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2016 State of

DIGITAL CONTENT
The

Content Strategy Goes Beyond


the Marketing Department

By Omar Akhtar
October 25, 2016
Includes survey data from 528 digital transformation leaders and strategists

EXECUTIVE
SUMMARY

KEY
FINDINGS

To understand how brands are using


content to achieve business goals
and deliver on customer needs, we
surveyed over 500 content strategists
in North America and Europe across
major industry verticals including IT,
retail, manufacturing, finance, and
healthcare.

Most companies have moved beyond using content purely for marketing
purposes. They are now deploying it across other parts of the business such as sales
and service. Over 80% of the respondents said they had a unified content strategy that
applied to the entire organization.

Majority of companies displayed high levels of maturity for digital content


operations. Over 80% of respondents said they had executive support, were able to
attribute revenue to content, and created personalized content based on customer data.

We tested the hypothesis that content


is no longer a marketing function,
but a strategic tool for multiple
parts of the organization to meet
business objectives and deliver on
a unified customer experience. We
charted the progress companies have
made towards achieving this vision
across several different aspects of
the business, including leadership,
organization, strategy, and technology.
We also created a snapshot of the
most common practices by industry
and identified the future initiatives and
technologies that companies were
investing in.

Companies still struggle with aligning teams around a common content vision.
Despite having a unified content strategy, 55% of companies said aligning multiple
teams around that strategy was their biggest challenge, and 70% said this alignment
was one of their top initiatives in 2017.

Brands use content mostly to create awareness and build credibility as thought
leaders. The top objectives for producing content were brand health (36%) and
thought leadership (32%).This implies that brands are neglecting other opportunities
to use content such as inspiring trust, or providing product support.

Brands produce most content in-house (68%). However brands also rely on usergenerated content (62%) and to a lesser extent, outside agencies (43%) to help scale
the production of content.

Data drives content. Almost all companies (99%) use some form of data to create
relevant content, the most popular sources being social media metrics (65%) and website
analytics (63%). Data analysis was the most desired skill (67%) for content strategists and
51% of respondents said the data team was leading the content strategy discussion.

Nearly everybody uses Facebook for content. Brands received the most
engagement for their content on Facebook (71%) followed by email (61%). To get that
level of engagement, brands are spending ad dollars to amplify content. Another key
channel: 46% cite native advertising as their most engaging content.
2

INTRODUCTION
We believe that in 2016, mature and effective
companies use digital content, not just in
marketing, but across their organization.
Content can do more than the typical
marketing objectives of creating brand
awareness or maintaining brand health. It can
now promote loyalty, create transparency, fuel
a community, provide technical support, and
even generate direct revenue.
So we set out to track how far companies
had come in managing content across the
organization, what objectives companies
were pursuing, and which strategies they
were implementing. We also tracked factors
that drive maturity, such as executive
support, revenue attribution, and the
use of sophisticated technology such as
personalization and
real-time delivery.
An additional goal of this study was to create
a snapshot of current content practices. We
determined what respondents considered the
most effective formats, delivery channels, and
measurement techniques for their content
strategies -- and what they planned for the
coming year.
For each of these questions, we looked at
variation across industries and geographies.

CONTENT PRODUCING COMPANIES


SHOW HIGH LEVELS OF MATURITY
Based on responses to our behavioral questions, we found that companies displayed high
levels of maturity when it came to how they used digital content. Over 80% of respondents
agreed that they had content strategies that extend across departments, executive support,
and the ability to deliver data-driven, personalized, real-time content (see Figure 1).

41% of companies agree that


they have an organization wide
content strategy. When we include
people who somewhat agree, this
proportion rises to 88%. Companies
are planning beyond content marketing
plans, working on central strategies
across all customer-facing departments
who can benefit from deploying
content. In Europe, only 31% agreed
that they had a unified content strategy.
Comparing industries, IT was the most
confident, with 49% of respondents
saying they had a unified strategy.

39% of respondents had the


complete support of executive
leadership. And an additional 44%
somewhat agreed that they had
complete support. The majority of
companies have executive buy-in for
using content, which indicates that
it has graduated from the testing
and learning phase to showing
real business impact. This figure was
consistent across North America,
Europe and all industries, but with
higher support (55%) in manufacturing
companies, where the benefits of B2B
content are clearer.

FIGURE 1.

INDICATORS OF MATURITY FOR PRODUCERS OF


DIGITAL CONTENT
Agree

Somewhat Agree

Neutral

My company has a unified content strategy


that applies to the entire organization

41%

Executive leadership fully supports and


invests in using branded content to achieve
business goals

39%

44%

My company is able to directly tie revenue to


engagement generated by branded content

39%

47%

My company creates relevant content based


on customer data gathered from multiple
departments/resources

38%

44%

Multiple departments within my company


consistently produce content according to a
central vision and common set of guidelines

36%

49%

My company can deliver personalized


content in real-time to customers based on
the actions they take on our digital properties

35%

48%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

47%

Somewhat Disagree

Disagree
8% 4 1

14%

31

12% 2 1

14%

21

12% 3

13%

39% of respondents can tie content efforts to revenue generation. Adding in


those who could identify some support, 86% could show revenue results. This is
a crucial factor in getting departments other than marketing to invest in content
as a strategic tool. North America (44%) has made more progress in this regard
than Europe (31%). Comparing industries, IT (45%) and manufacturing (45%)
were most likely to be able to tie content to revenue, while retail was least likely
(30%). Again, B2B companies were more likely to attribute revenue impact to
content. This can be explained by the comparatively long sales cycles of IT and
manufacturing companies, where content has a greater chance of influencing the
purchaser to make a considered decision.

39

of respondents are
able to tie content
efforts to revenue
generation

Overall, 38% of companies create content based on data gathered from


multiple sources. Unifying data to create an accurate picture of the customer and
their needs continues to be a challenge, not just for content strategy, but for teams
that are focused on the entire, unified customer experience. Only 29% of European
companies could do this, while North Americans were more confident at 44%.

36% of companies say theyre able to align different content-producing


departments. A key component of a mature content strategy is that multiple
stakeholders create and follow the strategy, which enables many departments to
coordinate as they create content on their own. This was tougher for finance (28%)
and healthcare (26%) respondents, where compliance with regulations makes crossdepartment coordination challenging.

38

of companies say they


are able to create content
based on data gathered
from multiple sources

35% of companies can create personalized content and deliver it in realtime. This is a little surprising given that marketing tech platforms have
been offering this technology for at least the last two years, and there are
more tools than ever that enable companies to create personalized,
data-based content. It highlights a gap between the technology
and its adoption, and indicates that brands still arent factoring
personalization and real-time delivery into their content strategies.
There was also a sizeable gap in adoption between North America
of companies say theyre
(40%) and Europe, where only 28% of respondents said they
able to align different
practiced real-time personalization.
content-producing
departments

36

ALIGNING
TEAMS AND
ACCESSING
DATA ARE
THE BIGGEST
CHALLENGES
Companies are well versed in the
technology and skills needed to
execute a digital content strategy, but
still face challenges on the processes
side, specifically around alignment and
setting governance across multiple
teams (see Figure 2).

FIGURE 2.

BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR CONTENT PRODUCING


ORGANIZATIONS

Question: What are the biggest challenges you face in creating and implementing a content strategy? (Choose 3)

Aligning multiple teams around a unified strategy

Accessing relevant customer data

Difficulty in proving business impact of content

Producing content at a large scale

37
%
35

Purchasing or integrating the right software

Leadership
and strategists
arent on the
same page when it
comes to defining
business
impact

Getting investment/support from


executive leadership
Hiring the right
skills/people

18

55
%
54
%
53
%
47

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

Most respondents had trouble aligning teams and


accessing data. The top challenges for content producing
organizations were aligning multiple teams for a unified
content strategy (55%) and access to relevant customer data
(54%). Access to multiple sources of data is an especially
difficult challenge since it involves not only the cooperation
of several departments, but integrating different data
platforms in order to ingest, standardize, and analyze data,
and make it actionable.

Only 35% find getting executive support a major


challenge. This reflects the growing extent of executive
buy-in for content initiatives. However, the results were
completely flipped in North America, where 60% of
respondents picked getting executive support as their
biggest challenge, followed by hiring the right people/skills
(54%). Despite this, North Americans had an easier time
proving the business impact of content (32%) and aligning
multiple teams around a unified content strategy (18%).

Overall, 55% of respondents had a hard time proving


the business impact of content. We believe that
teams who are able to prove ROI with content
are more likely to have other departments
aligning themselves with their plan. However,
the difficulty in getting executive support
suggests that leadership and strategists arent
on the same page when it comes to defining
business impact.

The top
challenges for
content producing
organizations were
aligning multiple teams
for a unified content
strategy (55%) and
access to relevant
customer data
(54%)

Only
35% find
getting executive
support a major
challenge

MARKETING
AND THOUGHT
LEADERSHIP
ARE THE
MOST
COMMON
CONTENT
OBJECTIVES
In its early days, brands regarded
content purely a marketing tool, and
leadership graded it on the same terms
as traditional advertising. Its primary
objective was to create brand awareness
or improve brand health or perception.
Since then, companies strive to do far
more than just create awareness with
content, although awareness remains a
top objective (Figure 3).

FIGURE 3.

TOP OBJECTIVES FOR


BRANDS PRODUCING CONTENT

Question: Which of the following objectives is most important for your brand?

32%

36

We want to be seen
as thought leaders and
subject matter experts
in our industry

We want customers to
be aware of the brand
and have positive
feelings about it

We want our customers to


be very satisfied with the
level of information and
support they get about our
products

We want to be
seen as a part
of the same
community as our
customers

18%

We want to inspire
trust, loyalty and
be regarded as
a transparent
organization

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey,


Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

The top two objectives for content producing


brands were creating awareness (36%) and
being seen as thought leaders (32%). This
shows that content is still mostly used to achieve
marketing objectives.

Thought leadership was the top objective


for companies in Europe (38%) as well as
respondents in the manufacturing (31%), finance
(33%) and retail industries (30%). This highlights
the prevalent practice of producing content
to provide helpful, valuable information to the
consumer first, and achieve brand consideration as
a by-product. North America was the only group
where respondents were more likely to choose
brand awareness (40%) over thought leadership
(28%) as a top objective.

Only 6% of respondents picked customer


satisfaction with product information as a top
objective. This is understandable given that
most of the survey respondents were
likely to be in a marketing role, rather
than a product or support function.
However, marketers could be
missing an opportunity, since in
many cases, customers prefer this
type of informational content
over the sexier, but sometimes
irrelevant promotional content,
such as thought leadership or
awareness campaigns.

Thought
leadership was the
top objective for
the manufacturing,
finance and retail
industries

BRANDS PRODUCE A RANGE OF


CONTENT ARCHETYPES
Although awareness and thought leadership were the primary objectives for brands,
we found the actual content they produced wasnt necessarily aligned with those
objectives. We identified five different types of content brands produced, each one
delivering on a specific objective. Although some of these archetypes were slightly
more popular than others (especially among different verticals) brands tended to
produce all of them, rather than prioritizing a single archetype (see Figure 4).
These archetypes are defined as:
Content As Presence: Content that entertains and engages a broad
audience while promoting brand awareness and brand health.
Content As Currency: High-value, high-investment content that helps
the customer make a decision in their personal or professional lives, and
promotes the brand as a subject matter expert.
Content As a Window: Inward focused content that
highlights the brands employees, practices and culture,
promoting transparency and trust with
the customer.
Content As Support: Product-focused content that
educates customers about specific features and helps
them operate, repair and best utilize the brands products.
Content As Community: Content that promotes and
serves a niche community of customers that is supported
by the brand.

For more on how


to choose the right
content archetype for
your strategy, download
the Altimeter report Key
Elements for Building A
Content Strategy, by Omar
Akhtar and Mat Zucker
http://www2.prophet.com/
buildingacontentstrategy

10

FIGURE 4.

Majority of respondents produced


Content as Currency (24%) and
content that promoted awareness
and brand health (22%) than other
content types. Again, this indicates
the marketing bias of most content
producers, since this is the type of
content most likely to be created
by content marketers. However,
there wasnt a huge spread in the
distribution of content archetypes,
which shows that brands found value
in producing each one.

Although 20% of brands picked


Content as Support as their most
produced archetype, only 6% of
brands said their top objective
was to provide customers with
information and support about
products. This shows that although
the company is producing support
content, the central content team,
whose objectives are more likely
to be awareness and thought
leadership, is not necessarily the
department producing it.

Top content archetypes vary by


vertical. This shows that there is no
single best type of content. Each
industry should produce the type of
content that is most likely to solve its
particular customers needs and meet
the businesss objectives.

MOST PRODUCED TYPES OF CONTENT

Question: Which of the following types of content is most frequently produced by


your organization?

22%

Content As
Presence

24%

Content As
Currency

20%

16

Content As
Support

Content As
Community

18

Content As A
Window

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

11

For IT, Content as Currency (31%) was


the top content archetype. Content as a
Window was the next most popular (22%),
ahead of Content as Support at 16%. This
was surprising given that IT customers are
more likely to make purchase decisions
based on product information, rather than
company/brand focused content, and it
shows that many IT content teams may be
missing an opportunity to deliver exactly
the content that will be most relevant to
their customers.

We had expected the retail industry to


mostly produce content that promotes
brand awareness, but instead the top
choices were Content as a Window
(52%) and Content as Support (50%). A
possible explanation is that by highlighting
internal practices and employees, retail
companies may have a better chance
distinguishing their brand through
transparency and building trust rather than
by being entertaining and promotional.

In the finance industry, product


focused content (48%) was
slightly more produced than
Content as Currency (45%).
This shows that in verticals where
products might be complicated
and consumers need plenty of
information to make a decision,
Content as Support might be more
effective, as opposed to thought
leadership or ad campaigns.
12

68%

COMPANIES CREATE
MOST CONTENT IN HOUSE
With the advent of better technology and influx of content creators
coming from the media industry, most companies are able to
produce the majority of their content in-house (see Figure 5).
However, companies also continued to use outside agencies and rely
on user or customer-generated content to maintain their output of
engaging material.

68% of respondents
produce All or A
lot of their content
in-house. This makes sense as
software continues to make it easy to create and edit
content across a variety of digital formats. Creating
content locally is also more efficient when compared
to the sharing of customer data, and the continuous
monitoring and approvals (not to mention costs)
associated with agency created content.

A high number of respondents (62%) relied on


customers to generate the majority of their
content. This number was particularly high in IT,
where at 68%, user-generated content was higher
than in-house (66%) or agency created content
(41%). For the more B2B-centric IT companies,
user-generated content can be a cost-efficient
way to compensate for their traditionally lower
advertising budgets, while simultaneously engaging
communities of product users and enthusiasts.

43% of brands used agencies to create the


majority of their content. This number was higher
for the retail industry (50%), the only vertical where
agency created content (50%) was higher than
customer-generated content (47%). This can be
explained by retails traditionally higher advertising
budgets and focus on campaign-based marketing,
which is typically agency work.

FIGURE 5.

HOW CONTENT CREATION IS DISTRIBUTED


Question: How much of your branded content is produced via the following means?

All

Content produced
in-house

23%

Customer or user
generated content

23%

Content produced
by outside agencies

A Lot

Some

45%

22%

39%

13% 30%

Very Little

29%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

None

8 2

27%

9 2

17

11

of respondents
produce All or
A lot of their
content
in-house.

13

ALMOST ALL COMPANIES


USE DATA TO CREATE CONTENT
Although companies still had difficulty
in unifying customer data from multiple
sources, almost all of them (99%) use
some form of data to inform their content
creation. This shows that producing
targeted, relevant and data-based content
is now common for modern brands.
Figure 6 shows the most popular sources
of data that content creators used.

FIGURE 6.

DATA SOURCES USED TO


CREATE RELEVANT CONTENT
Question: What sources of data do you use to create personalized/targeted content? (Choose 3)

65

Website
analytics

Social media
metrics

The top digital sources for


customer data are social media
metrics (65%) and web analytics
(63%) This is not surprising as
these are the most readily available
sources of data, even for companies
with the most basic technology
platforms.
The fact that 49% of respondents
used call center records and 43%
used CRM system data shows the
growing cooperation between
the sales, service and marketing
departments. This is the first, and
most important step in organizations
working to deliver a unified customer
experience.

63%

We do not use
data to create
content

49 %

%
27Third-party

Customer service/
call-center records

databases

43

CRM
Systems

Customer
surveys/
research

48%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

14

FACEBOOK AND EMAIL ARE THE MOST EFFECTIVE


CHANNELS FOR DELIVERING CONTENT
Companies face an ever-increasing number of choices for the digital channels they can use to reach
their customers. We asked respondents which digital channels received the most engagement for
their content, in terms of views, shares or conversion activity (Figure 7). The results show that the
most common, mainstream channels of Facebook and email were still the most effective places for
content delivery.

FIGURE 7.

DIGITAL CHANNELS WITH THE MOST ENGAGEMENT


FOR CONTENT

Facebook
was the top
digital channel for
71% of respondents,
and it led the list in
every subgroup
as well

Question: Which digital channels get the most engagement for your content? (Choose 5)

71%
61%

Email

56%

Website/
company
blog

51%

Mobile
app

42% 42%

Online
forums

37%

28%

20% 19%

14%
Messaging
apps

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

15

Facebook was the top digital channel for 71% of


respondents, and it led the list in every subgroup as well.
Facebooks massive reach, and its status as the leading
platform to discover and consume content make it a
natural top choice for content creators. However, given
that Facebooks organic reach is only about 1%, it is
likely that most of this engagement is driven by paid
content amplification on the platform, an important
lesson for any content strategist looking to engage
on social media channels.

Email continues to be a dependable workhorse,


with 61% of respondents picking it as a top
channel for engagement. Its a reminder that a channel
doesnt have to be new, or Millennial-focused (e.g.
Snapchat) for it to be effective.

Twitter (41%) ranked ahead of Instagram, LinkedIn,


Snapchat and Pinterest. Despite being criticized for
not growing fast enough or catering only to media
elites, Twitter was still a valuable, and effective channel
for brands trying to reach audiences through content.
This was the case in both North America and Europe.
And for the IT industry, Twitter was second only to
Facebook, with 52% of the respondents vote. The
only industry where Twitter ranked comparatively low
was manufacturing, where at 31%, it was behind both
LinkedIn (33%) and Instagram (43%.)

Messaging apps were at the bottom of the list


with only 14% choosing it as a top digital channel.
However, this is most likely due to the difficulty of
getting accurate content engagement data from these
platforms, which obscures the true volume of content
being viewed and shared on these platforms.

A channel
doesnt have
to be new, or
Millennial-focused
for it to be
effective

Twitter was
still a valuable,
and effective
channel for brands
trying to reach
audiences through
content

16

THE MOST
EFFECTIVE
CONTENT
FORMATS
VARY BY
INDUSTRY
Although overall static images and
native advertising were rated as the most
engaging content formats (Figure 8), we
saw responses vary greatly by industry and
geography. This highlights the importance
of companies determining which content
formats work best for their audiences and
strategy, instead of
trying to publish in
every format.

Responses
vary greatly
by industry and
geography

FIGURE 8.

MOST ENGAGING DIGITAL CONTENT FORMATS

Question: What content formats are the most effective at engaging your customers? (Choose 4)

Native advertising

Long-form research reports/whitepapers

Short-form blog posts

Audio (podcasts/short clips)

Animated GIFs

23
%
18

Long-form video
(longer than 2 minutes)

47
%
46
%
41
%
41
%
36
%
36

Static images (photos, infographics)

Short-form video
(shorter than 2 minutes)

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

17

Static images (47%) unsurprisingly were at the top of the list, given that
they are cheaper to produce, convey a lot of information on limited space, and
generally receive higher rates of engagement than text on almost all social
media channels.

Native advertising was a top pick for 46% of respondents, a figure which
increased to 54% for respondents in the retail industry. Although a native ad
could technically be in any format listed in this chart, we included it to see how
effective companies considered the practice, especially compared to unpaid
content. This finding shows just how important it is to support brand-produced
content with ad dollars for promotion, underscoring the fact that paid reach is
more effective than organic reach.

Surprisingly, video content, both long form (23%) and short form (18%) was
at the bottom of the list. Even though video creation and editing are one of the
most in-demand skills for content strategists next year (see Figure 14), the format
wasnt rated as particularly effective. This could be attributed to the relatively
large amount of resources that video requires to produce, which may make it
difficult for brands to produce it at scale and achieve high engagement numbers.

The only segment where video performed above average was the healthcare
industry, where 31% and 29% of the respondents picked short-form video
and long-form video respectively. This makes sense as healthcare companies
often need to inspire trust and confidence in their customers, and showcasing the
companies products, employees and practices through video is an effective way
to do this. This also makes video especially well suited for companies that are
adopting the Content as a Window strategy archetype.

In North America, short-form blog posts (48%) were the top format,
ahead of long-form research (38%). But in Europe, these results
were flipped, with Europeans showing a greater appetite for longform research (46%) over short-form blog posts (30%). This was also
the case in the retail (43% vs 39%), manufacturing (50% vs 41%), and
healthcare industries where long-form research was actually the top
choice among all content formats (46% vs 40%).

Images
generally receive
higher rates of
engagement than text
on almost all social
media channels

18

SUCCESS
IS STILL
MEASURED
IN MARKETING
METRICS
Over half the respondents still had
difficulty proving the business impact
of content (see Figure 2). One reason
for this could be the over-reliance on
digital marketing-focused metrics such as
views, likes and shares, which are easier
to track compared to business impact
metrics such as direct sales or cost saving.
This was reflected in the results of our
question on which metrics were most
likely used to measure the success of
content (Figure 9).

FIGURE 9.

MOST POPULAR METRICS FOR MEASURING CONTENT


Question: What is the most common metric your company uses to measure the success of its content?

37

Reach

(e.g. likes, views)

36

Engagement
(e.g. clicks,
shares,
comments,
mentions)

5% 11%
Efficiency
(e.g. cost savings on
customer support calls)

11%

Inbound
(e.g. time spent
Conversion
on website/owned
(e.g. downloads,
properties)
direct sales)

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey,


Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

19

Reach (37%) and engagement


(36%) were by far the most popular
metrics used to measure content
performance. Not only is this an
indicator of marketings ownership of
content measurement, it shows that
social media is still the most common
way to deliver content, as these stats
can most easily be measured on social
platforms.

These results correspond with


our earlier finding of awareness
and thought leadership credibility
being top objectives for content
strategists. Reach and engagement
are the two most likely metrics used
to measure the success of both these
objectives (see Figure 3).

Although time spent on owned


properties and conversions are
greater indicators of business
impact than either reach or
engagement only 11% of
respondents used these as
their top metrics. This makes
the case for content strategists
to focus on quality, rather than
quantity when it comes to
engaging audiences. It also
calls for increasing efforts in
personalization/real-time
delivery to up conversion
rates and time spent on
owned channels.

This
makes the
case for content
strategists to focus
on quality, rather
than quantity when it
comes to engaging
audiences.

20

DEDICATED
CONTENT AND
DATA TEAMS
LEAD THE
CONTENT
STRATEGY
Executing a central content strategy
with a unified approach requires much
coordination between all customer-facing
departments. However, most companies
opted to have a centralized content
team creating and executing the content
strategy, rather than enabling multiple
teams to create content, even if they had
input in the strategy.

FIGURE 10.

HOW COMPANIES ARE ORGANIZED FOR


PRODUCING CONTENT

Question: Which of the following best describes how your company is organized for producing
branded content?

47

Centralized:

A dedicated content
team manages all content
production for several
functions

32

Decentralized:

10% 12%
Holistic:
Every department produces
content independently while
following a central strategy

No one department
manages and
coordinates the
content strategy

Hub and Spoke:


A central
content team helps
various departments
produce content
Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey,
Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

21

The most common organization model is centralized (47%) which depends


on a dedicated content team to lead and execute the content strategy. This
is a more progressive way to produce content instead of decentralized, since it
allows one team to create and implement a consistent strategy. However, these
central departments still tend to fall under the marketing umbrella, making it
difficult to progress beyond a department-centric content strategy.

32% of respondents consider their organization to be decentralized with


multiple departments producing content without a clear central strategy.
This highlights the problem of content in the digital age. Scaling the production
of content it isnt as much of an issue as it used to be, since technology has
made it cheaper and easier. The challenge is now more about getting multiple
units to align against a central strategy, and proving the results of that strategy.

22% of companies had either a Hub and Spoke or Holistic model, which is a
sign of maturity, and increased participation by non-marketing departments.

Manufacturing was the only industry where the holistic model (21%)
was more prevalent than the decentralized model (12%). This highlights a
willingness to empower multiple content producers in the company. On the
other hand, finance was the only industry where the majority of companies were
decentralized (45%) indicating a very siloed approach to production.

The
challenge is
now more about
getting multiple
units to align
against a central
strategy
22

We found that more teams than ever are involved in creating a content strategy, although advertising, content and data teams are
most likely to be leading these discussions. However, there wasnt a big spread between departments that were leading (Figure 11a)
and departments that were only participating (Figure 11b) in setting the brands content strategy. In a way, this is another reflection
of the high degree of participation from non-marketing departments. On the other hand, it also reflects the increasing difficulty
brands face in setting a content strategy that can satisfy the needs of multiple stakeholders, not to mention the customers.

FIGURE 11A.

FIGURE 11B.

Question: For every department listed below, please indicate whether it is


leading, participating or not involved in creating your companys content strategy

Question: For every department listed below, please indicate whether it is


leading, participating or not involved in creating your companys content strategy

LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION FOR


CREATING CONTENT STRATEGY BY
DEPARTMENT (LEADING)

Advertising/Ad Agency
Data/Analytics
Executive/C-Suite
Content Team
Customer Support
Product Development/R&D
Marketing
Sales
Social Team
Corporate Communications/PR
Market Research

52%
51%
50%
50%
48%
45%
44%
43%
42%
42%
36%

LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION FOR


CREATING CONTENT STRATEGY BY
DEPARTMENT (PARTICIPATING)

Corporate Communications/PR
Market Research
Social Team
Marketing
Product Development/R&D
Customer Support
Content Team
Sales
Data/Analytics
Advertising/Ad Agency
Executive/C-Suite

50%
47%
43%
43%
42%
41%
41%
41%
40%
37%
37%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

23

The teams responsible for advertising (52%), data


(51%) and content (50%) were marginally more
likely to be leaders in creating the brands content
strategy. Advertising and content were expected since
they have both traditionally been responsible for brand
content production and delivery, for both paid and
unpaid platforms. But the presence of the data team at
the top underscores how many companies are looking
to data and analytics to inform their strategy, which
is a welcome sign of digital maturity.

For the retail industry, traditional marketing


(46%) was more likely to be leading the
content strategy (41%) than the dedicated
content team, which shows that retail still
follows the traditional approach of having
content be a marketing function, rather than a
standalone unit which serves other departments.

Corporate Communications was


less likely to be leading the
content strategy (42%) than
participating (50%). Given
how big a role comms
has had in driving the
use of digital branded
content, it is surprising
that it did not get a larger
percentage of leading in
the survey. The only group
where comms was more
likely to be leading content
strategy was healthcare,
with 54% of respondents
choosing it as a leader.

The presence
of the data team at
the top underscores
how many companies
are looking to data and
analytics to inform their
strategy, which is a
welcome sign of
digital maturity

24

BRANDS ARE INCREASING INVESTMENT


IN CONTENT CREATION SOFTWARE
We found companies were increasing
their investment in all types of software
related to content (see Figure 12).
However, the highest increase was in
content-creation software. Companies
were also increasing investment in
software for real-time/personalization as
well as advertising. Although increasing
investment in software is necessary for
executing sophisticated digital content
operations, its worth remembering that
strategy should drive the acquisition
of the relevant technology needed to
execute, not the other way round.

Content
creation
software (69%)
had the highest
level of increasing
investment

FIGURE 12.

LEVELS OF INVESTMENT IN CONTENT TECHNOLOGY


Question: For the following types of tools, please indicate whether your level of investment in 2017 is
increasing, decreasing or staying the same.
Increasing %

Staying the Same %

Decreasing %

Content creation software


(CMS, content curation, editing software)

69%

Content delivery software


(Social media publishing, email, website
management, mobile app management)

53%

31%

personalized advertising tools)

51%

30%

19%

Content advertising software


(programmatic advertising, content
amplification, social media ads)

50%

32%

17%

Content management software


(planning, scheduling,
digital asset management)

49%

29%

Content measurement software


(Social media listening, content metrics)

48%

33%

New
standards in
regulatory
and
Real-time/personalization
(web
optimization,
email triggers,
compliance

21%

10%

16%

22%

18%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

25

Content creation software (69%) had the highest


level of increasing investment. This corresponds to
one of the top challenges faced by companies, which is
to create content at a larger scale (see Figure 2).

Over half (51%) of respondents were increasing


investment in software that helped them create and
deliver personalized content in real-time. This is an
indicator of digital content maturity, and a necessary
investment for any company looking to compete on
the basis of content engagement. The retail industry
was the only segment where real-time/personalization
software had the most increasing investment (59%).

50% of respondents said they were


increasing their investment in content
advertising software. This signifies a
shift in how companies think about
owned content. As social media
networks favor paid posts over
organic, content marketers cant
just get by on reaching audiences
virally. They have to use ad dollars
in order to get reach. Given
how many respondents consider
Facebook to be their top digital
channel for content delivery, we can
expect to see investment in content
advertising tools increase in 2017.

Over
half (51%) of
respondents were
increasing investment
in software that helped
them create and
deliver personalized
content in
real-time

26

DATA ANALYSIS
IS THE MOST DESIRED
SKILL FOR CONTENT
STRATEGISTS
Although companies are still looking to hire content editors and
writers, the most desired skill in 2017 is data analysis (Figure
13). This again indicates the increasing sophistication of content
strategists today, who rely on actionable data insights for creating
content rather than just creative instinct.

FIGURE 13.

MOST POPULAR SKILLS FOR


CONTENT STRATEGISTS IN 2017

Question: What are the most important skills you are looking to hire
for in 2017? (Choose 4)

67
59%
%
53
50%
50%
%
47
%
42

Data analysis
Content editing and writing

67% of content strategists rated data analysis as a


top skill they were hiring for in 2017, followed closely by
content editing/writing (59%) and project management (53%).
This shows just how crucial data is to brands striving to create
targeted, relevant content and offers to customers. Data
analysts/scientists who can work across functions and make
sense of data from multiple sources are highly valuable in the
digital age.

Program/project management

Social media expertise was picked by only 18% of


respondents as a top skill. This shows how ubiquitous
the use of social has become in companies. It has truly
graduated from being a groundbreaking technology to
ordinary, everyday technology. Soon, having social media
expertise on a resume will be as meaningful as having
experience with Microsoft Word and Excel.

Video production and


editing

Graphic design
Coding/development

Marketing automation/software
expertise

18

Social media
expertise

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

27

ALIGNING
MULTIPLE
DEPARTMENTS
AROUND
CONTENT
STRATEGY
IS THE TOP
FUTURE
INITIATIVE
Another indicator of the increasing
maturity of content-producing brands
was their commitment to involving more
departments in setting a unified content
strategy. This was the top initiative in
2017, followed by increasing ad spend
to amplify owned content.

FIGURE 14.

LEVEL OF INVESTMENT IN FUTURE INITIATIVES

Question: For each of the listed activities, please indicate whether you are increasing, decreasing or not
changing the amount of time and resources you spend in 2017.
Increasing

No change

Decreasing

Involve more departments in setting a


unified, central content strategy

70%

Amplify branded content by using ad dollars

55%

24%

Create more video content

53%

27%

20%

Integrate multiple software systems to share


customer data

53%

31%

16%

Invest in technology that enables real-time


delivery and personalization data

53%

31%

16%

Restructure organization to follow a central


content strategy

53%

31%

16%

Use better techniques and technology to


measure the impact of content

52%

27%

21%

Create editorial guidelines and content


criteria to reduce waste

49%

31%

20%

Increase the production of branded content


and deliver it at scale

48%

31%

20%

Hire more branded content specialists

48%

31%

20%

Use more data to create content that serves


the customer journey

46%

32%

22%

19%

10%

21%

Source: 2016 Digital Content Survey, Altimeter, a Prophet Company n= 518

28

The top priority for content strategists in 2017 is to unify multiple


departments around a central content strategy, with 70% of respondents
saying they were increasing efforts around this initiative. This shows
increasing support for the idea of a unified content strategy, rather than the
marketing-centric approach of previous years. It has positive implications for
company efforts in improving the customer experience as well.

The use of data-based content to serve the customer journey was at the
bottom of the list (46%). This shows that although brands were willing to
engage multiple departments, it was more difficult to unify data from these
different departments to create a holistic picture of the customer journey. North
American respondents (59%) showed more progress in this area.

Consistent with earlier findings, more content teams are using advertising
dollars to promote branded content (55%). Another highly recommended
initiative given what we know about the lack of reach for non-paid content on
social media channels.

Video is a top priority, (53%) and brands have indicated that


they are hiring for video skills in 2017 (see Figure 13).
However, videos low engagement numbers mean strategists
(see Figure 8) are either skeptical about whether its impact
justifies what it costs to produce, or they havent been
able to accurately measure its impact across platforms.
Video was also a top pick for the manufacturing (64%),
finance (62%) and healthcare industries (60%).

29

CONCLUSION:
ACTIONS TO CONSIDER
Based on the results of this study, we make the following recommendations to brands
and content strategists planning initiatives and investments in 2017.

Benchmark and act on your level of maturity. The biggest takeaway from this
study is that brands are becoming much more holistic in their use of content,
leveraging it beyond marketing, and using it to drive real business impact. As
a result, they have more participation from multiple departments, support from
executive leadership and are embracing sophisticated technologies such as realtime content delivery and data-based personalization. If your company lacks these
indicators of maturity, now is the time to evaluate it against these benchmark results
and chart a roadmap to digital maturity.

Engage multiple teams for a unified content strategy. The majority of


respondents made this their top priority in 2017, and with good reason. Our survey
shows that marketing isnt the only team that has a stake in using digital content.
For a unified content strategy, evaluate the needs and goals of all customer-facing
teams, such as sales, service, product and even HR. In turn, they can provide you
with whatever customer data they have in order to create a comprehensive view of
the customer, and the customer journey. Not only does this enable the creation of
a unified content strategy, it is the first step towards optimizing the digital customer
experience.

Focus on content that matches your objectives. In our study, most companies
only focused on brand awareness and thought leadership as objectives, but spent
their resources creating all types of content. Not only should brands consider
objectives other than marketing-centric ones such as awareness, they should also
focus on content archetypes that deliver on these objectives, rather than producing
all types. As our research shows, each archetype has value, and brands must
determine which one will have the most impact on their specific business objective
and customers needs.
30

Be selective about content formats and channels. Our results showed that the
most engaging formats and channels varied across industry. This should inspire
content strategists to be more selective about which channels and formats they will
use in their strategies, basing these decisions on customer needs and behaviors,
rather than simply following common trends.

Invest in data. With 99% of respondents saying they create content based on some
form of data, its clear that modern content creators cannot afford to create content
in a vacuum. Access customer data from multiple parts of the organization to create
content that is highly personalized and relevant to your customer. This will give your
content the best chance of engagement. It requires investing in the right technology
that will allow you to gain insights from multi-source customer data, and also hiring
people with the skills to interpret actionable data and inform content creators.

Support content with ad spend. Advertising budgets have been traditionally


separate from content marketing budgets, but this is becoming more difficult to
justify. Results of our study show that paying to promote content is far more effective
than organically trying to reach that same audience. This is especially true for
content delivery on social media platforms, where brands are expected to pay for
any real type of reach and engagement.

Go beyond marketing metrics. Finally, consider the impact of content beyond


the marketing department. While metrics such as reach, shares or likes will
always be essential to marketing objectives; content can also benefit sales and
service departments. Try measuring content in terms of sales conversions, funnel
movement, time and money saved and even direct sales. While some of this
requires putting technology in place, it mostly demands a shift in mindset, and
greater collaboration between the customer facing departments of the company.

31

METHODOLOGY

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Our survey partners, Phronesis Partners conducted an online survey of 518 professionals
who were either leading, or part of the team responsible for creating and executing their
companys content strategy. The survey was conducted between August and September of
2016. Of the 518 respondents, 323 were from North America (US, Canada) and 195 were from
Europe, (UK, France and Germany). Only respondents from companies with greater than 500
employees were considered, and there was an even distribution of industries.

Many thanks to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff for providing clarity and vision for this research
and Mat Zucker on the Prophet team for his invaluable insights and encouragement.
Additional thanks to Briana Schweizer, for the production and design behind our
publications, Aubrey Littleton for organizing our research outreach and survey process, Julia
Dennison, Katie Lamkin, Lindsay Malone, and the greater Prophet team.

OPEN RESEARCH

This independent research report was 100% funded by Altimeter, a Prophet Company. This
report is published under the principle of Open Research and is intended to advance the
industry at no cost. This report is intended for you to read, utilize, and share with others; if
you do so, please provide attribution to Altimeter, a Prophet Company.

PERMISSIONS

The Creative Commons License is Attribution-Noncommercial ShareAlike 3.0 United States,


which can be found at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/.

DISCLAIMER

ALTHOUGH THE INFORMATION AND DATA USED IN THIS REPORT HAVE BEEN PRODUCED AND
PROCESSED FROM SOURCES BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, NO WARRANTY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED IS
MADE REGARDING THE COMPLETENESS, ACCURACY, ADEQUACY, OR USE OF THE INFORMATION.
THE AUTHORS AND CONTRIBUTORS OF THE INFORMATION AND DATA SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR
ERRORS OR OMISSIONS CONTAINED HEREIN OR FOR INTERPRETATIONS THEREOF. REFERENCE HEREIN
TO ANY SPECIFIC PRODUCT OR VENDOR BY TRADE NAME, TRADEMARK, OR OTHERWISE DOES NOT
CONSTITUTE OR IMPLY ITS ENDORSEMENT, RECOMMENDATION, OR FAVORING BY THE AUTHORS OR
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THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HEREIN ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.

32

ABOUT THE
AUTHOR

ABOUT ALTIMETER,
A PROPHET
COMPANY

HOW TO
WORK WITH US

OMAR AKHTAR
Omar Akhtar (@obakhtar) is the Managing Editor and analyst at Altimeter, a
Prophet Company where he oversees the editorial process behind all of Altimeters
publications, including its research reports, daily blog and multimedia content. In
addition, he conducts and publishes research on marketing technology, content
strategy and customer experience. Previously he was the editor-in-chief of the
marketing tech blog The Hub, and a technology and finance reporter for Fortune.
Altimeter, a Prophet Company, is a research and strategy
consulting firm that helps companies understand and take
advantage of digital disruption. In 2015, Prophet acquired
Altimeter Group to bring forward-thinking digital research
and strategy consulting together under one umbrella and
to help clients unlock the power of digital transformation.
Altimeter, founded in 2008 by best-selling author Charlene
Li, focuses on research in digital transformation, social
business and governance, customer experience, Big Data,
and content strategy.

Altimeter, a Prophet
Company

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San Francisco, CA 94104
info@altimetergroup.com
www.altimetergroup.com
@altimetergroup
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33