WEDNESDAY 31 MAY 2023 11:40 AM


Blaise Hope, CEO and founder of Origin Hope, explores some of the most common content-production barriers facing communications professionals - and gives advice on how to break them down.

As humans, we possess an unparalleled capacity for ideation and creativity. From cave paintings to modern-day TikTok videos - and vast amounts of literature, music and film in-between - we’ve been avid content producers for the past 40,000 years.

Today, the digital age has brought about an explosion of content production, with individuals and organisations creating vast amounts of it using a range of multimedia tools and platforms. But, as we all know, quantity doesn’t always equate to quality.

For the corporate communications professional, content plays a significant role in stakeholder relations. Powerful copy that truly resonates can drive business goals, enhance brand image and deliver your message to a whole host of target audiences - which, in this field, can range from the media, investors, employees and regulators, to the supply chain and the communities in which your business operates. 

However, producing market-leading content is no easy feat. Communications teams often face various barriers that impede their ability to create high-quality, engaging and informative content. 

One of the best ways to handle content production problems and create a consistent pipeline of high-quality work, is to identify and address the main barriers facing you. Once this is done, you can redesign your content production strategy and utilise the tools the digital age is handing you on a plate.

So let’s get up close and take a look at some of the major barriers:

Lack of resources: Creating high-quality content of course requires time, effort and expertise that many organisations don’t allocate sufficient budget or manpower to. However, rather than focus on the lack of resources, as a corporate communications professional, it's crucial to manage resources effectively. 

Poor resource management can lead to a variety of problems, such as mismanaged time, energy, equipment, people, focus, morale and company reputation. 

Passing work in-house or cycling through freelancers can be helpful, but is rarely effective as a long-term strategy. Why? Freelancers can be unpredictable - that’s not a criticism - the agility and flexibility they possess is second-to-none, and it’s why businesses lean in so much to tap into their skill sets and expertise. But it can leave you open and vulnerable when it comes to the smooth and consistent running of your content engine. Meanwhile, those producing copy as an extra duty can also have a counter-productive impact on your content strategy, as they fall under the strain of other business-critical activities they need to prioritise over content. All this virtually guarantees in-house production will fail.

To be effective, a blend of technology and human knowledge is required, which involves investing focus, energy, and time from the right people. Time is the most valuable yet riskiest resource, and wasting it, using it ineffectively, or running out can affect budget, equipment productivity, morale and motivation. 

To overcome this, work with leadership to articulate the value of high-quality content and the resources needed to create it. That way, you can ensure sufficient budget and team is allocated to support communications initiatives and ensure any investments are targeted, useful and maximised once deployed.

Limited audience insights: Effective content creation requires a deep understanding of your target audience's preferences, needs and pain-points - insight that, all too often, is inaccessible for communications teams. 

The biggest mistake in this corner is down to assumptions and subjective reasoning. You need to go through a period of content testing; types, formats and topics. If you find a return in an unexpected place - you can own it. 

To properly test as much as you can, you’ll need to hoover up information about your audience’s interests and habits. Commission your own research and nurture a research culture that informs your day-to-day activity. Back that up by properly monitoring traffic activity through appropriate analytics tools - these are not as intimidating as some think, and really easy to understand with a bit of playing around. This will let you take advantage of trends and devise great content that provides value to your audience, getting you ahead. 

Fragmented workflows: Communications teams often operate in silos, with different teams responsible for different aspects of content creation. This can lead to fragmented workflows, miscommunication and inconsistency in content quality.

There are a great many efficiency, collaboration and workflow platforms out there. Think, Trello, Slack etc. But these all have a fatal flaw that often ends up dragging entire organisations: they exist to assist in better human communication, not to replace it. I have seen so many instances of teams and even companies with 200+ employees totally destroyed by a reliance on these tools as a replacement for human communication. 

Try all of them and abandon those that don’t work and don’t let these platforms replace the need for communication, even and especially if people complain they are saying the same thing twice or more. Driving constant, frank, repeated, communication across platforms, messaging groups and calls is a good thing. It will help your content effort at every stage from buy-in to performance. 

Legal and regulatory constraints: Across many industries, legal and regulatory requirements have a significant impact on what organisations can publish. Although designed to protect consumers, prevent fraudulent or misleading claims, and ensure compliance with industry-specific rules and regulations, it makes for a challenging task when it comes to content creation. 

Let’s face it, producing content that needs to stick within certain boundaries can dampen the spirit of creatives, who are trying to create engaging content but are doing so with the shackles on. It is a balancing act; communications teams must represent their organisation's values and goals while adhering to requirements, which are complex and frequently change. 

The key is communication; legal teams need to provide communications teams with detailed information about industry-specific rules, such as the use of specific terminology or disclaimers that must be included in the content. And communications must work with legal to develop guidelines and procedures for creating and approving content.

Get the creatives involved, too: this will help them view it as a creative challenge, which it is, and inspire them to do better work that makes everybody happy. 

Right now, we’re surrounded by content and that will only increase as technology and content itself evolves. Finding your niche and making your mark within this is undoubtedly challenging. But, by addressing the barriers that communications teams face and implementing practical solutions, organisations can not only create compelling content, but improve brand image, and help achieve business objectives.