This post is part of the Content Q&A Series, featuring interviews with top content strategists and bloggers about their work and insights about the industry.
The creative trajectory of Adam Schweigert began with the oboe and music composition studies in school, followed by public radio work with a local NPR station and finally social media strategy for large corporate clients.
Just last month he launched his own firm, Media Toybox, a boutique digital consultancy based in Columbus, Ohio, specializing in working with media and news companies on UX, design and content strategy.
Schweigert told The Content Strategist that he looks forward to a “wild” next five years in the content industry and shared with a few tricks on catching the wave.
TCS: Tell us about what you’re up to with Media Toybox.
Adam Schweigert: We are focused on building solutions that are straightforward, practical and easy to implement because we believe that sometimes the simplest solution (which is of course not always the most obvious one) is the best way to maximize value for our clients.
We try to view each project with a fresh set of eyes and use a very design-focused approach to come up with new ideas that we can then test and refine.
I picked the name Media Toybox to convey the spirit of design and play that we’re baking into our approach.
TCS: How do you define content marketing?
Schweigert: I’ve actually never been wild about the term “content marketing,” because I think content has always been and will always continue to be a critical piece of all that companies do to get the word out about their products and services (as I joked recently with a friend, what would “content-less marketing” even look like?).
In my mind, even print campaigns, press releases and TV spots are “content” that has to be created and managed.
That said, there has been a huge surge of interest in content creation and distribution — brands investing more in telling their own stories and owning their own distribution channels rather than relying on mass media and advertising.
TCS: What skills or personal traits do you find to be a differentiator in the content space?
Schweigert: Above all else, I would say curiosity and the willingness to always be learning and trying new things.
Great content often flows from techniques that have served journalists well for years — knowing enough to be able to ask the right questions, going into an interview knowing what you want to get out of it but without too many preconceptions, listening more than you speak, and asking follow-up questions like:
- Why do you think that is?
- Explain that to me.
- Who else should I talk to?
- What else?
These techniques help you to not only get what you need to tell better stories, but also to uncover angles that might resonate better with your audience.
TCS: What’s your outlook for the content industry five years from now?
Schweigert: The next five years are going to be wild.
As someone who has one foot in that world, it pains me to say it, but the relevancy of mainstream media (especially newspapers) is likely to continue to decline.
That said, removing the middleman and going direct to the consumer is far from an easy proposition and a lot of companies placing larger bets on content marketing are going to experience growing pains over the coming years as they figure out how this whole publishing thing really works, including:
- What types of content will attract and retain an audience? And how does that translate into revenue?
- What distribution channels and form factors are best suited for presenting and delivering content to reach their desired target audience(s)?
- How to develop an editorial strategy and voice that avoids even the perception that brands are just pushing the same old advertising messages through new channels (something we’re really seeing with social now).
- How to develop and implement plans for workflow and governance to handle the growing inventory of content that many organizations are creating and now need to manage, organize, repurpose, etc.
That last part (governance) is going to be really interesting to watch as I’ve seen media companies struggle with many of those issues in their transition to digital and know just how hard it can be.
TCS: Any industry pet peeves?
Schweigert: The abuse of buzzwords. Especially ”leverage” Just don’t do it. As professional communicators we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and prioritize clarity of language over trying to sound “smart.”