The content value equation

Last week Antony and I spoke about planning content strategy at a Charity Comms event.

One of the things we highlighted that seemed to strike a chord – and prompted a few conversations afterwards too – was the need to understand content from a cost and value perspective.

Proving the value of content is a perennial problem, both inside and outside the charity sector. As we see it, there are two parts to the equation:

  1. The value of the content to the user and to the organisation.
  2. The cost of sourcing, creating, publishing and maintaining that content.

Both parts are key, because how can you accurately calculate the return if you haven’t quantified the investment?

Too often we assume that anything produced internally (and therefore with no supplier costs) is ‘free’, but of course it isn’t. Any time staff spend on creating content (or sourcing it, or approving it, or maintaining it, etc) is a cost to the organisation. If you want to calculate the value your content is generating, it’s essential to quantify that cost. The hard truth is, sometimes content can have a negative value, particularly if processes aren’t as efficient as they should be.

At the event, we suggested giving your content process a ‘barium meal’, so that you can see the exact journey your content takes from inception to publication. This process can be very illuminating and will help you to identify duplication or inefficiencies in the process. You might find that it’s running smoothly with no issues, or perhaps that it looks a little more like this:

After going though a similar process, one of our clients was able to establish that a typical blog post cost around £700 to produce. Another charity I worked with had a three stage process for creating content about fundraising events: a local editor would pass content to a regional web ‘advocate’; the regional web advocate would rewrite it and pass it on to the digital team; the digital team would rewrite it again and then finally publish it.

We were able to show that this was an inefficient and expensive process that left the first two people in the process feeling disempowered, demotivated and uninvested. It also highlighted an easy-to-address skills gap that could significantly increase productivity and efficiency.

One way to do a barium meal for your own content, might be to test creating a piece of content in a template that has space for everyone who comes into contact with it to record the time that they’ve spent on it. This should cover the time spent sourcing material, researching, writing, editing, rewriting, approving and publishing so that you get the full picture. You can then ascribe a £ value to the time spent at each stage, and compare it to the value the content actually generates.

This analysis can help you refine your approach to content. It will build an evidence-based rationale for changing your content processes or the structure of your team, or investing in additional training and resources. It can also help to inform your content mix, by highlighting which types of content deliver the highest return on investment.

Have you ever tried to track your content process or calculate exactly how much it costs to produce? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Image credit: eriwst via Flickr