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What the 'whole animal dining' movement teaches us about content

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I hope that reading this headline didn't make you queasy. If it did, I apologize (and if you are a vegetarian, I apologize even more.) But when friend and content visionary Joe Chernov used the "whole animal dining" metaphor to describe how we should approach content development, packaging and distribution, I found it so punchy and appropriate that I couldn't help but adopt it.

If the term "whole animal dining" doesn't mean anything to you, I'll spare you the visual details and will simply describe it as "the act of making culinary use of the entire animal." Frankly, in today's economy this is not only a very practical concept but sound financial advice as well.

So what does this have to do with content, you may ask? Start by thinking of a new white paper concept, an idea for a blog, a new product launch, an executive speech or enlightening results from a new survey. Consider that all these "content glimmers in the eye" are really very similar to the idea of purchasing a whole animal in preparation for a big family feast. (Given my Greek Cypriot roots, that animal is optimally lamb.)

Just as you would plan the feast ahead of time, and plan for the variety of delectable dishes you'll offer your grateful family members, you need to do the same for the new content piece you are planning. It's best to go through the "whole animal" mental process before you even start developing your content centerpiece (the lamb). That way, as you consider the many different ways you can derive value from your content centerpiece, you can think through subtle adjustments in your approach that will make this modular approach easier.

Let's say you are planning to publish a new white paper based on a recent study you did, and the topic is white-hot—for example the eye-opening rise of Big Data as a service. You know there's great appetite for content that makes this complex area easier to understand. You also know there's a shortage of real experts who can help companies derive real business value from previously un-tapped data. Finally, you know that it takes real industry knowledge and deep expertise. So instead of a single-dimensional white paper you could get at least five "meals" out of this white paper:

  1. Bring a digital video camera along when you are interviewing experts for the piece, and capture all interviews on video. Then have someone go through the material and pick the best sound bites. Embed them in the white paper as links, send them to the interviewees for their blog, and post them on YouTube.
  2. Build short biographical Web pages for the experts you interviewed and allow readers to reach out directly to them via webforms (that are, of course, connected to your marketing automation platform to capture names for future e-nurturing.
  3. Set up a live panel discussion a week or so after you release the study, and invite participants to listen and participate to get a deeper understanding of the findings.
  4. Take your best Big Data success story and weave it artfully into the body of your white paper, with links to a deeper dive into the case study, and with interviews from the client and the team that worked on project. This will help bring together Big Data theory and practice in a very real and digestible way.
  5. Launch an outbound email campaign to your prospect list offering the full study results as downloadable premium content, and inviting them to participate in the conversation to shape the next study. This conversation can take place in a social media community that is put together specifically for this purpose.

So do yourself a favor, and never let a white paper be just a white paper. Use all the parts, all the hidden treasures that it has to offer. And don't forget, there are many poor marketing souls in under-privileged companies that could feast on your content scraps for months.

Nick Panayi is director-global brand and digital marketing for CSC (www.csc.com), a multinational corporation that provides information technology and professional services. He can be reached at npanayi@csc.com.

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