Why Context Matters When Creating Content

March 2017

Source: Thinkstock

The other day we were creating content for a client when I noticed a quote lacked appropriate attribution. This got us thinking about how often content is taken out of context—perhaps innocently; perhaps intentionally—to prove a point.

In this instance, it was an excerpt from a thought-provoking keynote made during a cybersecurity conference that drew attention for its brevity and stark statement. The conference was in February, but the piece wouldn’t be published until May. As we’ve seen in politics recently, messaging can shift within a short time. That’s why it’s important to not just say who said something, but when, where and possibly why.

Why we need clarifying questions
When a writer conducts an interview, he or she can ask clarifying questions to be as accurate as possible in relaying someone’s story. When that same writer must go to a secondary source—i.e., an online or printed source—more time is required to make sure what is plucked (with proper attribution and links) fits within the context of the speaker’s intent.

This also is why part of our Twirling Tiger Media content generation process includes a set number of review cycles in which direct sources, key stakeholders and more objective readers (a copy editor and/or proofreader) vet a piece not just for spelling and sentence mechanics but broader meaning and proper context.

Preventing mistakes and timely approval chains
A major reason to get sign-off from key stakeholders, whenever possible, is to prevent mistakes. As a bonus, if everyone agrees on the language, voice, tone and information within a piece of content marketing, they are more confident in sharing it with their personal and professional networks. This is important for branding and even media relations.

In the quest to avoid mistakes, however, comes a common pitfall: too many people involved in the approval chain. In marketing, PR and corporate communications, certain people need to read custom content for messaging and brand compliance. But that process can get out of hand if too many people with too little background information are asked to read and approve a piece.

That’s why every article, eBook, blog post, infographic or white paper should have a message embedded in an email explaining the original assignment, key learning points and someone’s role in the review (“As a subject matter expert on network security, please read this for accuracy and typos only.”) This helps minimize scope creep, too.

This system—standard among media companies—helps keep everyone on the same page. Each reader will bring his or her own experience, expertise and biases to a piece. That, presumably, is why they are being asked to weigh in. But if everyone remembers the goals, intent, timeline, word counts and anticipated outcome, great content marketing results.

—Anne