A Bold Claim: Bad Digital Content Hurts Society

In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, Alexandra Samuel raises a point that everyone in marketing knows, but is so easy to forget in the midst of digital campaigns: It’s the quality of content that matters to consumers, not how much content saturation we can generate in their news feeds. The interesting perspective that Alexandra brings to the discussion is the social cost of bad online marketing.

As Alexandra points out, so many digital marketing plans revolve around three basic steps: 1) Create massive amounts of content with the goal of a high number of page views, 2) Saturate social media with the content via paid mentions, unpaid mentions, ads, and links to the content, and 3) Create a captive audience for future content by getting people to ‘like,’ ‘follow,’ and submit their email addresses. The obvious fourth step is then to repeat this process, ad nauseam (pun intended).

The article illustrates that while this seems like an ideal situation for businesses, with low cost and easily tracked impact, this is hugely negative at a consumer level. Instead of just receiving email content we genuinely want, we have a constant stream of debris flowing into our inboxes. Facebook timelines and Twitter newsfeeds filled with ads. Branded content assaults us everywhere we turn.

We see that the social cost of this disposable content is a corruption of what the internet was supposed to mean for all of us: a free platform that allows everyone to participate in the sharing of knowledge and ideas, while supporting real-time conversation around that content. The internet was supposed to take away the power of elite interests and corporate controlled media; the average person was supposed to be able to have their voice heard. When companies create poor content and hyper-aggressively distribute it blindly, they are not only reducing the impact of the content. They are drowning out the voice of the user, their would-be consumer.

Luckily, there is a solution for this. At Porter Novelli, we believe that brands have to be more that great marketers. They have to be great publishers. All of our digital marketing programs begin with a solid content strategy, because we know that high-quality content is always more important than sheer volume. Successful brand publishing requires a unique mix of resources, ranging from strategic planning, web development and creative production, to day-to-day operations, promotions, and performance reporting. We believe in this approach so strongly that we have ensured we can make all of these services available in-house, regardless of client size.

According to Alexandra, the key question that everyone in the digital realm needs to ask themselves is “What is our campaign doing to the quality of the internet?” Here at Porter Novelli, we are committed to creating campaigns that make the internet, and therefore society, better. The key is creating content that provides real value and that is what we do, everyday.

Originally published at pnconnect.porternovelli.com on April 27, 2016.