Previously on the Cog Blog, Kate Kenyon wrote about the five pillars companies need to have in place if they want to tell a coherent and consistent story to their customers. Following on from that, I would like to walk you through the evolutionary stages they must go through to become mature enough to tell that story at speed and at scale.
All companies set aside some funding to create and publish content. This budget goes into hiring staff or contractors, purchase software licenses and the provision of services from agencies or technical vendors such as creative work, IT development, sometimes even copy. The resulting team, the tools they use, and the processes they put in place to get things done is what we call a ‘content organisation’. This capability can be very small, when content is not a strategic consideration, or pretty big. But size, or volume of published content, are not necessarily a sign of evolution. Maturity is an aspect that can only be assessed with an inside view of the way a content organisation works: cue the maturity model.
Maturity frameworks and models are anything but new, especially when it comes to IT and digital. They are used to assess people, processes and tools behind a specific area. From human resources to governance, they will provide the common traits and marks for each stage of maturity, and a set of actions that will help the organisation get to the next stage.
Some attempts have been made at creating a similar framework for content production and publishing, but most seem to focus on the quality of copy. While having great content is definitely a goal worth pursuing, ‘quality’ in itself is a poor business metric: most companies invest in their content to get something out of it, so arguing with executives that they need to invest to ‘make great content’ won’t take you far in a board meeting.
What they want to hear about is how content is working to get them where they want to be, and, if it isn’t, what can be done about it.
This is where ‘content effectiveness’ proves to be a much more useful metric, one that can measure to what extent a content organisation can support the wider digital and business goals. When assessed through this filter, content organisations tend to fall into one of these stages:
The ‘project’ stage
Content organisations at the project stage work with short-term goals, and their focus is to get projects over the fence. Meeting deadlines is the priority.
Content strategy, if present, is limited to content creation, and doesn’t influence the content organisation. There is little measurement beyond conversions, and results are rarely meaningful enough to feed back into strategy. Demand for IT, creative or content provision is haphazard and not driven by requirements.
The ‘editorial calendar’ stage
At this stage content organisations have developed a ‘business-as-usual’ process to cope with the recurring content demand. There is still little or no capacity to work on innovation, which is often outsourced.
Content strategy is usually expressed as an editorial calendar. More than one content production line can exist and be active at any one time, but they tend to be siloed. Measurement is based on web analytics, conversions and social listening, but the insight gathered often lacks context and doesn’t paint a complete picture. Again, demand for IT, creative, and content provision tends to be haphazard.
The ‘content roadmap’ stage
Content organisations at this point have reached the level where they can provide for projects while managing change and demand for more complex editorial set-ups, like multi-channel content. Content strategy is usually developed and executed as a cross-department effort, and is informed by business strategy. In this scenario, demand for IT, creative or content provision is planned and driven by requirements.
This is the desired stage for companies where content is not (and will never be) a core business asset. Companies that don’t sell content, and don’t need to make a direct profit from it but, for whom, it is an important marketing asset.
However, for a select group of companies there is a final stage of maturity:
The ‘content-as-a-service’ stage
Fully mature content organisations work on a core product, and are able to create and manage content as a business asset that can be served across both internal and external channels.
Content strategy is either endorsed by the board, or blends in with business strategy in the case of media companies. Measurement is systematic and granular, and there is a framework of KPIs in place that enables the content organisation to quickly adapt if the business suddenly switches focus. Demand for provision is aligned with the internal IT capability, and is driven by requirements.
This is the desired stage for companies where content is a core business asset such as content providers, media and publishing. Think your favorite online magazine, our own client, The Telegraph Newspaper, or the games you play across your gaming console, mobile or desktop.
So, should all companies try to build a ‘content-as-a-service’ or a ‘content roadmap’ type of organisation? The answer is, thankfully, no. Trying to do too much, too soon can actually be detrimental. In order to improve effectiveness, content organisations need to progress from one stage to the next, nurturing organically their ability to cope with the growing complexity of the tasks they are assigned.
If you wonder at which stage your content organisation is, and would like to know more about how to get it to the next level of maturity, get in touch. Our team of consultants will happily walk you through our content maturity assessment, and with the results we can help you identify the gap between your digital strategy and its successful execution.
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