Content without strategy is just stuff

My quote has traveled the web since 2012. That it’s remained relevant for marketers all this time speaks to the ever-evolving and increasingly complicated world of content.

“Without strategy, content is just stuff, and the world has enough stuff.”

I’ve done a lot in my life. I’ve written books. I’ve spoken at conferences. I’ve been on TV! But this thing, uttered at a conference almost a decade ago, gets reposted at least once a day, if not more.

Like this:

And this:

And even this:

Non-stop. It says something about the content industry and its evolution that The Quote (which is what I’ve taken to calling it on Twitter) still resonates with so many marketers. And, I predict, it will resonate more and more.

When I started work in this field, content meant “print” (we didn’t even use the word “content” – that would come later). My first job in the industry was as a copy editor for an in-flight magazine. And then digital happened and everything became….stuff. And a wave of this stuff threatened to drown out almost everything.

We are awash in badly thought out content, foisted on the world just because. George Mallory, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, replied (famously) “because it’s there.” This is the attitude (or must be) of some content folk when they are asked why they created their work. Or something. I call bad content “stuff.”

By the same author: Transparency in the Age of Social Media.

Technological change has brought with it many things but from a content marketing point of view, change has brought with it a need for strategy. The word implies something far more complex than an editorial vision. It implies context. It implies thinking about the audience. How to reach them. When to reach them. How best to reach them. It implies an ecosystem. An interdependent content network of channels leveraging other forms of content to push a coherent and ultimately unified message. We live in a world where strategy needs to come before content. Where some hard questions need to be asked before we start to think about tone or form. Hard questions like…”why?”

The content we push on behalf of our clients has to work. It must. It has to push through the stuff. It has to shine. That’s what we get paid for, right?

Because content for contents’ sake is just….stuff.

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