Broken: Rule 2 - Focus on value propositions, not your brand

Our five-part mini-series on how to succeed in the next era of content discovery

Welcome to the second part of our five-part mini-series on rules for the new era of content discovery. After focusing on audiences in rule one, for rule two we’re looking at what you can offer them as a content publisher:

Rule 2 - Focus on value propositions, not your brand

There is already far too much content out there for any of us to keep up with, so why should anyone give your story their attention? Our favourite line about attention is that we don’t have short attention spans, we have short consideration spans. There is so much content flying at us every minute, we have to make hundreds of decisions a day about what to focus our attention on. So if you want to get attention, you need to be interesting and valuable enough for people to give you their consideration first.

When we develop content strategies for our clients, we focus not only on what they want to achieve for their brand, but on their value propositions for their target audiences. What does your content do that your audience really need and value? What problems does it solve, or how does it make their lives better? If you can’t answer these questions, you can’t help your audience make that decision to give you their attention.

There are lots of ways to think about a value proposition, but we like this simple model from Strategyzer, the creators of the Busines Model Canvas. We start working on it from the right-hand side of the diagram, and make sure that we really understand what jobs or tasks our target audience need to get done. Then we think about what would delight them, or take away an annoying issue, and only then do we start to think about the value proposition - how the client’s content will help deliver delight or relieve a problem.

If you start from your brand and content first, you’ll miss insights into your audience’s need, and the value propositions you suggest will be based on ego, not evidence. We all think our stories are so amazing that of course people will give them attention, but that’s just not really true. We give our attention to things that we think are important.

If you want to prove this to yourself (or your boss) write a media diary for a couple of days, noting everything you spent attention on, and in particular why you did this. Focus on the stuff that actually required you to spend a bit of considered attention - emails and messages you read, videos you watched, audio you listened to, research you gathered, etc. And ask yourself what jobs that content did for you - did it help you pass the time as you were doing something else? Did it help with a conversation with a family member or work colleague? Did it entertain you or inspire you? These are all good examples of value propositions.

A good tool:

To help our clients think about their value propositions, we suggest three things you can do to create value for your audience with your content. You can Curate, Create or Convene

Curating content can save time and help your audience understand and keep in touch with complex subjects. Or you can create content in a way that only your organisation can do, telling human stories, or taking people behind the scenes of a story. And finally, you can convene your communities around their stories, using content formats to build stronger connections between them, and elevate their voices. From this simple framework, you can dive deeper to create really valuable content strategies that are unique to your brand, and valuable to your audience.

If you want to develop strong value propositions for your content strategies, we’ve recently launched a new Content Audit Workshop that will take you from audience data insights to value propositions using these simple tools.

A good example:

We’ve been working with ADP for the last four years on editorial formats that extend the impact of their annual ReThink conference, the biggest annual conference for the global payroll industry. They were already convening their community at the event, so we focused on curating a quarterly publication of stories that extends the conversations and thought leadership from the event, and creating new formats like Real People Talk Pay, telling the human stories of what pay means for workers in different cities around the world.

Go deeper:

If you’re not already a subscriber, we’ve been diving in to what makes formats valuable for their audiences for a couple of years now in our Formats Unpacked newsletter. There are over 100 formats in there, so dive in and get some inspiration.

We’re big fans of usethis, a site that interviews creatives of all kinds to find out the tools they use. Although it’s about hardware and software, not content, it’s full of brilliant insights into the value people get from the things they love. This is a great tip for your audience research - don’t ask your audience what they like, ask them what they use.

In a similar vein, we trialled an interview format about content earlier in our Attention Matters newsletter called Found/Saved/Subscribed/Shared, in which we asked people not just to provide links, but ask about their discovery and use as well. We’re probably going to bring that back again soon, so if you want to be interviewed for a future series, let us know!

That’s it for Rule 2. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 of this series on how content discovery is broken, and a quick summary of this week’s 5-part mini-series: the intro is here, and Rule 1 is here.

There’s more from us, if you’d like, in the and !

See you tomorrow for rule number 3: Find your niches.