October 21, 2020 admin

If Content is Merely the Tip of the Iceberg, What Lies Beneath?

When you read an article — whether it be online or in print — do our audiences, and even our clients, truly understand all the hidden layers and processes that have occurred to bring it to fruition?

Do they see the minds, hands and hearts that have touched that content asset from inception to execution?

Let’s use an analogy: an iceberg. The article itself — or video, infographic, EDM, or whichever content format has been created — is simply the tip of the iceberg. But what’s all that stuff underneath?

What’s not so visible is all the machinations that brought that article to life: the pitching, client briefings, ideation, research, audience analysis, brand messaging, researching, synopsis creation, commissioning, budgeting, interviewing, writing the first draft, top edit, fact-checking, proofreading, cutting, lengthening, finessing, rewriting and optimising.

And then there’s the rounds of review, edits, rewrites, more reviews, more rewrites, more edits. And for some articles, there’s a trip to Legal & Compliance. Followed by more rewriting, more reviewing and more rewrites. Then there’s the crafting of social copy, picture research, design briefing, layout and design, proofreading, finessing, cutting, cropping, etc. And lest we forget the style guides, branding guidelines, budgets, timelines, briefing documents, contracts, scopes of work and contracts. Plus the emails, calls, messages, check-ins, WIPs, follow-ups and approvals.  

It’s a lot.

But yet, the audience sees nothing of this back-end process. They simply read the article. And as content marketers, it is vitally important that we remember this very basic fact: audiences don’t see behind the curtain.

Audiences don’t see how an article was ideated or briefed in or written. They don’t know if the pitch process was rushed or that the brief was flawed, that budgets were cut, timelines were crunched and that the revisions dragged on for six months instead of one week. They don’t see the four rounds of rewrites and that the fifth revision looks remarkably like the first draft. Or that a meta description was re-drafted 14 times to hit maximum optimisation. It’s the hidden iceberg of content creation that audiences don’t see. Audiences simply consume the content as it’s presented to them.

And after that? They either engage with it — or they don’t. They like the article — or they don’t. They might read the headline and introduction but nothing more. They might skim read an infographic and bookmark it but never come back to it. They might spot a typo and give up. Or — fingers crossed — they love the article and read it all the way to the end, then share it with a friend and visit your website to buy your product. The dream!

As content marketers, it is sometimes too easy to get lost in the minutiae of the back-end processes — the hidden iceberg — and forget about our very clear and basic objective: to create content for an audience that will resonate or invite a call to action or bring awareness to your brand. To create content that tells a story or paints a picture or touches a nerve or kickstarts a discussion. To create content that connects.

When content editors focus too much on the back-end processes — such as managing the client/agency relationship, or balancing budgets and revising timelines, or managing multiple levels of stakeholders — rather than the actual business of creating content, the chances of creating sub-par content increase substantially. Why?

There are many reasons. It could be because the article was written before the brief was nailed or the wrong writer was commissioned due to shifting timelines, or that the angle needs tweaking or there’s been a committee of stakeholders adding their two cents at every round of review so that the story is diluted, the message is lost or the writing has become uninspired and bland. Audiences don’t see the change requests, such as a different content format being substituted halfway through production, for example, a thought leadership article being replaced with a listicle article, or a content campaign being delayed due to Compliance regulations.

As agencies, we know this happens when creating content for our clients. But that’s all part and parcel of our job. Content editors wear many hats — and a large portion of our day involves client management. As part of our role, we should not be afraid to speak up and communicate with our clients if we see the back-end processes starting to impact the effectiveness of the end product. If we think a timeline is unrealistic or content format changes don’t work in practice or if the feedback is so delayed that the article no longer has the same relevance, that is the time we pick up the phone or schedule a meeting with our client and talk through solutions.

Rather than being seen merely as a tactical resource, clients should see agencies as their content partner so as to produce the best content possible for your brand. Because when all is said and done, once that article is published or that video is uploaded or that EDM is sent, audiences only see that in isolation. No hidden iceberg. Just the tip of the iceberg. So let’s make sure that what lies underneath is rock solid.

Contact us to talk through your current content marketing needs to see how IMMedia can assist you in creating top quality content.