“Content is king” is confusing people and the reign is over. There’s a different ruler in town that is driving successful organizations: connectivity.
“Content is king,” said Bill Gates famously as the chief executive of Microsoft in 1996. And for a while, there was little reason to disagree with Mr. Gates’s assessment – so much so that this mantra has been used by marketers the world over. It makes sense: You need content to inspire folks to act in your organization’s best interest (i.e. become a member, purchase a ticket, make a donation, etc.). But the reign of content has ended and – while still important – the saying is becoming quickly outdated in today’s increasingly digital world. In fact, the repetition of this saying is causing, cultivating, and excusing misunderstandings among organizations’ staff members.
Let’s clear the air and work together to update the saying so that it can be more effectively applied to the purpose of inspiring action in today’s world. There’s a new king in town. Today, connectivity is king.
1) The concept of content as king is causing some problems
Let’s get one thing straight: Content is not unimportant. Compelling content creates the bridge that often inspires connectivity. However, our misbelief that content remains supreme is causing certain organizational problems that risk growing more deeply-rooted each day. Here are some symptoms of the outdated notion that content remains king that may actually jeopardize an organization’s solvency. Each of these conditions are symptomatic of a content-centric organization that deeply believes that what it outputs is more valuable than its outreach.
- A preoccupation with the quantity of your social media fans or email recipients instead of the quality of fans and recipients (and celebrating other vanity metrics that mean precious little to the solvency of your organization)
- A belief that social media (public-facing content) belongs to the marketing department alone
- A conceptual and strategic disconnect between marketing and other departments (e.g. fundraising and development)
- A lack of understanding that organizational success is dependent on the support and understanding of the market (i.e. people not necessarily already affiliated with the institution)
2) Connectivity is about your organization and its relationship with other people (Content is just about your organization)
The marketing channels about which the “content is king” saying may have originated were one-way communication channels. In other words, they were channels that generally gave your organization a “mouth” (e.g. television, radio, billboards, etc.). However, today’s most effective and efficient marketing channels have mouths and ears. That is, they provide a means of supplying feedback for the organization in addition to being soapboxes (e.g. social media, peer review sites, email, etc.). Thus, it makes sense that the driving force in cultivating a desired behavior may have evolved to be more about linking up with an individual by way of a shared passion or situation than about an organization itself.
In other words, content is not necessarily about your audience. Cultivating connectivity, however, breeds and helps to strengthen a relationship with your brand and organization. Connectivity happens when an organization presents a passion or platform that resonates with a potential constituent. It’s about both the organization and the potential constituent. It’s the passion/subject/topic/mission/sentiment that bonds (or interests) the constituent to what your organization stands for.
3) Connectivity is necessarily relevant (Content can be irrelevant)
Connectivity is definitionally personal in that it is depends on something being of personal interest to an individual. That means that connectivity is necessarily relevant. Content, on the other hand, risks self-orientation that may not answer one of the most important questions that communicators should ask themselves from the perspective of potential constituents when they put out content: “So what?”
4) Connectivity is prerequisite for action (Content can operate in isolation)
Remember (because I mention it in nearly every post): Your organization can sometimes determine importance, but the market always determines relevance. In other words, you can talk…but unless people are connected to what you’re saying, nobody may be listening. Simply put: Without connectivity, nobody cares about your organization.
Connectivity is a prerequisite to action (e.g. signing a petition, securing a donor, summoning support, selling a ticket). Content, however, can easily operate in isolation if it isn’t thoughtful and/or doesn’t inspire connectivity.
5) Content can be the bridge that provides a pathway for connectivity (but if connectivity is not present then your content is pointless)
This is where connectivity emerges as the true “king” in today’s environment. Certainly, content is critical. Arguably, there could be no connectivity without content. However (and this is where folks are getting confused), there can be a great deal of content without connectivity. Not all content is connective.
Connectivity that’s created through a shared interest in a topic, idea, mission, purpose, or sentiment aligned with your organization’s brand and values is powerful. Otherwise, your content will likely fall on deaf ears…and certainly not inspire engagement and supportive behaviors
6) Connectivity is about your whole organization and its mission (Content is viewed as marketing jargon)
Because “content” tends to fall under the conceptual categorization of one-way communication, the idea of “creating content” often falls to the marketing or public relations department. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But what IS a bad thing is when people “not my job” content creation. Today, communication and content creation is an every-department job. Worse yet, the problem of silo-ing the important work of creating connectivity is often exacerbated within organizations due to some staff members’ ridiculous associations with the word “digital.”
Connectivity can be sparked when the content being communicated communicated is deeply-rooted within your organization and mission. It may seem strange to some leaders, but the ins and outs of your day and your passions matter to your audiences. Often, to audiences, the transparent, unvarnished insights of how and why you do what you do in pursuit of your mission is every bit as important as what you are doing.
There’s a reason why marketing messages increasingly perform poorly in terms of engagement: People want to know what’s really going on…not simply receive your sales pitch (which, frequently, is the charge of the marketing department). The most connective content often comes from other departments who represent the core of what you do. The marketing team’s best role is strategically making the balance of your organization’s content accessible (i.e. inspiring connections).
Let’s stop aiming “to content” and instead aim to connect.
If you supply content, they will come? Nope. Not necessarily.
If you supply connectivity, they will come? It’s much more likely.
At our best, our organizations do more than provide education…even more than provide memorable experiences in the case of visitor-serving organizations. We provide and facilitate meaningful interaction – connectivity. By connecting people to people, people to places, and people to ideas, we transcend mere content and provide pathways to engagement. People – not artifacts – change the world.
Content isn’t dead, but connectivity assuredly is king.
Long live the king.
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About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore