The Challenge of Centralised Content

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Casting my mind back to my tentative early days as a professional marketer, I remember one of my first ever client meetings.  Sitting at an important-looking table, in an important-looking room, in an important-looking building, surrounded by important-looking people, everything felt very… well, important!

 

Top of the agenda was some ‘blue sky thinking’ (this was the early 2000s after all).  Our client, a global IT leader, was going through the process of Decentralisation.  Control of everything, from channel programs to content creation, was shifting from the hallowed US headquarters into the hands of regional offices.

 

The sense of relief was palpable.

I remember the buzz as plans began to form – years of ideas, finally given the opportunity to breathe!

 

You won’t be surprised to hear that budgets soon rained hard on our optimistic parade.  Needless to say, responsibilities were being decentralised… but the money?  Well, that was in dollars, and would be staying in dollars, thank you very much!

 

And so began the delicate process of balancing what needed to be done, with what could be done.  We soon became masters of wringing every last penny from the available budgets, helping our clients to put into action most – if not all – of their plans.

 

And then, just as plans were being finalised, just as the last foundations were laid, and just as processes were perfected, word came down from on high…. it was time to Recentralise!

 

And so we were faced with a new challenge: how to take content (often generated seemingly at random), and use it to continue building on the progress we’d already made.

 

Since then, I’ve come to realise that the Centralise / Decentralise cycle is one of the eternal truisms of the business world.  Much like the persistent separation between Sales and Marketing departments, it’s a norm that we all rail against, yet regress towards.  

 

And thus, in the spirit of ‘no problems, only opportunities’, we’ve developed a framework that helps our clients make the most of content created without consideration for local needs, interests and variances. 

 

Whilst there are dozens of things to bear in mind – Localisation shouldn’t be an optional extra! – here are our 5 key pointers:

 

1. YOU CAN DO A LOT WITH A LITTLE

Whilst content itself can be generated centrally at a reasonable rate, it can often feel like useful assets that support your regional activities can be few and far between.  As such, it’s crucial to make the most of every high-quality asset you do manage to get your hands on.

 

Rather than just using content in its original form, look at what more you can do with it: cutting it into smaller sections, pulling out specific elements, recreating it in a different medium… the more variety you can introduce, the more channels you’ll be able to take advantage of:

Extracts, highlights, key figures and statistics can all be much more engaging than the title of your document.  Try pulling key content out for use across social media, allowing you to build a story over multiple posts and present long-form content in a much more digestible format.

 

  • Animations

A static wall of text has to catch readers at exactly the right moment, when they have both the time and the inclination to get stuck into something substantial.  Turning some of an asset’s key concepts into a simple animation is a great way to both catch a viewer’s attention and then give them, with little effort required on their part, an introduction to a document that they will then feel much more motivated to investigate further.

 

  • Infographics

Facts and figures can be some of the most compelling elements of an article or asset, but they are all too often consigned to tables.  Coming up with interesting ways to visualise the same data can instantly improve an audience’s intuitive understanding of the point you’re trying to make.

 

  • Quotes

Hearing a person say something is (although I hate to admit it) generally more engaging than reading a copywriter’s sales copy: a fellow customer’s view is always going to feel more ‘honest’ than what you yourself say… after all, we’re all paid to love our products and services!  Going through content and pulling out some key quotes can be a great way to make a succinct point with added gravitas.

 

Rather than just sending an asset, send it with a video of yourself / your sales team introducing it, and highlighting a few bits that will be of particular interest.  These picture-in-picture videos make it easy to add value to an asset, and to add a more human element to your comms.

 

2. YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE EVERYTHING

The beauty of making the most of the good stuff is that you can afford to ignore the bad!  You do, after all, have your own plans, and delivering on them whilst also trying to accommodate someone else’s is a sure-fire step on the road to madness.  

 

Once you know what you’re looking for, it can be the work of a moment to realise you’re not looking at it, and to invest your time and money on something much more likely to deliver.

 

3. HAVE YOUR PROCESSES IN PLACE

Despite assurances to the contrary, I’ve never worked with a client who wasn’t forever dealing with assets and demands being thrown at them, out of the blue, at the last minute.  Even things that were planned months in advance – such as events, product launches and brand updates – would end up being delivered 3 days after the ‘absolute latest we can do anything with them’.  As such it’s beyond crucial that you have processes in place, and a team capable of acting on them, ready to spring into action whenever content lands in your inbox.  Whether it’s in-house or an agency, you need someone who can rapidly review what they’re given, work out all the ways it can be used, and get on with delivering it as fast as possible.  

 

4. KEEP PUSHING

It can feel like swimming through treacle, and lead times are never shorter than a decade or two, but some things are worth fighting for!  

 

If you have fundamental (i.e. non time-critical) assets that you need, trying to work within the system to get them created is never a wasted effort.  Even if all you’re doing is constantly reminding those in charge of the content calendar that you are an autonomous region with very specific requirements, if you haven’t at least tried than it can be a little harder to adopt tip #5, which is…

 

5. CARRY ON REGARDLESS!

We all like to be team players, and do our best to toe the corporate line, but sometimes one just has to take matters into one’s own hands!

 

If you feel like you’re swimming upstream relying on the US to supply useful, actionable content on a schedule that supports your plans, then maybe it’s time to go off grid…

 

Obviously without the budgets you can’t just do everything you need to, but with a well organised team all pulling the same direction you’d be surprised just how cost-effectively you can create your own content whilst doing enough with the centrally-created content to keep everyone happy!

 

3. AGAIN) DID I MENTION PROCESS?

It’s not wildly glamorous, but the value of establishing the right systems for finding, reviewing and leveraging content cannot be over-emphasised. If you’re partnering with an agency, look for them to spend time building an intimate knowledge of your audiences, channels and objectives.  Once you’re happy in their editorial ability, you’ll find the content management process becomes almost second nature – resulting in an agile, semi-autonomous team capable of constantly surprising you with how much can be achieved despite the constraints in which you find yourself!

 

TAKEAWAY

The push and pull of the centralise / decentralise cycle can be infuriating, but it needn’t be too disruptive.  The key is to have systems in place to make the most of what you’re given without it taking a minute more than it has to!

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