Marketing Professionals Constrained by Content Strategy and Operations [Research]

Don’t be distracted by the hyperbole associated with this important Accenture report on the state of content. “Marketers are drowning” in a “tidal wave of content,” are phrases from the press release and early articles that have picked this up. This is intended to create resonance and attract attention. As it should.

Volume of content is a symptom. It’s not the problem. A related symptom is the insipid debate “quality vs. quantity” of content. This indicates marketers haven’t clearly identified the core causes of their many content related problems. This report should help. It’s also an important resource to share with your executive management, including your CEO.

Donna Tuths, global managing director, content services at Accenture Interactive, is the author of the report.

“The problems marketers are pointing out are symptoms of a broader issue. There is a finite amount of content you can create and manage using current approaches.”

Report Conclusions And Recommendations

Content needs to be treated at the enterprise level.

“Organizations need to recognize content as a strategic enterprise issue that does not belong purely to marketing, IT, or any other stakeholder. Now is the time to step back and look at your content needs on a holistic basis.”

“Individual teams (functions) look to own the message, frequency and distribution of digital content, which can lead to silos within the organization and contribute to inefficient processes. Brands will be smart to develop a more streamlined plan for creating marketing content given its necessity for survival.”

Companies need a business level content strategy.  

“With no singular fix to mastering content, companies need to reflect on content strategy and processes to ensure the right results.”

“But who is responsible for setting the agenda? Respondents recognize the need for direction from the top down – 90 percent feel C-level executives are responsible for content strategy, with a surprising 35 percent citing the CEO.”

“(Companies) must develop and communicate a digital content strategy from the top down and enable an effective governance and operating model.”

Content operations must be centralized AND distributed.

“The barriers to mastering digital content extend beyond the marketing department.

Given how necessary content is to a company’s survival, creating and managing this resource should be a task embedded more broadly within the organization.

Companies that win will be those that embrace the fact that managing content is an enterprise issue. While only 5 percent of organizations are completely centralized today (beyond just an integration of marketing and IT), 81 percent are operating under some form of a partially centralized system. Companies expect this evolution to continue – 35 percent of them anticipate that their organization will be completely centralized in two years.”

Separate marketing and content operations.

“With a clear vision and culture of collaboration, these organizations that are centralized are able to spend almost 3 times the amount of their time on branding and marketing activities.”

Let’s look at the reasons for these recommendations, and why they make sense.

Content Strategy Challenges

“Content is arguably a marketer’s most vital natural resource: it fuels and sustains the marketing activities that connect businesses with customers and drive marketing and selling outcomes. Content is to business what water is to life: an essential element for health and growth.”

“Many companies haven’t yet developed effective strategies, or invested in the right resources to harness the true power of content.”

The report cites “58 percent of organizations report that they have a content strategy that meets current and future needs.”

That suggests the majority of organizations believe they are in good shape. And yet the article is all about the problems companies are struggling with. To us this means that strategies might exist, but they are failing on many levels.

It also highlights the confusion associated with discussing content strategy. There is no clear definition, certainly no universal standard — the marketing equivalent to accounting’s GAAP — by which to know. Indeed, having “a strategy,” and having an effective strategy, are two very different things.

Of course, what matters is the state of content, strategy and operations in your organization. This confusion is important to keep in mind as you engage people across your organization. From the CEO down to tactical marketers, people will have different thinking about content strategy. And can we please involve other customer engaging content constituents in sales, the sales channel, customer service, and HR in this conversation?

Content Operations Challenges

There is a “universal need for real-time, rapidly available content.”

Marketers are creating their own content.

Fifty-three percent of our respondents say that they still produce most of their content locally today. However, 83 percent (of respondents) believe that 2 years from now they willproduce more content globally, and 74 percent of organizations expect to increase theuse of decoupling and outsourcing approaches for critical content management and production approaches.”

The operational side of content management is eating up a big chunk of marketing professionals’ time and attention on core marketing and branding.

“50 percent of our respondents say they have more digital content than they can effectively manage, with 54 percent saying they spend more time on operational details of managing content.”

But what experience and methodologies do marketers bring to managing a professional content operation? Haven’t significant content projects traditionally been outsourced? Why would you expect the traditional content process for creating collateral, articles and presentations to scale to full-fledged content operations?

And if management of local operations is a challenge, what happens as this moves global, and as “decoupling and outsourcing” expands?

The report recommends: “As content volume grows every day, it is increasingly important for marketers to determine what the “right” amount is for their business.”

Which raises many questions such as:

  • Where in the organization should you locate decisions to decide about what content to invest in, how and where to create them?
  • How will you manage such a large and disparate production operation?
  • How will you optimize investments in long-life, re-usable content assets?
  • How will you govern standards and practices to insure quality, true asset development, re-use and operational efficiency?

This is why Accenture suggests,

“Companies must fine tune their content approach by identifying and evaluating any challenges with organizational structures, production and management processes, and content effectiveness.”

To do this, the report says, marketers recognize the need to “rethink content strategy,” and to “streamline day-to-day operations, but they are challenged with how to do it effectively.”

Execution is a critical part of strategy. If you can’t execute your strategy, you need a different strategy. Today, most companies have weak or missing business level content strategy. As dangerous, few are “identifying and evaluating” operational challenges. When you do, you will discover.

The traditional, project-oriented, creative craftsman approach to content production is outdated. It will not meet the many new content requirements of empowered buyers, and their digital channel and format preferences.

The traditional approach can’t efficiently support the content requirements of ALL customer engaging functions across the enterprise. It cannot scale without compromise.

Clearly, Accenture are targeting global, mega corporations. But the state of content in smaller companies exhibit the same challenges. And the same causes. In our view, the primary recommendations apply. For example, many companies experience the challenge of creating and deploying content for global use when revenues reach $50 million or less.

The strategic imperative of content applies to all who live and sell in this digital era.