Facebook this month finally admitted that posts by business pages were being served up fewer times in users’ news feed than content from news sources. They claim that clicks on news content rose 170 percent this year, indicating that people crave those types of posts. Prior to that, Google’s Hummingbird update was seen as a way of rewarding sites for good content based on the intent of users’ searches. With these changes, we’ve heard many, many SEOs and Social Media Marketers declare that “Content is King.” Heck…we even wrote about content being king a few years ago. Well, I hate to burst their/our bubble, as if we all had discovered Noah’s Ark or something but, folks….content has ALWAYS been king!
The Oscars. The Grammy’s. The Tony’s. The Emmy’s. The Pulitzer Prize. They all have one thing in common….they celebrate outstanding, even at times remarkable, content. Consider the vast number of movies that have focused on the American era of slavery and the Civil War. Why does a film like this year’s “12 Years a Slave” get heaps of praise, and award nominations, while 2003’s “Gods and Generals,” which arguably had a better cast lead by Oscar-winner Robert Duvall, is considered one of the worst Civil War films of all time? Many would say, “Well…it’s probably the director’s fault.” Yet the director of “Gods and Generals” was Ronald Maxwell, who had previously explored the Civil War topic in the far superior, and critically acclaimed, “Gettysburg.” It’s simple…the content was just better. The story was better. The writing of the story was better. And how the story was presented was better.
Every day, news happens. Whether it’s the current controversy over the sign-language imposter at the Nelson Mandela memorial service or revelations about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) intelligence gathering techniques or the National Basketball Associations (NBA) results from last night…it all gets reported by hundreds of sources. So why, then, do many consider The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times (London), The Washington Post and even USA Today as credible, and thus very popular, information sources? It is because they are what I consider Content Kings. They have, for many, many years, delivered a consistently high level of news reporting. In short, they create great content. With all due respect to bloggers out there, these sources are just better at what they do because they have been doing it for a long time. They create great content because they hire great content creators. They instill a level of professionalism that comes from a legacy of building a reputation that has withstood the test of time.
The same can be said for the “Big 3” network news programs. We were reminded recently during the 50-year anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination that many people learned of the tragic news through Walter Cronkite and the CBS Evening News. One might think that today, 72 years after the introduction of CBS’s news program, we would have moved on from that source. Based on the exposure some sources get these days, some might even think that the nation now only gets its news from online sources or the ever-increasing slate of cable news shows/networks. A quick look at the TV ratings, however, reminds us that Content Kings still rule the day. The number one show of any type during the week of November 25? “60 Minutes.” And who produces that show? CBS News. And for how long has “60 Minutes” been cranking out great content? 45 years!
We tweet. We post. We link. We blog. We pitch. We chat. We text. So many ways to communicate, linked by a common skill…writing. Despite this, when we hire, we look for people with social media skills or an SEO background or video capabilities or some kind of relevant business experience. Yet so much…SO much…of what we do boils down to good, old-fashioned writing.
Do you request writing samples when you are hiring? If you say, “well…it depends on the position,” I would argue that no, it doesn’t. Not any more. Will the web developer you hire communicate directly with a client via e-mail? Then he should know how to write professionally and represent your brand well. Will the video producer be charged with submitting creative briefs and storyboards? He can’t do that well without writing skills. Will an SEO have to create a compelling pitch to a link source? The effort will be far more effective if written well.
You will find it a challenge these days to find good writers, as was noted in this article about “Why Johnny Can’t Write,” (which I found via…wait for it….NBC News). It points to a real problem…technology and other skills have been given greater weights recently while writing seems to be an assumed skill that most can do adequately. But adequate shouldn’t cut it! Persevere to find the people whose writing inspires you to hire them in the first place. That’s a good start!
And remember that content doesn’t just appear on your social media pages, your web site or blog. E-mail is content. A status report is content. An invoice is content. Your comptroller, community managers, interns, business development people…they must all have strong writing skills to succeed, or you risk having your brand brought down by weak content. Alternatively, your brand can be significantly bolstered by a consistently high level of content at every turn.
Hire good writers and you, too, can become a Content King!