Checking for valuable content within your publishing channels can refocus your resources to meet your audience and business goals.

By Sara Zailskas Walsh

Are you producing valuable content?

You’re likely inclined to say, “Yes, of course what we produce is valuable!” But I need to explain what I mean by valuable content.

I define valuable content as something that is so purposeful, Joe User wants to come back for more. It may save him time or money, or keep him organized. It may be irresistibly entertaining. Joe User might bypass everything on a website or in a magazine to go directly to it. Maybe it fulfills a one-time need, but the solution is so valuable, Joe tells people about it or remembers that good experience and comes back.

Consequently, you’ve sold him. He’ll determine it’s worth it to subscribe to your publication, share your article or take action tied to the business goal that piece of content supports. (You do have content tied to business goals, right?)

Meeting both audience needs and business needs is a high standard. But in a world of strapped content space and resources, asking those questions can refocus your efforts and ultimately make your content more profitable.

Can we afford to produce content that isn’t valuable?

The Content Challenge

As a content strategist, I ask questions to make sure the content we’re producing is valuable and makes sense to our audience. So with that definition in mind, I challenge you to find valuable content within your channels. Look right now at what you’ve put on Facebook or the media package you just posted to your website.

What are you expecting people to do with each of these pieces of content – and are they taking that action? If they are, that piece of content is valuable. But beware the answer founded in emotion: “This content builds trust,” or “This content establishes us as an authority.” Those are important consequences, but your audience doesn’t come to you to feel good about you; they come to help themselves.

We all know businesses need to make money, so we have to be strategic and set it up so that when they help themselves, they help your business too. Such content is valuable to both the audience and the business.

These are really scary questions, because we might realize our seemingly great ideas and the way we’re executing them are not worth it.

By the way, that last part – the execution – is key. So often we have a great piece of content, but our audience can’t find it, or they get tripped up because it’s not presented in an easy-to-use way. The value diminishes, and your reader isn’t converted.

So take a deep breath and check the value of at least five pieces of content; then use your results to guide your editorial decisions. Hopefully the process will expose your successes and opportunities for improvement – and ultimately make your business stakeholders happy too.

Sara Zailskas Walsh recently joined the United Airlines user experience team as a content strategist. Her content experience spans daily journalism, trade press, association and eCommerce media.