I’ve written before about the difficulties of the word “content”. It’s too often bandied around in discussions that lose sight of its meaning to viewers versus its importance in their strategy. And that blindness is costly.
But you quickly find yourself drawing on it because it’s the common reference. Much of the time, that will remain true.
Sometimes, however, it’s worth thinking again to see if there’s another descriptor more suitable. Perhaps another descriptor that can focus on a different detail and a different priority and help you concentrate on what matters.
Made of more
I recently had the following conversation on Twitter. (Incidentally, it’s also one of those incredibly moments that hits home to me how social accounts and interactions can become such an enjoyable scratchpad for new ideas.)
@ToyotaPR we don't expect to simply buy signals to rank higher or ad space to reach people. But we now have the material to make it work.
Material is like the fabric of something actually useful. It’s a bit more tangible. It’s something you iterate on and bang around in different directions — certainly when it’s commonly used in stand-up comedy.
It’s craft-like and something you develop and improve over time. You gather techniques to become competent then workmanlike then artisan. You invent or invest in technology to gain an advantage producing better material than your competition.
Material has customers rather than consumers. Your material must be top notch, it’s not just a snack between courses — it is a product in its own sense.
I’d love to hear suggestions of other words. Even if they aren’t used in conversation, I think clearer definition helps you think about things more strategically and accurately. The power of language is only beaten by the power of the meaning and association that underlies it.
What would you call content to make you appreciate it more?
I was invited to a recent PRCA event, hosting 3x PR industry godfathers who founded and exited agencies.
Like so much with running Augur, I found it had to be analysed at two levels simultaneously. On one hand, there’s nothing like real experience. It’s a hard-won asset that money can’t buy.
But in dispensing the value of that experience, there’s a risk of being blinkered toward only what worked in the past. When it comes to agencies, that means a model that I don’t necessarily believe is the future or is the core of what Augur should be.
It’s always risky to disagree with experience and the threat is you’re assuming you know better. I think the effective middle ground is based around this: Before you can intelligently break the rules, you have to understand what you’re breaking.
My question was based on the idea that timesheets are really just an abstraction. They’re representative of time but ultimately, if we’re saying 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, roughly 4 weeks a month, that’s 128 units of abstract value that you sell to clients.
Why not simplify?
Why try to sell such granular batches? What’s the virtue of breaking it down into 8 units per day. I think there’s an illusion of efficiency and security that comes from the feeling you can now account for every hour of every employee’s time.
But does anyone who has worked in an agency really believe timesheets have that kind of precision? And is our greatest aspiration really to squeeze every last drop out of every team member?
If we say these systems are maybe 80% accurate, and that it’s probably only the last 20% of peoples’ time that you’re trying to increase the efficiency on, how can that realistically work?
I agree it’s unwise to try and manage an organisation without something in the model like this. But I wonder if you can get most of the value from a system that takes a fraction of the time to manage.
Why can’t we simply by reducing the number of those abstract units.
Time for attention
Instead of hundreds of made up hours, how about 4x units of attention per week.
Because more strategic work tends to require more focused, dedicated and, arguably, valuable attention, this currency has greater flexibility.
Lots of great writing may take up one unit of attention. Developing a strategic plan may take less physical time but in how it absorbs the team working on it with the focus of required concentration and experience, it’s equivalent. Maybe implementing it over a month is going to take another four units of attention.
So you spec a project by working back from objectives, establishing the strategy and calculating how much attention it will need. It’s not re-inventing the wheel, it’s just trying to find ways to produce them more efficiently and end up with a better vehicle.
Obviously there’s no way to discuss this properly with a panel, without becoming that guy (or girl) whose question turns into a diatribe and a distraction. But for the value of thinking about this further, I have to congratulate the PRCA on creating a little haven for us to escape the day-to-day and really scrutinise what we’re doing and why.
https://i1.wp.com/augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/128-units2.png?fit=1167%2C3853851167Max Tatton-Brownhttp://augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/au_black.pngMax Tatton-Brown2014-10-30 11:31:372015-07-08 18:22:33Breaking the PR rules: 128 units
People are looking for things. You want them to find you.
But not just when looking for you, of course, that’s a given. Really, you want them to find you when they are looking for other things. Or, best of all, when they’re looking to buy other things.
And so the clash emerges. Because of how search works, if you want to be found, you have to essentially become that thing online. You have to equate yourself with what your audience is looking for as they hope to buy.
Exceptions and expectations
But what happens if there’s a dissonance between what people are currently looking for and what you think they really should be looking for? It’s a classic issue in something like tech PR. Or communications. Or whatever you want to call the big converging soup of media and marketing.
How do you join the dots between the ‘wrong’ search and the right ideas?
If you can explain the difference, that should be a relevant, shareable, memorable way to tackle the challenge. That should be a good fight in the battle, not for some mysterious search blackhattery — but because you’re genuinely moving the subject forwards.
And even better, play your cards right and it should become a relevant source for the subject you think people should be searching for too. Because you’ve actually created value.
https://i2.wp.com/augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/fencing.jpg?fit=1024%2C7687681024Max Tatton-Brownhttp://augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/au_black.pngMax Tatton-Brown2014-10-21 10:29:152015-07-08 18:22:33Search, and the commercial clash of the information age
http://augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/au_black.png00Max Tatton-Brownhttp://augur.london/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/au_black.pngMax Tatton-Brown2014-10-09 15:35:242015-07-08 18:22:33How do brands tell their story?