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Content – What is it & Why you need it

Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Grant Whiteside

So much has been said about the need for content in the past year as SEO practices of old have felled more high profile brands, and doubtlessly others we do not know about. In this hype it is often hard to remember that content (and, by extension, content marketing) is not new; we have always needed to engage our audiences and ourselves.

Let’s go back a bit. We all know that cheap content farms and directories owned by huge ‘media’ specialists rented links out to generate good search engine visibility and this sordid short sighted tactic is now pretty much dead in the water. Algorithm changes by Google made sure that the secret to gaining great visibility was more closely related to why and how people engaged with a brands unique content.

Why do we need content?

If you think content is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ affair there’s a good chance that you are not looking at it in quite the right way.  Here is a handy reminder (or a starter) of why you need content and what sort of content is needed to reach specific audience personas. It won’t tell you what to create – that’s as individual to your brand as it can be – but it will give you the basics of what it means to produce content in today’s world.

Throughout the next few weeks we will be running a miniseries on the power of content and how you can leverage it, so remember to check back soon for more. In the mean time, here’s a few examples to whet your appetite:


We need to be aware of what content a brand has to offer. Look upon your audience as a spectrum of opportunities with a range of personality types that would all benefit from having a conversation with you.

At one end of the spectrum we have Rational Content, at the other we have Emotional Content. Educational content appeals to the rational toward decision making, whilst entertaining content plays toward the emotional elements of decision making. Both are important elements of the stimulus that drives us to make decisions toward conversions or purchases; some of your audience doesn’t know what the solution is, others need convincing that a specific brand will provide the solution for them.

Educational content can be presented well on a variety of platforms, but some of the most targeted content sits on blogs, press releases, trend reports, e books, white papers, product videos, guides, and webinars.

Entertaining content can be considered as irrational advertising and can be covered by brand advertising, sponsorships, events, conferences, games, viral distribution and competitions. Both Educational content and Entertaining content can be an effective way of creating awareness of a service or product that a brand can supply, however understanding when to use each approach is a common oversight that is missed by a lack of ability to use the analytical research tools that are available to advertisers.

Starbucks Buzzfeed


As we move closer toward persuading a user to conversion or a purchase, the rational of educational content moves toward content that reaches the ‘thinkers’ of this world, rather than the knower (they have already made their choice); this includes content that demonstrates facts – pricing, T&Cs, calculators, interactive videos, FAQs, product pages and testimonials. Some of your audience distrust almost everything to do with unproven brand advocacy; especially celebrity endorsements, this audience need to make up their own decisions with cold hard facts.


Content that converts brand aware browsers to purchasers can be targeted by using more superficial positioning techniques such as celebrity endorsements and brand advocates. Closer to the final purchase; customer reviews, ‘About Us’ pages and delivery options are important content pages to have. This is where persuasion to purchase should also look toward A/B testing and CRO techniques to ensure the barriers to final conversions are worked out with an analytical rational, rather than the boss having the final say on what goes live.


Worthy of note is the devices people use and times of day when people engage with content. Don’t expect that entirely unreadable whitepaper to be read on your prospective clients’ mobile phones. As you get to know who your audience is and why they may benefit from engaging with your content, have a think about what your trying to say, who you are trying to say it to and in what format, then have a long think about what defines itself as a success factor before you start producing your content and measuring it.


So what do we take from this? Well, first is that Content and Content Marketing are essential to digital success. It takes a lot of thought and research, but ultimately it should be driven by your audience and the mind frame they are likely to be in when they consume it. You can – and should – use analytical tools to measure effectiveness (and use that to inform future content); but at the same time these cold hard numbers will not tug at the heartstrings, so you need people with the flair and the skills to really bring your content to life.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be going into detail about these areas and really what your content should be doing – follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to make sure you don’t miss any of it!

Grant Whiteside
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