Content, distribution strategy: Marry them young

Reading along the other day (magazine of the International Association of Business Communicators) and this snippet caught my eye:

“…they believe they are only responsible for producing content. It’s someone else’s job to distribute it.”

This is the tip of a classic iceberg, often found floating around nonprofits: “If we write it, they’ll read it, right?” Or, “I’m finished with the project, here’s the publication.”  Or, “That’s the communication department’s job.” That sense that the program or development work lay in researching the issue, or defining the policy position, or creating the content. That feeling that getting the message out to someone, or having a plan for activating a key person or audience, or being in charge of a distribution strategy, is not really part of the project, it’s an add-on.

This is like carefully wrapping a beautiful present, not labeling it, then leaving it at the curb and hoping that someone delivers it to the person for whom it’s intended.

Not only is distribution or a marketing communication strategy part of the project, the results of that strategy are usually why you’re doing the project in the first place. You want someone to read that report and be moved to action, right? So when you sit down to plan out the research report, or magazine, or website you are going to produce, here’s a great question to answer right then and there: Why?

“I’m going to produce a 48-page study on the effects of trees on urban spaces.” Why?

“We’re revamping the entire website.” Or “We’re setting up a separate website for the international division.” Why?

“We’re going to get that new intern to tweet for the organization.” Why?

If there is content, there must be a strategy for delivering it — with impact — to its intended audiences. Without that, you’ve just created a great paperweight, or designed a website that no one will visit. “Why?” isn’t the only question to ask; it is, however, a great place to start.