Beat the Odds and Break Through “Content Chaos”

Research commissioned by Speak Media and released at the end of 2019 found that 90% of in-house comms leaders experience “content chaos.” They struggle with content creation and evaluation, often due to a shortage of skills and resources, fragmented business units. Source: https://www.provokemedia.com/latest/article/study-most-comms-directors-are-experiencing-content-chaos

Having worked on both the in-house and agency side, I can’t say I am surprised that in-house comms teams experience such widespread chaos. While the data do not include breakouts by industry, I also would not be surprised if financial services turned out to be at the higher end of the chaos spectrum.

Based on my industry experience, I can confidently speculate that such chaos stems from five major underlying causes.

Internal resources inevitably get sidetracked by internal processes.
Large portions of the workweek can be spent on anything but content strategy and creation. Common scenarios include navigating bureaucracy, attending unnecessary meetings, managing “too many cooks,” or following hide-bound processes of hand-offs that do not add value. With all of that, in-house teams have little time for creating, optimizing, and executing on content strategies that get results.

Organizational divides create unfortunate gaps between internal thought leaders and internal content teams.
Many internal content team members have strong horizontal expertise in marketing or communications. They bring a lot of experience in the process of content strategy and creation to the table. Rarely, however, do they have vertical depth in complex or specialized topics. What results is a broken dialogue between content creators and thought leaders. Content creators struggle to elicit the most impactful points or put them in context within the nuances of a particular segment of the industry. Thought leaders end up feeling misunderstood, or they resist participating because they don’t trust the process when what they truly crave is a partner who can meet them where they are.

Most content agencies only replicate the gap between content creation and thought leadership.
Content agencies help internal teams stretch their capacity with dedicated content resources who can support projects, deliver a regular cadence of content, provide content marketing expertise, and more. It sounds great on paper, but content agencies are typically generalists. They don’t offer resources who can go toe-to-toe with a C-level leader or a top product manager and help those internal experts stand out as thought leaders. They may even create additional complexity and chaos by creating more layers of process and overhead just to help keep their deliverables on brand and on message.

Thought leaders have businesses to run, products to build, clients to win.
As a content professional, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the fact that few people within a business have thought leadership as their day job. Thought leaders have meaningful expertise and points of view to share precisely because they are out there getting results and effecting change. Unless they can participate in thought leadership campaigns with ease and confidence, while not distracting from their broader priorities, they will avoid engaging, and as a result, end up starving an in-house content team of the necessary supply of thinking and input to keep a content strategy running.

Few organizations are designed for optimal efficiency and a regular cadence of content creations.
It is a rare company that truly understands the implications of our current marketing and media climate. We have arrived at a point where everyone is in the ideas industry, and everyone is a publisher. Some companies have tried to respond by allocating resources, by creating or adding on to other business processes, but these “bolt-on” approaches have created an unintentionally rickety machine. I often ask my clients a simple and provocative question: “If you were designing this process from scratch, would what you have today be the end result?” I have yet to hear “yes” as an answer.

Companies struggling with content chaos face a stark choice. They can stick with the 90% of companies who tacitly accept content chaos as the norm, or they can push themselves into that top-10% tier of effective content creators. Perhaps one day, the top tier will even grow to a larger share, if companies become willing to jettison business-as-usual and address the tough questions about content effectiveness.