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Posted by on Dec 15, 2014 | 0 comments

6 Keys to Building an Effective Content Shock Absorber

how to handle content shock, content overload

Double click on the image to bring up the full-size, printable “SimpleGraphic”

It’s been almost a year since Mark Schaefer shook up the content marketing world with his “Content Shock” post, which, he said, sought to “demonstrate in simple economic terms why content marketing — the hottest marketing trend around — may not be a sustainable strategy for many businesses.”  His is a basic supply and demand argument:  too much content for too few eyeballs with too little time, compounded by too great an expense for no-longer-free content creation (never really was free) and distribution (used to be sort of free, socially). Now, I’m not here to argue his argument’s merits, or jump on the sometimes defensive-sounding anti-shock bandwagons.  I’d simply like to observe my own content consumption conundrum, and see if it doesn’t ring true with yours:

I only have two eyeballs and ears, way too little time and two kids to feed out of an ever-changing marketing career, requiring that, like it or not, I need to keep consuming good, informative, helpful content to maintain my currency (in every sense of the word).

I have to admit that Mark’s post was almost a self-fulfilling prophecy for me.  I was, by the time of its publication, already feeling overwhelmed and underfed by content, at least the way I was consuming it. After reading the post, I unconsciously began to taper off all content consumption – hardly a solution, but somewhat of a relief. I realized I need a “content shock absorber,” so I went about building one which, with the advent of the new year, I plan to finally implement.  As my “SimpleGraphic” illustrates, I believe that following six key considerations can help make content consumption practical, and truly useful, for professional purposes.

1. Value.   The explosion of content, and its domination of our device-centric professional and personal lives, arguably offers more distraction than useful information. As a result, one’s first decision point should be “How valuable is this to me in my work?” In my case, with a practice that’s pivoted to brand strategy and initial brand communication, that means cutting back on frequenting purely tactical content marketing and creativity posts, videos and podcasts, for instance, and focusing on what can keep me abreast of brand insight methodologies, strategy trends, and foundational brand creativity.

2.  Depth.  Most content lives in the shallow end; if you want to learn more, you’ve got to go deeper. In my view, it’s better to consume less content in greater depth. Or to borrow, and bust, a different, but very popular metaphor, don’t just snack.  In fact, “snackable” content is one of my least favorite terms.  While many of my content-creation betters embrace it wholly, it speaks to me of content as quantity not quality.  How many units of content can we get people to consume, and how often? The all-too-accurate imagery suggests the overeating of under-nourishing food.  If you want a bite-sized treat, skip the snack and look for an appetizer – any sort of short form content that will lead you to a full, and healthy, meal.

3.  Contacts.   A terrific way to prioritize which content sources you regularly turn to is to ask yourself “ Can I not only consume, but also contribute here?”  Through contribution in comments, sharing, guest posts and the like – we make contacts. And through contacts, we create relationships, the lifeblood of any business or career.

4.  Rotation.  The flip side of bouncing around too much, and “snacking” here, there and everywhere on content is the tendency, even with all that choice, to get stuck in a rut of the same type or sources of content.  Even if those sources fit your “Value” criterion, over-focus can rob you of perspective, breadth of input and even the simple pleasure of learning.  My prescription:  create a short list of 15-20 blogs, podcasts, magazines (online or off) or other sources, actively follow 5-6 at a time, on a schedule, and rotate in and out on a regular basis.

5.  Vacation.  This is the simplest key to getting content consumption right.  It’s also the one that seems to freak people out the most. “I can’t stop following, reading, posting… I’ll disappear!” Actually, no, you won’t.  Oh, your Klout score may take a hit, but unlike some (including, I believe, the aforementioned Mark Schaefer, whose opinions I greatly respect) I question how much that matters or measures. For instance, at this writing my Klout score is three points higher than David Aakers’… and there’s no way I’m more influential in branding than this professor/practitioner/author and Vice-Chairman of Prophet.  My guess is that David simply doesn’t post as many photos of his golden doodle on Facebook as I do. So take a break once in a while… especially when you are on an actual vacation.  You’re likely to come back with a fresher set of eyes and a sharper mind.

6.  Surprise.   Data-driven creativity isn’t exactly an oxymoron, but the almost oppressive authority accorded to analytics in content marketing inevitably produces too many “me-too” efforts. I’ll admit to guilt here, too – witness the click-baiting numbered list format of my headline for this post.  The onus falls on the reader/viewer/listener to demand more than the same-old same-old.  Stretch yourself to find sources that are more thought provoking, unexpected, challenging… even a little weird, so long as they satisfy your other criteria. In a future post, I’ll discuss my shortlist of content sources, its rotation… and just how it’s working for me. In the meantime, please let me know… how do you plan to handle content shock?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Chuck Kent is a freelance brand strategist and writer ( and the moderator of The Branding Roundtable) who works with marketers, design firms and agencies to help locate, differentiate and communicate a brand’s simple truth. A copywriter and creative director by background, he also enjoys creating unique content.


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