Why do you open one email but bin another? Why do you choose to like a status update on Facebook? Why do you love your favourite app? Why do you keep returning to a certain site or blog?
I believe the answer to all these questions lies in the quality of content on offer.
For me, I’ll value what a source has to offer if it consistently informs, educates, entertains or provides a useful service. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an email, social media offering, app, website, TV show or magazine.
A basic definition of ‘content marketing’ is producing and publishing content that can help you achieve what you want to achieve. If you’re a follower of all things digital, you’ll know that it is a fashionable phrase at the moment.
Yet the recognition of the importance of content is nothing new.
The media mogul Sumner Redstone coined the phrase "content is king" many moons ago. In 1996, Bill Gates said: "Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting." More recently, Google’s Matt Cutts said: "Word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site's reputation with users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content."
What the rapid development in digital media has given everyone – me, you, celebs, brands and charities, to name a few – is the the power to create and distribute content. This content can be given a home on websites, blogs and social media channels. It can be promoted through social media, search, email, public relations and partnerships.
So everyone has the opportunity to produce and distribute content and millions have taken the chance to do just that, but the content that really succeeds is the compelling content.
In the world of traditional media, people won't watch a TV comedy series that isn’t funny. If a magazine is dull, it won’t sell. Content that isn’t compelling has a good chance of failing to reach people. The same goes for digital content. If people don’t react positively to your content, they won’t return to it, share it or link to it. It won’t spread. It is less likely to appear in search rankings.
In the past, editors would decide whether the content you were selling in through PR was compelling enough to be covered. Now you have the ability to go direct to consumers, you increasingly need to take on the editor’s role and decide how you are going to make your content compelling.
So what does great content look like?
It can be entertaining, informative, educational, moving or useful. It can be your story told in a way that demands people go and get involved or make donations. It comes from thinking like an editorial department and really focusing on what works and what doesn't work with your audience, through relevant metrics such as visits, likes, retweets, actions and donations.
And the great news is that there are lots of examples within the charity sector of people delivering brilliant content experiences.
I’ve selected a few of my favourites from the past few years, plus one from the world of politics, but I’d love it if you would consider sharing those you admire or work you’re particularly proud of in the comments below.
ENTERTAINING - When the New York Public Library was facing budget cuts, it called upon some famous movie characters to help raise awareness of its plight.
INFORMATIVE - Amnesty International in New Zealand launched an app that looked at a person’s Facebook profile and posts to see how their actions might incriminate them in other, less free countries.
TELLING A STORY - Romney Tax Plan: a playful way for Mitt Romney’s opponents to mock his tax plan in a way that went viral.
USEFUL - iBreastCheck: as this app from Breakthrough Breast Cancer says, "most cases of breast cancer are found by women noticing unusual changes, taking the initiative and visiting their doctors". The app has information on how to check as well as a video and a reminder service. (Disclosure: I worked on this one at Torchbox.)
FUNDRAISING - Content can play a fundraising role. One recent example I admired was Save The Children’s Build It For Babies campaign. The charity wanted to raise £1m to build and equip seven clinics in rural Bangladesh. One of the ways it did just that was to build a virtual clinic where you could buy things to stock it – for example, a spotlight for £8 or a weighing scale for £14. It really gave people the chance to feel involved.
These are just a few examples of content-led approaches that help organisations achieve what they want to achieve.
To conclude, is ‘content’ a new kid on the block? No! Should ‘content’ and ‘digital content’ play a key role moving forward? Yes!
Everyone has the chance to create compelling content. The question is, are you doing so?