To run efficiently, a car engine needs up to 10,000 gallons of clean air for every gallon of fuel it consumes. The vehicle’s air filter, therefore, performs a critical task, removing contaminants before they dance with the oil and argue with the engine. If you neglect it, the filter will become congested with dust and pollens, causing a sort of auto-constipation. The engine’s performance will diminish and fuel consumption will increase. Ultimately, the engine will wave a white flag and you’ll find yourself phoning the recovery service, or a taxi.
Communicators have always spent more time and energy creating content than distributing it. Distribution is often left to the office junior. This imbalance between creation and distribution has widened with the birth of digital distribution channels and platforms, which semi-automate the task. During 2011, I asked my team to analyse the time they spent creating and distributing content. For every hour spent creating, they invested just four minutes ensuring it reached those it was intended for.
The content conundrum
Content is little more than cost if the audiences it’s designed to inform, educate or influence don’t or can’t engage with it. This challenge is becoming more common with the seemingly relentless growth of social media – either because people can’t find it or because they’re too distracted and overwhelmed by the ‘noise’ that pollutes their information atmospheres.
The tsunami of content on digital channels means people are becoming headline scanners rather than content consumers. An awful lot of excellent content enjoys less consideration that it merits because viral videos, pictures of cats or lists are hogging and clogging the airwaves.
Like a car engine, content needs air (what Margaret Thatcher called ‘the oxygen of publicity’) but rising noise levels are denying it the space to breathe. In response, many businesses resort to shouting more loudly, more often and in more places in an attempt to be heard. What they’re doing is adding to the din. We need better social noise filters and better strategies if we want our messages to be seen, heard and acted upon.
Maybe it’s time we focused on creating fewer pieces of higher quality content and more time managing the distribution channels that carry it to it’s target audience. Reducing the noise levels will give our messages more air and a better opportunity to do their job.
We need to do fewer things, better. Maybe we should all start by scheduling regular content MOTs in our editorial calendars.