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The 3 Keys To Agile Content Development

Talking about agile content development is a popular pastime. But here are some guidelines for doing it, according to Firstborn’s Alex Krawitz and Eugene Chung.

Over the past two years digital content has been the topic of choice across the marketing and digital media world—and the word agile has achieved buzzword status and can now sit proudly among the ranks of responsive design, big data, and fidgital (yes…fidgital). Agile means using real-time interactions and behavior monitoring to drive a more agile approach to creating and deploying branded content focused around the consumer. It seems obvious now that any effective approach to content has to put the consumer at the center and must be able to adapt based on cultural trends and consumer insights. Brands have become comfortable with “making the logo smaller,” and marketers and strategists have devised elegant thinking around content creation, often comparing brands to publishers or broadcasters. 

It’s certainly safe to say there’s a lot of commentary and strategizing around agile approaches to content creation—much of it, dead on. Where the vast majority of it leaves off, however, is at the crucial point where brands stop and say, "This all sounds great, but what do we do now?" Thinking can only make a difference when it is actionable. And while it’s one thing to think agile, the action of being quick-to-market with compelling content based on real-time cultural trends is a much tougher challenge.

In working with brands to navigate through and succeed in agile content development, we have found that there are three key things brands should consider to set themselves up for great results.

Start From Within

When brands come to agencies for agile content development, the main criteria is usually that the content must be high quality, compelling, low-cost, high frequency, and quick-turnaround. But often their internal structure and processes aren’t yet optimized to embrace this type of approach. In agile content development, timing and efficiency is everything. Without it, there is no liftoff.

Alex Krawitz

Brands can optimize themselves for agile content development by making internal adjustments that improve communication, the first of which should be to empower a small team to manage the process. This team should have the authority to secure and approve budgets, as well as weigh in creatively and strategically on content as it goes to market. Creating a nimble group that has real ownership of the process will make things more efficient and reduce the chances of unnecessary stress being put on your brand marketing team as a whole.

This exercise will also help your brand get into the right mind-set. Think of your brand marketing team as the police force, and your agile content group as the SWAT team.

Choose the Right Content Partner

Choosing the ideal content strategy and production partner is integral to the success of agile content development, and you may have to look a little harder than usual for the right fit.

To create traditional content (aka TV commercials, print and out of home ads), brands and agencies have taken the same approach for many years. The process goes something like: Brand goes to agency for content, agency conceives and writes content, agency triple bids content to director/production companies, and also edit facilities, and vfx houses, and design studios…the list goes on. Production companies then pitch their take on concepts, agency recommends production company, bids go to procurement, negotiations ensue, and eventually content partners are selected, and production begins. For additional content, repeat the process. While this approach has worked and still does work for traditional content, it is a surefire way to miss the mark in agile content development. It is too inefficient and costly to keep up with consumer trends in the digital space.

Agile content development is best executed by a partner that has strategy, production, and analytics under one roof, combining what agencies traditionally do best with what production companies traditionally do best. This eliminates the communication slowdowns of the old model, and makes the process more efficient, more cost-effective, and more cohesive for the consumer. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Beware the jack of all trades," but in today’s market there exists a handful of agencies that have properly built these offerings to feed off each other effectively in-house and are producing real results for their clients because of it. When strategy, creative, and production teams can sit side by side and collaborate fluidly, agile content is the by-product.

A perfect example of this is Red Bull, which has even gone a step further to combine brand, agency, and production company into one. No one would argue that they are not one of the most successful agile content marketers on the planet.

Create a Living Content Strategy

Since a brand’s content strategy is often established at the very beginning of the process, the ongoing challenge is to make sure that strategy stays true to the objectives that it was built around while also being fluid enough to evolve as culture and consumer interactions and behaviors necessitate.

Eugene Chung

The most important part of setting your brand’s agile content strategy is having a clear idea of why your brand is creating content to begin with. For example, Redken recently partnered with Firstborn because they had a desire to produce a high volume of relevant and engaging content that would not only coincide with product releases and known market events throughout the year, but that would also respond rapidly to emerging trends and topics in a way that would stand out among its category competition. In this case, agile content development with a cohesive look and feel that would be quick-to-market was the perfect solution for the Redken brand.

Next, your responsibility is to make sure that the content you’re creating is meeting your brand’s overall objectives. Your selected content partner should be responsible for making sure the content you create is something that your target consumer actually wants to see.

Once your brand’s content strategy is set, it should be seen as a living framework that should evolve over time. Recognize that your brand and content both live in a dynamic world that changes constantly. Though the brand’s objectives and overall content strategy may not change, the actual content you create probably will. You should embrace this. Thanks to digital, you have the ability to monitor and understand your consumer, and deliver to them exactly what they want. Listen to what they’re saying, observe how they’re viewing your content, and make changes as needed while staying as close as you can to your overall strategy and objectives.

Ultimately, brands come in all shapes and sizes. And like digital, the word agile can mean different things depending on who you ask. The main takeaway and key to success for all brands in agile content development is that you have to be comfortable knowing that you can’t know everything that lies ahead.

Yoda once said, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” Agile content development is the domain of doers. Brands that make the necessary preparations will continue to see results as theorists and philosophers will continue to "get it," while watching from the sidelines.

Alex Krawitz is VP, Content Development and Eugene Chung is Director of Strategy at digital agency, Firstborn.

[Image: Flickr user Alexandre Ferreira, vhmh, and Sam Lehman]

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