Brendan Hodgson, Strategy Director Europe, Digital & Corporate Belgium, will be attending the European Communications Summit on 25th June 2015, where he will be holding two clinics on how to put content at the heart of your strategy.

‘Start by Thinking About What Audiences Want to Hear, Not What You Want to Say’.

A period of hyper-scepticism, ushered in by the rise of the internet and years of deceptive advertising, is colouring the current consumer environment. DVR, AdBlock, and other technologies allow consumers to skip over sales pitches and self-serving content, yet many communicators still fail to recognize just how shrewd their audiences are.

Content-driven strategies provide marketers and communicators with a chance to shake this reputation with jaded stakeholders by providing genuine, insightful content. Yet many organizations and brands continue to squander the opportunity on blatantly promotional content and native advertisements.

And it’s not just the credibility of organizations and brands that’s on the line — continued exposure to this type of content only increases “content blindness” among audiences, essentially perpetuating distrust between these audiences and communicating groups. A recent study done by Kentico Software found content marketing credibility is high yet fragile. Consumer trust dives from 74% to 29% when the communicating group tries to push a sale.

It’s no secret that content development represents the future of marketing and communications — more and more businesses and organizations are making it a central part of their strategies. The secret, it seems, is how to create content that prompts audience engagement, influences behaviours, and enhances trust between the organization and the audience.

According to the Economist Group, 75% of communications professionals say they often mention their product or service in their content. But does this approach simply repel the audience they are trying to attract. Thought leaders need to be cautious in developing content that attempts to push products or services onto audiences. Communicators should aim to boost trust rather than sales. This trust will help cultivate relationships that lead to the adoption of products, services and ideas.

A question communicators should always ask before publishing content: Does this content have value beyond advocating for my product or service? If the answer is no, it’s probably not useful, entertaining or educational for your audience.

If consumers are constantly going out of their way to avoid advertisements, why would they seek them out or, what’s more, share them with other consumers in their social and professional networks? This seems to be the fatal flaw in many communications professionals’ content strategies.

The logic that we often lose sight of in our rush to fill a perceived information void is that audiences won’t consume and share content if they don’t have motivation to do so. It is the job of content creators to provide that motivation and thus spark engagement. The key is identifying the sweet spot between the interests of the organisation and the interests of the target audience.

It is also important to keep in mind the sheer amount of content created and published every day on the web. To generate content that builds credibility and breaks through the noise, communicators need to reach their audiences in a new way. Whereas efforts to be all things to all people often makes you relevant to none, hyper-niche targeting rather than opting for a one-size-fits-all content strategy will increase the chance that stakeholders will be prompted to engage.

Targeting a precise and well-researched niche means there is never a question of who you are talking to. This is truly the ticket to understanding and honing in on what an audience wants to hear rather than what the organization or brand hopes to say or sell, therefore building a reputation as a reliable and credible thought leader. Communicators need to create content with the goal of solving stakeholder problems and answering their questions, and the audience must always be at the heart of the message.