The Victorian chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) recently held an interactive panel session around the theme Pro Vs Amateur: Who wins in the content creation stakes? I sat on the panel along with popular blogger Nicole Avery from Planning with Kids (pictured below), and digital consultant, Ed Charles, founder of Tomato Media.
Much of the session was spent sitting at tables and chatting with participants, most of whom were agency and in-house PR and communications practitioners.
The topic of ‘content marketing’ is an interesting one; because it has the word ‘marketing’ in it, people naturally think it ‘belongs’ with the marketing department; quite often however, responsibility for developing and creating a content program for an organisation falls to the PR department because traditionally it’s been responsible for producing editorial-style content (that, plus PR people often oversee social media as well, which goes hand-in-hand with content). But what’s becoming patently clear, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to content creation within a company or organisation.
The roundtable discussions at the event were robust and crossed a number of boundaries, but generally swung back around to how organisations were handling content and social media internally, and the various issues they faced. Not surprisingly, practitioners shared similar challenges:
- Where should content marketing sit within the organisation?
- How do we sell content marketing to the ‘C suite’?
- How do we find the resources to manage the demands of creating content ongoing?
- How do we involve and engage people in other departments when it comes to content development and creation?
- How do we demonstrate ROI with the content we produce?
But as the theme was Pro Vs Amateur: Who wins in the content creation stakes? – it begs the obvious question: Who is better at this content creation caper? The ‘amateurs’ – enthusiastic bloggers and vloggers and podcasters who put their heart and soul into their work and in some cases are amassing audiences far greater than large organisations – or the ‘professionals’, PR practitioners, journalists etc?
The simple answer is that no-one wins, because it’s not a competition.
A few years ago, yes, journalists stood on top of the content creation heap because they had the forums to publish what they had written and/or recorded e.g. newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. PR folk were beholden to them because the media was well established and had high barriers to entry, necessitating communication professionals to find ways to get past the media gatekeepers, which they did (and still do) by way of feeding/pitching fully formed news stories, or at least ideas for articles and interviews.
But as we all know, the tables have not only turned but have been unceremoniously tipped upside down.
Today we have savvy individuals who are building audiences, in some cases bigger than traditional mediums – hello, Darren Rowse anyone? (Darren – aka Problogger – is one of the biggest bloggers in the world and his two blogs attract a global audience of some five million unique visitors a month).
But under the superstars like Darren you have a raft of content creators, bloggers and the like who are passionate and knowledgeable about their topic and are also building solid audiences as a result. Nicole Avery is a great example – not only has she managed to grow her monthly audience to over 100,000 but she has turned her blog into a bona fide business with multiple income streams.
The way I see it, established (traditional) media companies should be looking at bringing in high profile independent (and often ‘amateur’ – in title only, not the quality of their work) content creators to help build out their content offering and broaden their audience reach. More often than not, these ‘amateurs’ might have a platform far greater than the media outlet’s own opinion leaders and columnists. Likewise, brands are crazy if they don’t engage and collaborate, commercially or otherwise, with these high profile content creators.
If you haven’t got sufficient resources in-house, you will need to look externally and your choices here are the ‘professionals’ (trained journalists, video and audio producers and presenters) or the ‘amateurs’ (bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers etc who, in some instances, will have superior firepower in terms of their profile and audience).
My advice? Keep an open mind. It’s by no means an either/or situation.
Personally, I see a great deal of parity between the ‘pros’ and the (top ranking) ‘amateurs’, and I predict savvy brands will at some stage bring both parties together for the common purpose of creating compelling content that resonates with their respective audiences.