Are We the Noise?

Most organizations are spitting out content like a chain gun.

Blogs. Vlogs. Email. Reports. Studies. Video. Releases. Talking points. Webinars. Statements. Position papers. Podcasts. Graphics. Tweets. Snaps. Instagram Stories and posts on Facebook.

There’s no doubt that content can have atomic power when it comes to advocacy. But ask yourself this: is your organization’s content effective? Is it accomplishing your goals in a major way?

I’m not talking about traffic, opens, shares or engagements. Those are means to an end, measurements we use to ensure we are on the right path toward our true goals. Increasing membership. Generating revenue. Driving action. Changing minds. Those are the real objectives.

So, is your content making measurable progress on the big stuff? If you hesitate or start to craft a measured response, then you have your answer. Sadly, too many of us are pumping out material that is ineffective, and often spending a lot of time and money to do so.

In a very real way, we are the noise.

‘Random Acts of Content’

“The problem now is random acts of content,” Jay Baer, a marketer who works with some of the world’s largest brands, said in a recent interview. “People are just making stuff because they feel like they should be making stuff. … There’s not really enough content marketing strategy.”

That’s as true in the advocacy world as it is in marketing.

Some of the reasons are the same, too. As Baer explains, “Every marketer in the world tells themselves the same lie. And the lie that we all tell ourselves is that our audience is just too busy. They are too busy to read the blog. They are too busy to tune into the webinar. They are too busy to watch the video. They are too busy to come to the conference. It’s not true. It’s all bullshit. It’s not about time.

“When a prospect tells you that they are ‘too busy,’ what they really mean, but will not say, is that what you have offered them is not relevant enough. I know this to be true because when you give a prospect the information they need at the time they need it in the format they prefer, the time necessary to consume that information … magically appears.”

Working Toward #NoMoreNoise

There is, of course, a better way. We can start by thinking differently about our content. The Advocacy Edge site was started with this in mind, the idea that we can evolve our content programs to produce more effective material, material that makes a genuine connection with our audience. How do we make that happen? By exploring a few ideas:

  • Content With Ambition. Did you have a specific goal for your last white paper? Your latest video? Today’s run of tweets? Did you have a target for how many downloads, views or shares—and then what those metrics should yield in terms of memberships, donations or advocacy? If you didn’t, ask yourself why not. We cannot be successful if we don’t define success for our work—all of our work. If every piece of content left our shop with expectations attached, we would know immediately how it performed. We could then improve much faster. More rigor is a good thing.
  • Advocacy is Marketing. Good marketers generally don’t work without a plan to guide their efforts. Much thought is put into strategy. Most organizations practice some form of inbound marketing, which means they are attracting interested people (as opposed to promoting their wares). Many use content marketing, meaning they are creating useful content to attract these people. Most have a marketing funnel that describes how they will entice these people from the day they “meet” them to the day a sale is made. Many organizations also draft personas, which describe their target buyer in detail, and study the buyer’s journey, meaning the steps people take before making a purchase. They operate in campaigns and measure results. Advocacy organizations could benefit from many of these ideas. What is advocacy if not marketing? And yet, very few organizations do. That could change.
  • Service to an Audience. Our organizations talk a lot. But we don’t say much, at least not much of value to the people we are trying to reach. It seems that so much content out there is about the organization and not the audience. Good content is service. It helps people solve their problems or meet their needs. More effective content demands that we focus on the audience, not our organization.
  • More Authenticity. Strong advocacy content is not about manipulation. It is about making a genuine connection with the audience. To make a genuine connection, you have to actually be genuine. Content and messaging is often so rigidly controlled that is lacks any sense of authentic communication, people talking with people. In a world where every consumer has the power to influence others, organizations that fail to be genuine will fail to connect, lose audience and cede control of their narrative.
  • Less Washington. Too many communications jobs in Washington are about manipulation. Some are in the business of suppressing information outright, or coloring it severely. Those skills may be important in some roles, but they can have a toxic effect on advocacy content. Rigid, unimaginative and overly-controlled content programs will fail. We need to lean away from Washington’s definition of content.

If you like these ideas, you are not alone. We do, too. Keep reading Advocacy Edge, and then start contributing. We welcome guest posts and new ideas. This is a forum for those of us who want to approach content differently, try new things and make real change.

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