Creating good content is harder than it looks


Lately I've been reading the excellent and surprisingly entertaining book, Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach. What this book drives home is that we all know we should be creating good content, but it's a lot harder than it looks.

As someone who's responsible for creating a fair bit of content every week, it's something I understand all too well, but when you get outside the realm of professional writing and inside the enterprise, you run up against many more obstacles than you would ever find on a professional publication.

That's because most people think producing content is a snap. How hard could it be to write a blog post, produce a funny video or publish an eBook? Guess what, it's hard. How hard? If you've ever tried to start a company blog, thinking everyone would contribute, you know just how difficult it is to get people involved on a regular basis.

In theory, many people line up to participate, but in practice, they have many more responsibilities outside of writing. Fitting in writing, and making it something worth reading takes practice, dedication and commitment that most folks seem unwilling to make.

You can try hiring a professional writer to seed the blog. That has worked (and I've been hired to do that), but I've found business blogs tend to work better with more than one voice--and there is often expertise in house over and above what the pro can contribute.

What happens at many companies, especially without the help of a pro, is that you end up with a lot of inertia.

The other difficult thing for people to understand is that a blog is not a marketing channel, at least in a pure sense. As I've put it, if you sell couches and you write blog posts about your latest models, people are going to yawn. But if you write a post about how to clean upholstery and it applies to your couches and everyone else's suddenly you're producing quality couch content.

But politics come into play of course, something the book points out. Legal wants their say and you know marketing, which usually owns the blog, wants theirs too. There are usually some people who get that the blog is different from a brochure, but not everyone does. They want to use it to advertise next week's webinar or to talk about the company's latest marketing PowerPoint.

The book goes into all of this and the authors clearly understand that creating good content is a huge challenge for companies. Making it a priority is even harder, and if you are put in charge of content strategy, reading this book should be job one for you--along with having thick skin because for some reason, while we all recognize the need for good content, if you're not a content creator, people don't seem to take it terribly seriously.

I've often said, if there were a magic formula for attracting traffic, I would bottle it and sell it. You have to have some combination of great content, serendipity and large dose of luck. Why does some content go viral and other equally good content languish unread? 

I wish I knew, but one thing I do know is: Regardless of how many eyeballs you attract, that good content doesn't just happen. It takes work. - Ron