As the last few weeks of 2015 wind down, it's typical to review where you've been and whether you've met your goals (the easy part) and to then begin planning where you think you're going (the hard part). I bring this up because many of us believe in this notion of making predictions about the future. If you want to play in that arena, you should read, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail--but Some Don't. It has won many accolades for providing a fascinating view into the art of probability and statistics. With the increasingly rapid change we're undergoing, predicting anything these days is becoming a very complex undertaking. The author, Nate Silver, shares case studies that demonstrate identifying the probability of anything will become easier only with more knowledge.

As I look back at my own journey, I can say that I've learned a ton about Content Development this past year... and, there is so much more to learn. This exponentially data-driven economy is creating such a profundity of information that most have yet to figure out how to make any of it work. We are drowning in data and struggling to turn it into knowledge, much less wisdom. That's why predicting how this shift in marketing will evolve over time--away from interruptive advertising and toward creating and producing consumer-centric content--requires much more knowledge. And yet one thing is certain: if you are not finely tuned to listening for the signal your customers are sending, you will surely be part of the noise they seek to avoid.

More than a few years ago, I participated in a one-day seminar on listening from Dr. Rick Brommelje at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL with my entire in-house agency. What I learned from that course was that we are not as good at listening as we thought, and there is a method for improving the skill. If you want to improve that discipline, you should pick up the book he co-authored with Dr. Lyman Steil, Listening Leaders: The Ten Golden Rules To Listen, Lead & Succeed. As nearly every industry is facing disruptive competition from one source or another, those organizations which learn to listen best will also be suited to adapt most easily and overcome the ever-shrinking consumer attention span. In this is era of great transition, the effects of this tsunami of information impacts us on a global, geo-political, socio-economic scale. If knowledge is power, and we are seeing more and more people having access to information, then we are seeing an irreversible shift in the way the masses relate to the institutions that govern their lives.

Consumers seek brands they can trust, brands that respond to their specific needs and brands that promote more authentic relationships with their customers. The organizations that are most genuine in that endeavor will be the ones who can win their audience's precious time allotment with content that embodies their unique perspective.

This is why content must play a much bigger role in your total customer experience. Whatever it is that your organization delivers, content is the pipeline into your customers' consciousness. That means that your content will need to prove that your organization is more in tune with their primal motivational needs. Most organizations talk about customer experience as only those moments when human interactions take place: a sale, a service, a product experience. However, more interactions are becoming digital with each passing moment. This places organizations in a unique dichotomy of having less interpersonal interactions at the same time that consumers are seeking more genuine attention to their needs. For this very reason, your content needs to strive to be more responsive, more transparent and more relevant.

Your content development and creative leadership team needs to understand your customers as deeply as possible to create the most effective communications for your organization--from both a graphic and written perspective.

It's not getting any less competitive, and those organizations that demonstrate the fundamental disciplines of listening and relating will have an advantage that is difficult to overcome, regardless of what the next big thing becomes. What's going to be your team's role in that?

This is the final of six posts on Content we featured in 2015.

If this is a topic you and your team is struggling with, Cella is available to provide on-site training for you and your team.