Creating relevant and timely content takes a lot of work. Creating relevant, timely and compelling content is even more work. That’s why, in the hustle of everyday life, we sometimes fall into the trap of sticking to our comfort zones. PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, flat experiences. But new research from Ceros reaffirms the growing need to create interactive and experiential content—not just to drive buyer engagement but to activate employee engagement and passion.
The new industry report from Ceros, The Embrace of Immersive Content, shows the state of immersive content marketing, which includes all content and media experiences that drive reader action. This includes current adoption of immersive content, internal challenges and the behaviors and mindsets that separate the leaders in the space from, well, everyone else.
At Content4Demand, we’re avid users (and extreme fans) of Ceros. We not only adore the platform and its capabilities, but we also appreciate the company’s perspectives on content strategy and creation. Knowing that they “drink their own champagne” and always focus on creating immersive, high-value content experiences, I was excited to dig into the report, which includes perspectives of more than 1,000 marketing, PR and design professionals.
Although the respondent pool included representation from B2B and B2C organizations, as well as agencies, non-profits and government organizations, there were clear overarching trends that prove content is evolving to be multimedia and more immersive. Consider these stats:
- 90% of respondents agree that content designed to create an experience performs better.
- 81% say they wish their company published more multimedia, interactive and immersive content.
- 52% of respondents said their company produces too many PDFs.
- 1 in 3 respondents agree their company’s content is “boring.”
Many creatives realize that they need to reimagine their content experiences to better reach and engage with their buyers. However, looking at average content outputs, organizations are still largely favoring static content. The goal for them is to even out their content mix to include fewer blogs and PDFs and more interactive assets such as quizzes and polls.
If organizations want to close the interactive content gap, they need to tackle some organizational challenges. Of the respondents who described immersive content as a “moderate” or “low priority,” their top challenges included:
- Securing budget (52%)
- Lacking in-house skills (36%)
- Getting leadership buy-in (23%)
There are also other cultural challenges that organizations need to address. The vast majority of respondents said their marketing teams valued creativity (85%) and visual design as part of the creation process (98%). But the kicker is these values and beliefs don’t extend across the broader business. Ceros asked respondents to assess how close they were to achieving an “immersive content ideal,” which is defined as: “a company that regularly publishes content that elicits an emotional response and connection while creating a clear brand impression.”
Of all respondents, only 16% described their organizations as being “very close” to the ideal. This small sample of companies have very distinct values and beliefs. Specifically, those in the “immersive content ideal”:
- Reward risk taking
- Feel pride in ownership of content
- Build and nurture skills required for success
- Strongly value creativity at the organizational level
I don’t believe these four characteristics are part of a four-phased process or flowchart. I think they’re cyclical; they fuel each other and should be built into the core culture of the business. I know this seems difficult (or flat-out impossible) if you’re part of a legacy organization that has a lot of committees and red tape. But I truly believe this cycle can be put into motion with one small act or even a small test project.
Pilot a New Creative Standard
Let’s say I worked with my creative director to roll out a new content asset for an upcoming campaign. We use Ceros to create an interactive experience that includes carousels, animated charts and mini quizzes. We even bend the rules of our branding to include new colors and visual elements. It’s a huge success! It surpasses our engagement goals and the performance of our static assets, people are sharing it on social media, we’re getting feedback on our emails promoting the piece.
Rather than letting this great experience exist in a vacuum, our VP praises us and shares it with the larger team to use as future inspiration. People want to know about the tool we used and the process we followed so they can do the same. Then, they want to learn more about how they can use Ceros, too. As more of these great experiences are created and shared, they become the standard for success. They become an audience favorite, an expectation. And the more we create these great experiences and get that fantastic feedback outside and inside our company, the more pride we have for our work.
And so, the cycle continues…
Build Creativity Into the Workflow
Sure, you may have some limitations or rules you need to follow. I get it. And some days, you may not feel very creative. I definitely get that. But as content creators, part of our jobs is to find new ways to tell stories and connect with our audience, to make a difference and share new ideas. Sometimes, that means pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones—or onboarding others to do it for us. Here are some things we do to stay on our toes, creatively:
- Create a centralized place for idea sharing: At Content4Demand, we have a whole Teams channel dedicated to sharing internal and external content pieces: what we like, what we think can be improved upon and ways we can innovate moving forward.
- Applaud risk taking: Take every opportunity to give a shout-out to your peers who are taking risks and making big moves. When you can, share these pieces with clients and even leadership, pointing out why you think they’re so great. (Some social media love wouldn’t hurt either.) We’re human; we’re hungry for applause and a good ol’ ego stroke, so the more positive feedback we receive the more likely we are to repeat those behaviors.
- Connect your team to learning opportunities: Whether it’s webinars, videos or virtual workshops, content marketing consultants and solution providers are providing more opportunities for like-minded individuals to connect. Make sure your team knows about them and takes advantage of them.
- Make time for brainstorming: I know this is difficult, but setting time for personal and team brainstorming is crucial. I tend to uncover my best ideas while going for a walk or, honestly, in the shower, so I always have my phone or a notebook close by. We also use our team scrums and company-wide meetings to share examples, discuss upcoming projects and share ideas.
Digital is going to continue to be crucial as we get into 2021—and so is content. That means standing out will only become more important. If you want to differentiate from the digital deluge of information, you will need to take some risks. We created a new resource to help you do just that. Hopefully you’ll uncover some new ideas and best practices.
Alicia Esposito is VP of Content for Retail TouchPoints. Formerly a Senior Content Strategist for Content4Demand, she oversaw the content and editorial strategy for B2B clients in a variety of industries. She also helped company partners and clients with their content strategy and creation efforts and has a passion for crafting immersive and relevant content experiences using new approaches to storytelling, interactive formats, influencers and more. When she’s not dwelling over all things branding, messaging and content strategy, she’s spending quality time with her family, binging on Netflix or eating guacamole.