Slow Stories: The Big Picture—The Relationship Between Content and Sustainability

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This is the second installment in a series on slow content. See the first installment here.

For most modern marketers, content has become an essential component of their overarching digital strategy. But with content's increasingly present role in both our personal and professional lives (in tandem with an often complex social and political landscape), the conversation is now shifting in a thoughtful direction toward considerations of its role in social epidemics surrounding mental health, the evolving news climate, and more.

Since launching the Slow Stories podcast, I've spoken with leading brand-builders who have collectively alluded to the fact that our current consumption habits are forcing new ways of thinking about content's relationship to sustainability. And when looking back at our first season as a whole, my collective takeaway from these conversations revealed three primary elements that make up the slow content movement today:

1. Slow content provides value and purpose

Beyond aesthetics and virality, many of our podcast interviewees defined slow content as being something that offers true value in a densely saturated landscape. Understanding a piece of content's purpose and how it will serve an audience—whether through educating or inspiring—gives it a better chance of leaving a long-term impact beyond just fleeting inspiration in our day-to-day scrolling.

2. Slow content considers data and fact-checking

The immediacy that social media and self-publishing affords us has presented new challenges in how we detect what is real and what is being obscured. To create a credible storytelling environment, our interviewees contend that a return to a slower, well-researched process is critical for all conscious storytellers.

3. Slowing down our relationship to content makes us nicer, more well-rounded people

Finally, a lot of my conversations with these incredible women signaled that there's not necessarily a need to create content all day, every day. As we all work to discern what it is we want to say (and consume), it is equally important to create space to take a step back, recharge, and connect with what drives us offline just as much as what inspires us online.

With these pillars in mind, today's article is going to further expand on the importance of thinking about creating content through a sustainable, big-picture lens. If you find yourself struggling to think about or implement "slow" content in your own strategies, let's look at a similar movement like slow fashion.

At their core, slow fashion brands are commonly known for championing ethical and sustainable production practices, educating consumers on how their pieces are made, and rewriting the rules regarding social and business expectations surrounding their brands. As a result, companies like this have slowly begun to transform the greater fashion industry by creating new standards that are more conscious of both the modern brand builder and consumer's needs. The content and marketing space can surely borrow from these efforts to create a more sustainable landscape for storytelling professionals on both sides of the equation. Below, I've listed a few considerations for brands and content creators to ask themselves—and each other—to enact more sustainable, mutually-beneficial opportunities to create content that has longevity.

1. Set the expectations

The same way a fashion brand would set standards regarding their production process, a content creator can similarly follow suit and establish their own set of best practices when taking on projects. Part of this exercise is educating brands about the importance of ethics—which extends to proper compensation, creative resource allocation, and so on.

2. Ensure consistency and communication

As I mentioned in last month's article, setting yourself up for success in the slow content space begins by laying a long-term foundation in collaboration with your team or client. Part of this is not only communicating what resources you need to bring the content to life, but further educating your team on how it fits into their big picture brand story and mission. When creating enduring content for a brand of any size, it is essential to discuss the end-goal, and what elements must be considered to bring it all to life in an on-brand way. That is where tools like brand books or guidelines come into play to ensure that all relevant details are considered during the production process.

3. Champion the investment in content—and the creators needed to bring it to life

At times, it can be hard for brands to justify the additional spend on custom content (especially when UGC is alive and well). But going back to our slow fashion example, whenever I've found myself in a new business meeting, I often compare the investment in content to investing in quality-made clothing: I'm purchasing a well-made garment and supporting a brand I love as a result. Not only does this demonstrate an interest in championing the brand as a content creator, but it often helps contextualize why putting resources into original (and quality) content is vital for the brand's business goals—and on a more human level—sustaining the support of/relationship with content collaborators.

In a world where trends, expectations, and platforms can change in an instant, thinking about sustainability's role in content isn't always an easy task. I hope this article provides a framework to have necessary conversations with your clients or team to establish systems and tools that allow you to create content that is thoughtful (and provides value) for years to come.

For more musings on slow content, I invite you to follow along with the Slow Stories podcast on iTunes and my monthly column here on the Create & Cultivate blog!

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Rachel Schwartzmann is the Founder and CEO of The Style Line LLC. She created The Style Line in late January 2011 via Tumblr and has fostered The Style Line’s brand in its growth since then. Rachel has been featured in esteemed sources including Forbes, Refinery29, and MyDomaine and has also spoken at Create & Cultivate and Columbia University on establishing a unique brand point of view and entrepreneurship. On October 1, 2015, Rachel took The Style Line in a new direction as a boutique content company with the introduction of its slow content agency CONNECT(ED)ITORIAL.


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