. Besides, design people – not information people – primarily drive this format. They’re more interested in captivating images rather than conveying key messaging points in a clear manner. To best serve your client, you must make available content in an information-centric format. And that brings us to …

… Text. Reports of this format’s demise, to paraphrase Mark Twain, have been exaggerated, as it’s lasted through the ages for good reason. Even in the Digital Age, for virtually any campaign – especially within the B2B space in which our high-tech PR firm specializes – a text component proves essential. Because once you’ve “hooked” target audiences with your video, webinar or infographic, you will improve your chances of “reeling them in” with substantive text summaries (whether industry press bylines, blogs, survey reports or white papers) that address any and all of the ensuing, finer details.

At our agency, we invest a great deal of intellectual “sweat equity” into developing effective content marketing strategies and translating key client messaging points into the appropriate content formats. If this describes the kind of full-service PR/communications team you’d like to work with, then please contact us.

Dennis McCafferty is Director of Content for W2 Communications.

content strategy