Why are you doing what you're doing?


Asking “why?”, preferably multiple times over with a thoughtful look on one’s face, is a tried-and-tested consulting technique—and one we’re not averse to using ourselves. When we work with firms at the initiation stage, we refuse to budge until we’ve had a satisfactory response to our first why question: Why are you investing in this new piece of content? And a satisfactory response had better include both a very clear definition of the target audience—not just some vague sense like “senior executives in the retail sector”—and the desired impact. The why needs to be very clear to all involved to ensure that both the end product and how it is distributed are optimised.

But it’s not just specific pieces that need a clear why, it’s your firm’s overall approach to content. Why are you investing in thought leadership and other types of content? You may think it obvious but, when we speak to our clients, it’s clear that a variety of views abound—and this variety can often be found in a single organisation.

A recent report by Altimeter—Key elements for building a content strategy—suggests five possible archetypes or objectives: presence, window, currency, community, and support. Two of these are not relevant to professional services firms: community and support. (Although perhaps it would be fun to see a how-to-use-our-consultants manual, or join a community of consulting clients discussing the perils of PowerPoint.) The remaining three—presence, window, and currency—help explain the conflicting views about what matters most. Underneath the conversations we hear is often an unspoken view about what content is meant to achieve. Those with a presence mind-set are focused on brand awareness and brand equity, window-believers want to build trust in the company and what it does, and currency-advocates want to deliver high-value information.

While it is possible to do more than one thing, we agree with the authors of the report that “an organisation must embrace one archetype as its primary strategy”. What’s yours? And how will you make sure it’s a strategy that is understood across your organisation?

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