Article

Derek Slater
Derek Slater 7 April 2016
Categories B2B, Content

How to Ruin Your Content Marketing (One Review at a Time)

Traditional marketing reviews can chip away at reader value. Watch it happen in slow motion—so you can learn to prevent it.

Photo:  Nasa Goddard Space Flight Center, Licensed via CC 2.0

The first rule of good content marketing is to put the audience first. People are pretty sophisticated; they can differentiate something intended to help or entertain them from something that’s just advertising in disguise. 

That doesn’t mean good content can’t advance key messages. It should. But it can’t sacrifice connecting with the audience.

Most marketers and business executives get this concept. But often, when they’re asked to review a piece of content marketing, they are inclined to make changes that prioritize their own agendas over strengthening its connective tissue, often in ways that, when you take a big step back, don’t advance that agenda much.

Here’s a fictional example: an article about an enterprise technology implementation at MegaCorp, written by well-intentioned software maker Tyrell. The target audience is CIOs.

Here’s a snippet of the draft copy

...But the eight-member Technical Committee’s proposed solution was subject to vigorous debate.

“We fought like cats and dogs, honestly,” laughs MegaCorp’s CIO. “The finance guys were focused on performance, because they want to do their jobs faster, but ultimately we realized that API features mattered more than a 10 percent performance boost.”

1st review: edits by the source, MegaCorp’s CIO

...But the eight-member Technical Committee’s proposed solution was subject to vigorous debate.

We fought like cats and dogs, honestly, It took careful review to arrive at consensus,” laughs said MegaCorp’s CIO. “The finance guys were focused on performance, because they want to do their jobs faster, but ultimately we realized that API features mattered more than a 10 percent performance boost.”

2nd review: edits by MegaCorp’s legal/compliance team

...But the eight-member Technical committee’s proposed solution was subject to vigorous debate thorough evaluation.

It took After careful review we arrived at consensus” said MegaCorp’s CIO. “The finance guys were focused on performance, because they want to do their jobs faster ensuring 100 percent adherence to regulatory requirements, but ultimately we realized that API features mattered more than a 10 percent performance boost we could also have robust API features.”

3rd review: edits by MegaCorp’s PR/comms team

...But the committee’s proposed solution was subject to thorough evaluation. All products used at MegaCorp are subject to a rigorous safety review.

“After careful review we arrived at consensus” said MegaCorp’s CIO. “The finance guys were department was focused on ensuring 100 percent adherence to regulatory requirements, and our customers come first in everything we do at MegaCorp. but ultimately we realized we could also have robust API features. 

4th review: final edits by Tyrell’s marketing team

All products used at MegaCorp are subject to a rigorous safety review.

“After careful consideration we arrived at consensus, made the obvious choice, Tyrell™,” said MegaCorp’s CIO. “The finance department was focused on ensuring 100 percent adherence to regulatory requirements.” Tyrell™ is No. 1 in the industry because of its awesome Widgetifier© technology. It’s a great match “because customers come first in everything we do at MegaCorp.”

How’d we do?

All reviews completed! Final copy is ready for publication!

And what do you suppose the intended audience will think when they read it?

Probably something like: If we did a project like that, even if it had any measurable payoff, it would have to go through our technical committee and our finance guys, and we’d fight like cats and dogs.

 Then they’ll click away, with no connection made.

The reviewers gradually removed any hint of conflict, all technical detail, all ROI or performance metrics—any of the real-world issues that any real potential Tyrell customer will have to think about and prepare for. The first version had value because it was candid. The final version has none.

So what do all these revisions have in common? They're all focused on making someone other than the reader look good.

Instead, focus your content marketing—and your review process—on the reader. Good things will follow.

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