Don’t fall victim to the next content fad

Originally posted July 2012

Wherever you turn these days, video is being touted as the answer to every communication need. Before that, Facebook was offered as the one-stop-solution, which in turn replaced the CEO blog as the be-all and end-all. Fads come and go; the key is not getting caught up in the hype.

There will always be the next trend. Instead of jumping in with both feet ask yourself how this latest fad can improve your communication.

There will always be the next trend. Instead of jumping in with both feet ask yourself how this latest fad can improve your communication.

I’m not denying it, it is easy to be swept up in the excitement of a new content format, for both personal and professional reasons.

For the individual, new technology presents a welcome break from “tired” formats. It’s a great way of injecting enthusiasm into what can become a repetitive process of delivering content day in and day out.

At the same time, the challenge of learning new skills and the satisfaction of achieving steadily improved results is reason enough to get on board.

Then there are other individuals’ agendas.

Remember when Flash first hit our screens? If your corporate site didn’t include a suitably slick animation sequence, it was considered too old-school to be engaging. When they faded from favour, carousels quickly stepped up to fill the void.

Clearly, web teams (and art departments, and audio/visual teams, and marketing gurus, and …) are just as susceptible to fads as we are. Faced with an excited and enthusiastic colleague keen to sell the newest way to deliver messages, it’s easy to be infected with the thrill of the new opportunity and the chance to tweak content to suit.

From the professional perspective, there is the fear of being left behind; not only for the comms disciplines (I include platform development, marketing, media liaison and PR in this definition) but the rest of the company.

It’s not unusual for senior managers to insist on more video, for example, if they have heard the format constantly praised by influencers. Sales teams can feel undermined if their communication support fails to “live up” to that delivered by competitors, and customer support needs all the help it can get to deliver timely information to consumers of all ages.

And, of course, the ever-present budget has an impact as well. As technology becomes easier and cheaper to use it’s natural to bring more production in-house. Once that happens, the reasons already discussed become perfectly legitimised – we’re saving money after all!

Whether personal or professional pressure is at play, it’s still the communicator’s job to step back and work out how this new opportunity fits in to the company’s overall strategy.

That doesn’t mean churning out a strategy for using the new content type, but really questioning how this can improve what is currently being delivered.

As always, why is far more important than how.

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