It’s Not About Quality vs. Quantity: How Brands Get Content Cadence Right
By Liz Alton on July 9, 2018
Content cadence is a key consideration for every marketer, whether you're putting a new content marketing strategy into action or optimizing your existing production as your company's needs evolve. The reality is that today, you're operating in an environment that's more complex and sophisticated than ever before. Thankfully, this means there are also better practices available to help you decide what content velocity is right for your brand, audience, and long-term goals.
It's easy to look at brands and try to emulate their lead. Yet when it comes to content volume strategy, each brand seems to have its own, unique approach. Hubspot creates a high volume of original content. KissMetrics creates exceptionally detailed long-form content that audiences devour and other blogs seek to emulate. Adobe creates targeted content for each of its audiences, with content by product. Conversely, other brands publish once a week or once a month.
How then can content marketers address their own content volume issue?
To learn more, I sat down with Skyword's VP of brand partnerships, Dan Baptiste, to get the latest thinking on navigating content velocity.
Evolving Content, Changing Needs on Volume
The content landscape has changed significantly in the last few years, and with that, the approaches that marketers use to make content volume choices have evolved. "In the early days, velocity was a function of the SEO, and the more you would publish, the more that curve would happen because you have things like domain authority and depth of subject. As you went from being able to rank on long-tail keywords all the way to mid-tail and ultimately hit terms that are really competitive, the only path forward from that was volume," says Baptiste.
He continues, "But as content has evolved from more of a tactical solution to a strategic one, and the channels you engage people with content have changed, it starts to change how you think about content and how you think about velocity."
In other words, brands that are producing high volumes of content simply to rank for SEO are missing a key opportunity: dialing in your content cadence to your larger marketing goals.
Beyond Quality versus Quantity: When Content Fuels the Whole Organization
One of the biggest roadblocks is thinking beyond the binary construct of quality versus quantity. Many marketers think of this debate in terms of contrast, when, in fact, the two aren't mutually exclusive at all.
Image attribution: Becca Tapert
"It starts to become a flawed argument because if you don't have enough quantity, then there's no depth around the content that you're creating or the subject areas you're covering. All of a sudden, you have a limited amount of things you can say. You either have to go against a really specific audience and have a really narrow focus, or go for only long-form messages-like podcasts. You have to do low-frequency approaches because you can cover that depth. And that's how people behave," notes Baptiste.
Yet, in reality, content volume often serves a different function beyond simply speaking to an audience: Content is now fueling a larger organization.
He continues, "Now content has to fuel your entire organization. It fuels your social channels, emails, it fuels things like PR, corporate communications. It's helping with sales enablement. Now when you start to look at and open up the aperture across an organization, that requires volume."
Quality versus quantity is the wrong question. Instead, organizations need to ask how to create the volume of content they need at the quality levels that their audiences demand. The answer is deceptively straightforward: Create an infrastructure and then scale it as you grow more confident.
Creating an Infrastructure and Scaling
One of the most difficult times to determine content volume is at the start of a program. It's easy to fall into one of two traps: starting too small to see results or going too big without the right support and getting overwhelmed.
Baptiste notes, "It's difficult for a company to say, Okay, so I'm realizing I need a lot of content. I'm going to start doing 30 to 40 pieces a month. That high goal is also probably not realistic if you're starting with nothing because you're going to put so much stress on your organization.
"Essentially, you're going to start creating internal roadblocks because, especially within enterprise organizations, if there are things like complex legal approvals that get relaxed over time as they understand the content you're producing [. . .] the approvals get easier over time. But at the beginning, there's a lot of focus on them."
Instead, he recommends thinking in terms of a production schedule that's producing enough content to have an impact but allows your processes to get up to speed. "Start with something like 10 to 15 assets a month, and know that as we build the publishing infrastructure and rhythm, we can start to expand from there. Look at content as a communication tool and a foundational aspect that fuels the entire marketing and communication organization and even parts like sales and operations staff."
Asset by Asset versus a Strategic Plan
Ultimately, it's easy to get caught up in discussions about content volume from an asset perspective. But Baptiste advises thinking more strategically: "I always try to coach people against thinking about it from an asset by asset standpoint. Like, We need one podcast and two articles. Instead, ask, How does it all work together?”
Image attribution: Olivier Fahrni
Imagine that you're launching a podcast: "You have a podcast that you're going to launch. But if we have those people doing the podcast, wouldn't it be interesting to interview them during the podcast or in advance of the podcast to create a promotional tool? If we could write an article that is promoting the podcasts, so that you could embed the podcast within those articles, then you're creating more entry points for the asset, which is more expensive and higher effort. Ask, what are the surrounding assets that I can create to create interest around this using a variety of different asset types to create entry points for a higher-cost, higher-production asset like a regular podcast or a regular video?"
When you take a strategic approach, you also get away from one-off campaigns.
"Don't launch one video, don't launch one podcast, don't launch one infographic. Have a sustained plan and say, we are going to do this at some regular cadence," Baptiste advises. "We can create energy and momentum versus all these singular assets, which we see all the time, and then you're never creating energy around that as a function. Instead, you're just creating a bunch of assets all over the place, and you're running around to promote them, which costs a lot of money and creates a lot of inefficiencies."
Instead, have a clear plan and put individual assets together in service of your larger vision.
Four Steps to Navigating Your Content Volume
Start with a minimum velocity to achieve your goals, and set the stage to scale
If you're just getting started, Baptiste recommends striking the balance between creating enough content to get momentum while working out the kinks on your process. He says, "Start with a manageable level that creates enough volume to make a difference, typically two to three pieces a week at minimum. Otherwise, you're not going to get people to engage or interact, and you certainly won't make a big impact from an SEO standpoint, never mind all your other objectives."
Have a vision
As you grow, scale your efforts by having a vision: "Start with a minimum that you can commit to, but have a bigger vision of where you can go and communicate that vision to the right people. Focus on the outcome, and the volume becomes a conduit for that outcome."
As people see your success, it's easier to communicate that vision and create buy-in for larger scale projects.
Win by focusing on execution and then continually refining your strategy against your goals
Baptiste advises, "Expand that vision over time by executing really, really well on the assets and creating excitement around those things. Once you start doing that, then you'll see loads of opportunity. You'll have early signs, and when you're measuring early signs, you'll see early indicators. But you'll also probably see some lagging indicators, like not getting enough audience as an example. And those might be due to one of two things. One is the frequency might not be right, or two, the content strategy is either too broad or too self-centered."
With a focus on quality, measure your progress, and continually refine
With a focus on quality and a commitment to measuring progress, it's easy to refine your programs to move the goalpost forward. "Focus the content strategy against a kind of key direct objective. Have bigger vision and don't think about it super tactically." Set goals, measure, and refine. Once things are working, scale your production until it meets your vision.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that winning programs aren't about pitting quality against quantity, especially for marketers struggling with issues of budget, time, and focus. It's all about finding the balance between the two. The reality is that programs need to produce sufficient quantities of well-executed content.
"There's a misconception that quantity is an opposing effort from quality. Like, if we're doing more, that means it's bad. And that's not the case," says Baptiste. "The sweet spot is having a vision, making that vision come to life with a heartbeat of regular content, and putting enough effort and energy around it so that it makes a difference. And when those two things come together, that's where you make a massive impact."
For today's marketers, the final word on content cadence is good news. Balancing quality and quantity is not only possible, it's happening every day, and it's the best road forward to achieve your content marketing goals.
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Featured image attribution: Joshua Earle