From Lincoln Center to iPhone 7 – The same rules apply

A few weeks ago I participated on a panel at Lincoln Center as part of the Skift Global Forum, which is billed as the “Ted Talks for Travel”. My panel’s topic was on digital transformation, and an impromptu exchange back-stage highlighted the big shifts that have happened in content. The CEO and founders of Expedia and Priceline and I were back-stage discussing some of the early breakthroughs in the industry and it sparked a recollection about one of my projects at Sabre during the mid-90s, SabreVision. It was the first product that allowed consumers to view hotel images online. That early venture was indicative of what was to come, although few at the time would have predicted it to this extent.

Recent years have brought an explosion of dynamic content through supplier-provided photos, floor-plans, 360-degree video and most recently, augmented reality. Consumers have contributed user-generated content through reviews, photos and video as well. A key driver of this evolution is the customer’s almost unquenchable desire for content and social platforms that make this type of engagement possible. There’s no argument that this content is influential; 33% of travelers have changed hotels after using social media to research to travel, according to Ad Week.

But have we over done it? Does the increase in interest among Millennials in using travel agents to sort through the avalanche of content indicate that travel suppliers and intermediaries have gone too far? That could be one interpretation. The more likely take-away is that travel suppliers and their partners need to do a better job aligning the content they’re delivering to audiences in a way that provides value.

It struck me as I was preparing for my talk, that the same concepts I was using to organize my remarks on stage had a parallel in the rules for content management I apply with my clients.

Relevant – The concepts and examples had to resonate with the audience. You can’t do that without understanding of who was going to be filling all those seats at the Lincoln Center. Were they travel suppliers, intermediaries, disruptive start-ups? And what are their roles at work—were they the heads of marketing? Loyalty? Digital?

Tailoring your content begins with an in-depth exploration and definition of your target audience. Luckily, for travel suppliers there’s an abundance of data available and a growing set of analytical tools to achieve this goal.

Meaningful – You need to go beyond relevant to zero-in on the motivations of your audience. I knew that there would be some people in the audience looking for new ideas to inspire them, while others would want to take away some confirmation that they are on the right path. My remarks would have to satisfy both types of needs.

The inherent uncertainty of travel triggers both anxiety and excitement depending on the individual, the nature of the trip, and trip stage as well as circumstances. Being prepared to respond with content that evokes adventure or boosts confidence (yes, you’ve gotten a great deal)             is critical.

Purposeful – It’s easy to fall into the trap of sharing content without a clear view as to the desired outcome. Before I took to the stage, I had thought about what I wanted to achieve—boost the visibility of Epsilon, demonstrate our expertise and connect with my co-presenters.

Delivering content to your consumers needs to have a defined goal as well. Is the content intended to drive prospects to a landing page or to purchase additional services post-booking? Clearly articulated outcomes that can be measured enables organizations to isolate content that is           performing and that which needs to be improved.

Dedicating resources to ensure that content is relevant, meaningful and purposeful is a worthwhile investment. It seems inevitable that individuals, social media channels and the brands themselves will continue to drive rapid growth in content. Those companies that embrace advances in content management systems and use data and technology to deliver this content to the right audiences will be better positioned to succeed.

So, whether your audience is seated in front of you at Lincoln Center or looking at their mobile as they commute home from work, respecting the attention those individuals are allocating to your content by applying these best practices will position you better for success.

For additional information on how travel marketers are evolving their digital infrastructure download The Digital Transformation Report brought to you by Skift, Adobe and Epsilon.