Content Marketing: Creating vs. Engineering Content – Part 1

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The Ecosystem Has Changed…Duh

Almost every digital (and non-digital) marketer in the world is now faced with the task of creating content. Google has made it impossible to appear in the search rankings if you aren’t producing fresh content. Facebook and Twitter are built on the concept of content and engagement on those platforms is predicated on the ability to create, curate, and share quality content. If your business is going to be successful, it must start to succeed in publishing content to satiate the appetite of your audience, amplify your earned media, and make your paid media more efficient.

You are now faced with a difficult decision: are you going to merely create content, or are you going to engineer it?

What Is the Difference?

Instead of a guy locked in a room with a whiteboard late at throwing ideas out onto sticky notes, picture a live sound engineer at a control board, constantly monitoring the sound coming in and the sound going out. He’s moving dials up and down to change the sound waves and watching the audience’s reaction to the changes and making more small refinements. There are inputs, there are outputs, but more importantly there are mechanisms, measures, people, and processes that control the flow.

Brands do a great job of distilling data, finding their target consumers and determining when to deliver them a message. They pour tons of money every year into crafting a uniform message to deliver to the right person at the right time in the right way. But does that information tell you about all the conversations potential consumers like to have, the types of content they are looking for, where it is appropriate to engage with them, or how any of this is going to translate into fulfilling a business goal?

That was a rhetorical question.

So How Do I Do That?

You can go ahead and begin brainstorming and forming a few personas you’d like to reach, brainstorming until your brain becomes soup. To be truly successful with your content marketing program, you first have to ask yourself several big why’s and a couple of what’s to enable you toengineer  content instead of just making it. You can lead with your gut and assumptions or you can lead with your left brain and some insights. Success is inherently built into the latter option.

The real difference between content that is created and content that is engineered is that the engineered variety is fueled by insights and analysis, optimized for organic, endemic, and paid distribution, and designed in every way to feed the appetites of your content’s audience. Also, at Magnetic, engineered content benefits from living on owned platforms that are designed to achieve that very goal: satiating the audience’s needs. There is still brainstorming in content engineering. There are still sticky notes and whiteboards involved. But there are also tools, analytics, and measures involved in every step of the process.

Over the next few blog posts, I will demonstrate how to engineer content for your audience in each phase of the content marketing process, including planning, editorial development, distribution, and optimization.

Alec Painter – has written 20 posts on this site.
Alec Painter serves the dual roles of Associate Director of Search Marketing for Empower MediaMarketing and Content Engineer for the Empower Group's content marketing offering, Magnetic Content Studios. His passion for digital began in high school, when he began using digital tools to record and market his music through websites and social media. Since then, he has honed his digital strategy skills working with a myriad of brands, including Fortune 500 financial, CPG, retail, and entertainment industry brands.

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9 Responses to “Content Marketing: Creating vs. Engineering Content – Part 1”

  1. Paige C. Willey
    November 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I like this idea of “engineering” content–there’s a much more technical connotation with this idea than with just content “creation.” I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately as I’ve started researching the response to and engagement with long reads. They get a lot of engagement, which is the exact opposite of my instincts.

    • Alec Painter
      November 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Well I look at it as there’s a process in place that is informed by something as opposed to just creating content for the sake of doing it.

      We like to plan or “engineer” every piece to be optimized for search, social, paid distribution, and endemic distribution. It’s a marriage of art and science, logic and magic.

      We’ve also been seeing the same thing with long form editorial. People want quality and substance and sometimes the short stuff just doesn’t deliver on that need.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Dustin
    November 23, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    @Paige & Alec,

    I really like the ideas in this article because it has a foundational common sense that every organization should follow.

    I like that you have called it engineering content.

    Having a good idea of who you are trying to reach can be tough sometimes when you are trying to connect with someone on a personal level, but aren’t quite sure what they are like.

    Alec you are right about what people want. They want quality, and as writers or producers of any kind of value, it is our job to deliver the value that our target audience wants.

    Great read! Looking forward to the next part of the series.

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