Without a Distribution Strategy, Great Content Doesn’t Matter

In a world saturated with content, you can’t build for just one use case.

By Eric Goodstadt

Used to be you could craft a piece of content once, ship it to the printer, and let that single channel define audience response.

But we’re not in that world anymore. Today, you might be plying your message in multiple formats across dozens of channels.

Despite that, we still take that old mindset—build once, distribute widely—and apply it everywhere. We assume the same information will work across multiple platforms and channels. But the rules have simply changed too much.

For starters, you want the right eyes, not all eyes, on your content. Do you know where and when to engage your audience? Maybe print still works for part of your model, but probably not for all of it.

The same goes for digital content. Does every member of your audience want to interact with your content identically? Seems unlikely.

The experience across these channels must be coordinated and seamless too. As digital strategist Marianne Kay explains in an EContent article: “Omnichannel content is the creation, management, and delivery of content to multiple marketing channels in a cohesive, customer-centric way. It is a step up in comparison to multichannel content—the practice that is primarily concerned with the ability to publish information to different channels in different formats.”

It’s what your members expect as customers—and they expect it from you, too. Consider recent research data from Omnisend about the loyalty and engagement that cross-channel marketing produces for e-commerce: Customer retention is 90 percent higher for brands using three or more channels; and, compared with brands using only one- or two-channel marketing, those using three or more saw 250 percent better engagement and purchase rates.

So how can you best approach distribution in the digital world order? Here’s a three-pronged strategy.

Build around needs and goals, not content buckets. It’s easy to focus on deliverables, such as four posts a week at 800 words each or six tweets every morning. Your audience doesn’t care about arbitrary content buckets, and this approach could prevent you from perfecting your distribution formula. Ultimately, your association’s goals, not tactics, should define content mix.

Establish a distribution strategy before you develop content. In its 2019 Content Management & Strategy Survey, the Content Marketing Institute found that 38 percent of organizations rarely or never publish content to new channels without having to hand-build each piece.

Instead, plan ahead and use an “atomized” approach to content that treats every element as an integrated part of a larger piece. Using your digital data, define the best fit for each element from the get-go and also plan for that integrated omnichannel experience.

Listen to your content’s pulse. A rich content program must continually evolve. Once a campaign is live, listen and track how people respond, immediately and over time.

For example, a high-performing piece of content may start out as a white paper but evolve into animated tips, a video, and an Instagram series—all derived from data and research that pinpoint when and how to captivate your audience.

While you have a plan for your content, you also must remain flexible—in part because digital is an ever-evolving landscape. As your audience adapts, so must your program.

And here’s a final truth about not building content just for print: You never really put this digital work “to bed.” Time to rise and shine.

Eric Goodstadt, president of Manifest, has more than two decades of experience in the agency world, serving clients in diverse sectors—including associations and nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies.

(Evgeny Ostroushko/Getty Images)