Is your strategic content on an assembly line or coming out of skunk works?

Apr 27, 2015

Imagine you’re in a luxury automobile factory, watching cars come together on the assembly line. But something strange is happening: several cars are being pulled off the line, and a crew is taking them apart and reassembling them so they start looking different from the others.

Something similar happens regularly when companies develop their strategic content. Point-of-view papers, articles, reports could be trundling down a nice linear production line—each publishing stage shorter and faster than the last—but just as often they’re being pulled off the line and customized, sometimes to the point where ‘make’ and ‘model’ look very different from the original.

In fact, it’s far more typical for companies to design and build as they go, like skunk works in an R&D lab. They tear up and rework a key point after the second or third draft, or add / delete new sections, or replace entire case examples, often late in the cycle when external reviewers have already had their say. Now the final product looks quite different from the original outline – e.g., my white paper (a Rolls Royce sedan) has become a point-of-view article (a Ducati motorcycle!).

This customized R&D lab approach consumes more time, and costs more, but gives you more flexibility along the way. The assembly line approach saves time and money in the long run, but calls for more hard thinking up front—more “design” time. And, the challenge is not just choosing the approach, but also setting expectations with your team.

The trick is to determine, early on, whether the piece of strategic content is ready for the assembly line or whether it’s going through the R&D lab, and then to communicate that distinction very clearly to authors, content experts, and marketers.

However, you choose to create your content, remember to set expectations!