The Evil Deception Of Content

red sand dunes
“I have brought you here to the top of the changing, ever-shifting world, my friends, to be tempted.”

“Look out, across time and space,” the evil deceiver whispers. “What do you see?”

Content strategies being skillfully developed.

Complex message platforms devised, revised, strategized and restrategized.

Elevator pitches crafted in one minute, two minute and ten minute units.

Content being prioritized, hierachtisized, maximized, minimized, mapped, scrapped and deployed.


It’s all part of a disturbing trend emerging from the shock waves of change that are shaking and reshaping the world.

People are actually treating content as if it were the end-all and be-all of connecting with people.

Raw, unbridled facts, and figures and statements of intent. Dreary historical facts, performance measures and self-serving braggadocio. Boring case statements, eBooks, playbooks, slide shares and all manner of blah-bedey-blah.

Content is not connection

Having a whole bunch of nifty, packaged information does not mean you’re connecting with people. Yet more and more people think they are.

And guess what, Skippy, no one who counts (your tribe) cares.

Because content is not engagement

In an age of ever-expanding media, message fragmentation and ever-contracting time and attention, creative engagement (that is, making content emotionally compelling) is a requirement.

Without it, the people who count never get to the content.

A few pathetic examples

In one category I know of, organizations very precisely target many minute audience segments exclusively with online media to dump uninspired, unconnected and, for the most part, unvisualized content on them.

All of it without a compelling, unifying creative idea, an inspired purpose or a unique, helpful experience to support it.

Content that adds up to nothing

The net result of this precise content dumping is that awareness and familiarity of all the competitors in this category is almost zero.

Despite the fact these folks have been communicating for almost a decade, no one knows who the heck these purveyors of online content are.

This is beyond pathetic. It borders on tragic. Especially in a category where success is driven by people finding organizations to include in their consideration set.

Follow me, I’m a twit

You don’t have to look far to see other examples of the evil confusion of content and engagement. Go to Twitter and you can follow it. Every minute of every day

One guy wraps his followers in an orgy of ego that makes Donald Trump look like Mother Teresa.

Apparently he thinks we have the time or the desire to care about where he is and what he is doing every hour of the day. Especially when it revolves around killing wild life back home in Montana, being interviewed by various publications and appearing on a variety of red carpets. Not as a celebrity, mind you, but rather crawling on all fours in the background as an almost invisible sponsor.

I tweet therefore I am

In the middle of the Twitter spectrum are organizations with their own self-serving, well-planned content agenda.

They push out the same stuff on a repetitive schedule driving people to the same self-serving blog content hour after hour over and over and over again. This is the modern equivalent of telling people what to believe about you and expecting them to accept it just because you said it.

None of this is engaging. It is content for content’s sake. In and of itself it does not stand out and get attention, nor keep attention, nor sustain a dialogue.

A special tweet

At the other end of the Twittiverse are people who use their tweets to expose us to information we never would have known without them. Some are about their organization but many are not. In fact, most are not.

They create or lead us to experiences. They tell us stories. They create a compelling personality for themselves 140 characters at a time by creatively providing what we value in an engaging voice that we want to follow.

Chris Brogan is one of those people. It’s well worth following him. Guy Kawasaki is another. So is Peter Cashmore. As well as Sean Duffy. And if you are totally research challenged, Mashable will show you what’s going on online right now right here in a straightforward but none-the-less engaging way.

We’ve been sold a bill of goods

As the digital world developed someone declared that “content is king.”

You can pretty much bet the declarer was a techno nerd with the creative flare of a C++ manual and the engagement quotient of a 35 year-old guy living in his parent’s basement with a bunch of goldfish.

Content is not engagement, my friend. It never has been and it never will be.

Because without creatively and emotionally involving people in a unique, helpful experience they will never get to your masterfully developed content.

Engagement makes connections

As a great man once said,

“However much we would like communications to be a science — because life would be simpler that way — the fact is it is not.”

“Finding out what to say is the beginning of the communications process. How you say it makes people look and listen and believe. And if you are not successful at that you have wasted all the work and intelligence and skill that went into discovering what you should say.”

“It’s not just what you say that stirs people, it’s the way that you say it.”

— Bill Bernbach

Content is a carton of eggs

I don’t mean to denigrate content. Obviously, it is vitally important. It is the strategic base of all that a brand or a cause is and does. Especially these days.

Because content now is not only what you say, it also includes the interactive devices, brand experiences and social interactions and connections that make content more involving.

But before people will ever get involved in your content you will have to emotionally engage them.

I define engagement as the creative elements that gain attention, keep attention, make people want to have a dialogue with you around your purpose and share your stories.

Engagement is a soufflé

So let’s get the two straight. To say that raw content encased in media is engagement is like saying a carton of eggs is a soufflé.

It is not. It never will be. It is what you do with the content of the carton that makes it special.

As Maya Angelou famously said:

People will never forget how you made them feel

So make me feel something

If you’d like to delve a little deeper into what makes content engaging, learn how to make people feel something.

Learn your purpose.

Learn your tribe.

Learn to create compelling experiences for your tribe that support your common cause.

Learn how to tell stories filled with empathy and emotion.

Because without this special, creative, emotive element your organization and your cause will be about as interesting, involving and compelling as Ben Stein’s Audio Book narration of the tax code.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?


Photo by Luca Zanon