Author: Robert Rose

Robert is the founder and chief strategy officer of The Content Advisory, the education and consulting group for The Content Marketing Institute. Robert has worked with more than 500 companies, including 15 of the Fortune 100. He’s provided content marketing and strategy advice for global brands such as Capital One, NASA, Dell, McCormick Spices, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Robert’s third book – Killing Marketing, with co-author Joe Pulizzi has been called the “book that rewrites the rules of marketing.” His second book – Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing is a top seller and has been called a “treatise, and a call to arms for marketers to lead business innovation in the 21st century.” Robert’s first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top 10 marketing book on and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the content marketing process. You can follow him on Twitter @Robert_Rose.

By robert-rose published March 21, 2023

Why Remarkable Content Originates From an Unremarkable Process [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Comedian David Mitchell once offered this truth on the British game show Would I Lie To You?:

One of the codes I live my life by is that my appearance should be in no way noteworthy. But then again, not so unnoteworthy to be in itself noteworthy.

David explained with the example of a person wearing a gray tie that’s so colorless, so unnoteworthy, that the person who wears it becomes noteworthy because of it.

I thought of this code last week after someone sent me an Inc. article that pitted “content” (and people who focus on content regardless of process) against processes (and the people who follow them).

I’ll explain how that ties to Mitchell’s life code. But first, rant ahead.

Content vs. process

The Inc. article warns organizations not to overlook their “hyper performers.” OK, who would argue differently?

But what prompted my rant is the mischaracterization of hyper performers based on a quote from a mid-1990s interview with Steve Jobs:

I found that the best people are the ones that really understand the content. (By “content,” think what truly drives results in your business.)

And they’re a pain in the butt to manage. But you put up with it because they’re so great at the content. And that’s what makes great products. It’s not process. It’s content.

Jobs recounted how Apple’s engineering team told him the mouse would take five years to develop, and each one would cost $300 to build. So he hired an outside firm that developed one in 90 days that cost $15 to make.

A remarkable achievement. But he’s wrong to use that example to imply that process gets in the way of innovation as he does here:

Companies get confused. They want to replicate initial success, and a lot of them think somehow there’s some magic in the process. So they try to institutionalize processes, and before long, people get confused that the process is the content.

Process and content must be in balance for either one to achieve remarkable results. Whether we are talking about the contents of a product or the experiential content that marketers focus on, “remarkable content” is built on standardized, repeatable processes.

Jobs recognized the need for an innovative way to develop the mouse because Apple’s standard, well-understood processes informed its engineers that the kind of mouse Jobs wanted would take five years and cost $300.

Finding a firm to design one inexpensive mouse in 90 days was just step one. Success came because Apple developed that mouse quickly and then created a repeatable process that set a new standard for producing mice. The creative solution and the repeatable process made it work.

Steve Jobs once argued that the “best” employees focus on #content over process. @Robert_Rose disagrees via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Why content and marketing need both

Most organizations have at least a few hyper performers in content – creative or subject matter expert stars who bust their butts to create remarkable content products, often with no content standards or processes to follow. That makes it hard for the company to recognize their value because there is no standard operating process to establish what “remarkable” looks like.

Let’s say you’re the new content leader at a company where the product marketing team, brand team, and PR teams all produce thought leadership, with no visibility into each other’s plans. As a result, the content often conflicts.

You might conclude that there’s no hope for changing the way these iconoclastic content-focused hyper performers work – so why create a process? That would be a mistake.

Without a standard way of doing things (a process), the business can’t determine which content should be prioritized or eliminated from contention. Everybody gets to decide what “remarkable content” looks like from an individual or team lens. When someone says, “that sucks” or “that’s awesome,” they’re all right – because no standard exists.

Someone might say, “Let the performance data decide.” But, with no standard process, the data isn’t enough. For example, you can’t determine whether the content performed well or poorly unless each piece followed an established distribution and promotion process. You won’t know if the success or failure had more to do with the content itself or the promotion of it. Did it fail because it didn’t get promoted effectively, or did it succeed only because of an extensive promotional campaign?

As Taiichi Ohno, who pioneered the Toyota Production System, once said, “With no standard, there can be no improvement.”

That’s why the push for remarkable content must strike a balance with the process. Some of the most hyper-performing professionals I’ve met are managers who created a company-wide method for developing creative endeavors. It is the process, the standard, and the business-as-usual approach that enables you even to see the possibility for innovation.

It’s easy to see the value in the innovative superstar who doesn’t want to conform to the process but frequently creates incredibly valuable things. But the reason it’s easy is that you can only see how remarkable the results are by comparing them to the results from content created consistently and at scale.

Process and content must work together symbiotically.

@Robert_Rose says managers who create company standards for creative endeavors are hyper performers, via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Welcome process disruptions

I’d bet money that the Apple engineers weren’t a bunch of dullards who didn’t get it. They were probably competent people who looked at the existing situation and said, “This is what it currently takes.” Would they have been open to investigating ways to improve the process? Jobs doesn’t say.

If they weren’t, then Jobs makes a good point about taking process to an extreme. A process is only as strong as its ability to evolve and improve.

This is where David Mitchell’s “code” plays so brilliantly. Your process should be in no way noteworthy but not so unnoteworthy to be in itself noteworthy.

A great process is like excellent plumbing: invisible and adaptable. It should foster improvisation and innovation by allowing for the integration of remarkable exceptions.

And that brings me to my ultimate defense of the process person vs. content person. An innovative process is (or can be) content (i.e., the contents of a great strategy). Remarkable, standardized processes need the unique, out-of-the-box thinking, design, and execution associated with great products.

The teams responsible for the process are no less valuable or innovative than those who think up the things that will be produced from it.

Your business won’t create remarkable content every day. But on the days you do, your process will help you recognize, repeat, and improve on it.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

By robert-rose published March 14, 2023

Can Your Marketing Team Generate True Demand To Really Start the Customer Journey? [Rose-Colored Glasses]

I see a common challenge in B2B marketing – teams seeking more budget and resources for demand-generation programs.

“Now, wait a minute,” you might say. “It seems like demand gen for leads is the only thing we do.”

To be clear, I mean true demand generation, not mid-funnel, inbound lead gen, nurturing, or sales enablement. Those are “demand identification” tactics where marketing teams promote content to buyers already researching solutions. You try attracting prospects who realize change is needed but have not determined the best options.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published March 7, 2023

Why ‘Let’s Make a Movie’ Is a Terrible Way to Plan Content [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Do you find yourself planning the form before you develop the idea for content?

Most of us do – it’s the way we consume content. When you feel inspired by a video or podcast, for example, your brain will start trying to come up with an idea to use in a movie or podcast.

It makes sense. You see an excellent, creative idea expressed in some form factor, and you think, “That’s what I want to create.”  But it’s the container (the experience) you want to emulate. You still have to come up with a unique idea for that form factor.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published February 28, 2023

Start With Content To Deliver a Successful Integrated Marketing Strategy [Rose-Colored Glasses]

Are your content and marketing integrated?

No one can argue content marketing isn’t an increasingly important part of marketing. Content teams routinely take more and more responsibility. You take on thought leadership and the many assets necessary to support marketing and communications. But what doesn’t come along as quickly is the integration to make a more strategic approach.

In our consulting work, I see increasing confusion across marketing teams (well, it may have been there all the time, but awareness is on the rise now). They wonder what should come first, the content or the campaign.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published February 21, 2023

AI Tools Bug Out Because the Internet Can Never Forget [Rose-Colored Glasses]

The internet never forgets.

That famous meme dates to at least the early 2000s. The digital internet acts as a more permanent version of what philosopher and sociologist Maurice Halbwachs deemed as the “collective memory” in his book of the same name almost 100 years ago. He concludes societies have a collective memory that depends on the framework within which they exist.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published February 15, 2023

Your Great Taste Is Less Fulfilling When It Comes To Visual Design [New Research]

We all think we have great taste.

In the movie When Harry Met Sally, Marie (Carrie Fisher) and Jess (Bruno Kirby) move in together and argue over keeping his wagon-wheel coffee table. Jess insists, “I have good taste!” And Marie responds, “Look, everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”Continue Reading

By robert-rose published February 14, 2023

Get Common First If You Want To Develop a Great Content Strategy [Rose-Colored Glasses]

How much did you spend on content last year? How much should you spend on content this year?

You can’t know.

Outside of the most abstract of estimates, you can’t know the answers to both questions.

As I’ve shared, “content” is a big word. I describe it as the operating system of a business and the water you swim in. It’s everything that encompasses communication.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published February 7, 2023

How a Children’s Story Can Ease Your Mind About ChatGPT [Rose-Colored Glasses]

The chatter about ChatGPT in marketing and content doesn’t slow down. Generative AI and content creation have garnered attention as one of the most disruptive technologies since the advent of social media.

Passionate debates go around the benefits, threats, and abuses that AI-created content provides to marketing departments. But a more common thought I hear lately is that not today but soon, ChatGPT (or something like it) will reproduce “our voice” and create content every bit as well as you can.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published January 27, 2023

2023 Content Marketing: Bring Your Strategy and Ops Into the Not-So-New Century [Rose-Colored Glasses]

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.Continue Reading

By robert-rose published January 25, 2023

B2C Marketers Treat Content Marketing as a Project; That’s a Mistake [New Research]

In The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath illustrates all competitive advantages are transient. She contends everybody understands that. So why hasn’t basic strategy practice changed?

As Rita writes:

Most executives, even when they realize that competitive advantages are going to be ephemeral, are still using strategy frameworks and tools designed for achieving a sustainable competitive advantage, not for quickly exploiting and moving in and out of advantages.

That last part resonates after working with hundreds of enterprise brands over the last 10 years. Most businesses think about how they can change content to fit marketing’s purpose, not how they might change marketing to fit content’s purpose.Continue Reading