Charged content p. 1: Why brands fail at content marketing

Content gives business a voice. Why it’s so darn hard to say something thoughtful? It’s because execs care about the output without tackling the problems hidden in the creative process. Learn what the marketing department should deal with to unlock a new level of quality.


💬 You’ve heard a hundred times that content must excel to convert. But there’s too much talk and not enough action.

People remain confused about what causes the mess in content production. Problems include inadequate copy quality, boring communication, unpersuasive messaging, and chaotic process management.

Your team must crush them to compete with richer media from dominant brands.

From the “Charged content” series, you’ll learn how to overcome the unspoken challenges of content production that I’ve recognized in over 6 years of creative work.

Know I won’t waste your time as many Marketers do – I’m already late myself!

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Know yourself to outsmart yourself

Here’s a cautionary story from my creative friends that keeps circling back to me. Business people expect a smooth stream of beaming content regardless of the situation.

Maybe you know a Marketer who bears with finger-snap deadlines with overtime work piling up.

There’s talk but no brief, a murky vision, endless reviews, and late adjustments that undermine logic.

The weight’s there. Yet nobody cares enough about how the content team is doing, even if they know best what clicks.

Most managers I’ve met expect a “just do it” attitude in content production.

They want to ship out an unpolished product to please the management with a mirage of progress. Done? Done.

And quality? Nope, we’re done, and that means we’re ahead.

It’s bothersome because it’s wrong.

Brands that want to be cool in a hurry hurt themselves. This is because a flashy imitation of outstanding content doesn’t beat the real deal that takes effort.

When marketing departments review their work, they reveal the inconvenient truth about that rushed project:

  • The CEO expected something different
  • Another email marketing campaign resulted in inadequate conversions
  • The press release didn’t sell
  • Sales content got delayed again because there were 3 ad-hocs
  • The home page copy took 6 months, but no one knows why

Such screw-ups happen for a reason, you see.

As in-house employees don’t point fingers to avoid judgment, problem-makers remain unaccountable. No change is possible here.

How do you deal with it? Embrace your inner detective.

Investigate the problems your team faces to find out who needs a hand.

Where we collide

In your organization, it might seem there are many stakeholders in the production process.

I say that any content process evaluation starts with the creator-reviewer duo assigned to a project.

These two actors move across the Monopoly board of content development, which includes:

  1. Brainstorming
    When you ask the brain to drop an explosive idea
  2. Framing
    You spin it into an original your competitors don’t run now
  3. Theorizing
    As you come up with any persuasive opinion on the matter
  4. Argumentation
    When you fuel theory with solid arguments
  5. Outline
    Planning the work’s content as not to get lost
  6. Raw writing
    Here, you pray something good comes at once
  7. First draft
    Pack it up, pack it in
  8. First review
    Behold your Editor’s judgment
  9. Second draft
    Every content needs a rewrite
  10. Final draft
    Turning it into a literary work
  11. Second review
    The bosses want to add something
  12. Approval
    So there are many reviewers? Oh
  13. Scheduling
    Aiming for prime-time readership
  14. Publishing
    Cross-channel content sales
  15. Analytics
    Pick the best conversion channels and do it again
  16. Project review
    When you look for performance enhancements

At any stage, you can identify where people of both sides part ways.

If your latest email marketing campaign brought no conversions, speak with the creator and reviewer among the Copywriter, Designer, Email Marketer, and the Marketing Manager in the project.

Faced with a dull press release of no substance for the media, you might go to either the writer, PR Manager, or the CEO. One of them didn’t provide newsworthy facts.

How the content team works depends on at least two people — the creator and the reviewer. For content to perform better, both sidesneed to be responsible.

From what I’ve heard over the years about content on all business levels, here is why people don’t click:

In-house content producer’s problems

(The creators: writers; social media folks; PR pros; designers; growth hackers)

  • Don’t know what to write, but they don’t reach out for inspiration
  • Don’t know if their writing will work as they don’t understand rhetorics
  • Get excluded from project conversations, so they miss important facts
  • Have a packed pipeline with no air for self-development
  • Can’t stand having many reviewers who don’t have their know-how
  • Feel like their work is lifeless

Content manager’s problems

(The reviewers: Marketing Managers or Directors; company experts; VPs; CEOs)

  • Have no time to revise all content when they’re expected to
  • Review content after their Editor in their worry, but they add no value
  • Don’t seem to get the content they bargained for
  • Are disappointed that their marketing campaigns always seem to need last-minute adjustments
  • Are frustrated to see work they don’t like
  • Misunderstand what engages their audiences, so they mess up projects

[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”vyu0ky7i32″ question=”Have you faced any of these problems?” opened=”0″]If you recognize some of these pain-points as yours, no wonder.[/wpdiscuz-feedback]

It’s natural for the marketing department to encounter them at a point. That’s why creative agencies remain year-long partners of many businesses, as their professionals know how to unblock content production.

Editor’s note

Recognize if you need a content audit

There are several telltale signs of an inefficient content production process. Let them slip by, and soon enough your content marketing crashes. Then, engagement goes down, tasks take twice longer to complete, and projects get dropped because of work overload.

Keep your eyes peeled for these:

→ Content revision takes over a month because there are constant changes

Points to an issue with briefing, revisions, task management.

→ SEO content for the blog is not published often

Points to an issue with team management,  prioritizing work.

→ The Manager can’t explain the strategy step-by-step

→ People push vague arguments for content feedback in the line of “I don’t like it” or “Change it”

Points to an issue with communication clarity, revisions, team morale.

→ The Content Manager is rarely available because he or she seems to in a permanent work rush

Points to an issue with task management, work efficiency, deadlines.

→ There’s no editor available to do a quality check for outgoing content

Points to an issue with marketing knowledge, team management.

To transform the workflow for the entire department, supervisors will need to bring in their authority to do the heavy lifting.

As you need to challenge people to think differently, you’ll run into unbending objections that we should review now.

Why content stalls

“Nobody has time to develop the content team.”

You wouldn’t leave sales without coaching. How will they reach higher quotas?

The same principle applies to the content team.

Conversion stats mark their effectiveness, and the CEO will ask for them one day. If you want to bump up your shares, media publications, or viewership, you got to know how.

You won’t if everybody’s dead-busy still doing chores 5 minutes before leaving the office.

The marketing leader should provide a free-time slot weekly with educational direction for his team.

To believe that people will self-develop after work is daydreaming, as their motivation is weaker if they’re not obligated to.

“Dang. We have so much to do.”

Elon-mode will burn the team’s morale.

If never-ending work grips the content team, it won’t grow. As a recovering pedant, I swear that work never seems to end unless you cut it down on purpose.

Content won’t get any better if there’s no time for evaluation, feedback, and metric analysis.

If you strive for improvement, it will come at a cost — the department will have to cap requests in a bet for a better future.

“My team seems to have whatever they need.”

Are you sure you’re not mind reading? What’s tricky is that people don’t open up to their supervisors unless an anonymous line is available.

They fear repercussions, as nobody wants to end up as a scapegoat who dared to speak up.

Once at a department meeting, I announced to my Marketing Director we should do voluntary workload reviews to find extra production time.

They didn’t throw me out the window, but we didn’t speak much afterward as he felt I undermined his authority. Really.

That’s bad.

There must be a feedback chain from specialists up to the exec.
Don’t assume you know what’s going on if you can ask. You can feel your folks sunbathe at work, but they te under pressure as ad-hocs pop in from all fronts.
Ask yourself who will explain failing conversions in that scenario.

“I don’t want managers to realize my department has problems.”

People respect the ones who admit weakness.

You don’t have to worry as long as the ship is sailing. Call it an improvement and know that any solution always starts with a problem.

Should your department run an assessment survey next week, you might see that your colleagues face many overlooked problems that nobody wanted to own. They don’t go away because you look away.

Self-awareness leads to right action

That’s a mantra I impose on my family and friends. They say they’d rather hear “it’s gonna be OK”.

Sure, it can be, if we roll up our sleeves to carry on.

I invite you to reconsider the inner works of your marketing department, considering the problems discussed above. Here’s one way:

  1. Start recording your content work problems
  2. Mark the source — is it your fault or somebody else’s?
  3. If you can avoid the problem, then do so
  4. If not, define what you need to get through
  5. Consider what other people are most likely to do
  6. Make a plan defining what’s wrong, who’s involved, and what can be done
  7. Before approaching a manager, talk it out with the colleague involved

Improvement will flow in only if we clear out the production problems I’ve mentioned. 

Key points

  • Content production won’t get easier unless people admit that it’s tough
  • Problems within the 16 production stages block quality work your audience demands
  • Every content project has a creator and a reviewer between whom trouble hides
  • Both creators and reviewers face 6 basic challenges that hurt their work
  • To change the content production process, people involved need to face their excuses

Next up

In part 2, you’ll receive 18 actionable solutions that can bring exceptional improvement to content production.

💬 Mike here. I’m a Copywriter and communication consultant who helps businesses talk with sense. Thanks for reading. Does this make sense? Think I’ve missed a point and want to discuss it? Start with “Hey, you…” below.



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