“Product Thinking” is a mindset, that media and communication workers need in order to be successful in the long term. Because content is not only effective in terms of content and appearance (web design, typography, etc.), but above all through relevance for the target group, context and a strategic objective.
Especially in the media and communications industry – and I don’t exclude content marketing – it’s about product thinking essentially about defining offers not just about a single content. A blog article, a press release or a landing page does not result in a product. Otherwise, subscriptions and paywalls would not have asserted themselves so clearly over the individual sale of articles (pay-per-read).
If you want to offer content with visibility, impact and financial success, you urgently need know-how in product development.
In this article we explain what that means specifically for content creators and how they can better understand their content as products in the future.
Define “product” together
From the point of view of Klaus-Peter (KP) Frahm, co-developer of the Product Field, lacks (in the media industry) a shared understanding of what “product” actually means. Individual posts? formats? Brands (media brands or content brands)? Media offers?
In addition, the product term is associated with certain prejudices in some editorial offices. Frahm knows that “the product world was quickly thought of, which is advertised in the magazines and programs. Or to PR agencies trying to ‘place’ their clients’ products in the reporting. And suddenly journalists should see themselves as producers of products that have to be marketed like toothpaste? Understandably, this initially triggers resistance”.
In the past, many things were actually simpler: journalists could fully focus on the reporting and stories, while other departments – usually far away from the editorial offices – took care of distribution, marketing and communication.
“Nowadays, all employees in a media organization are directly or indirectly responsible for the product success.” – KP Frahm, co-developer of the Product Field.
This does not only apply to classic media houses, which per se have something to do with “content” and are most likely to see it as a product, but also for all other companies. In particular those who position themselves in the market through content and, for example, make a name for themselves as authors through the personal brands of their employees and want to spread their messages decentrally.
In order for Product Thinking to find its way more quickly or more strongly, those responsible for content must realize that the development of successful media products can only succeed if everyone pulls together: editorial staff, IT, sales and marketing , but also the upstream and downstream areas such as management, service or human resources.
As I said, content can itself become a business will. Also for companies that do not yet see themselves as a media brand. Red Bull is probably one of the best-known examples.
In order to ultimately be successful, one thing is particularly important: the product to be defined and established as the connecting element of all trades
With the Product Field for a shared understanding
With In the product field, organizations develop a common view of all product-related aspects and thereby gain a shared understanding of the connections and value contributions of all those involved. “This creates orientation and sheds light on possible deficits and stumbling blocks for successful product development. And it helps in the selection of the methods and measures with which the identified challenges can be solved,” says Frahm.
An illustrative example: The product field for the content strategy
The use of the product field for the development of a content strategy enables the Visualization of various influencing factors and their comparison with each other. In doing so, it forces content strategists to involve other trades and to take the different perspectives from marketing, IT, sales, service, etc. into account. This makes it possible to see at a glance where there is potential. For example, by comparing user needs with the current content orientation or the market and competitive situation with your own available resources.
The product field creates clarity about your own situation/position, strengths and weaknesses and makes promising fields of action visible.
So it doesn’t initially provide any solutions, but rather insights.
But it leaves it can be combined well with other methods and frameworks in the context of content: A first step in the direction of the product field can be taken with the Value Proposition Canvas, for example. The questions asked in this canvas (among other things about the Jobs-to-be-done) trigger similar thoughts as the product field – however, the latter goes a little further and helps to cover the starting position more holistically. If you want to delve deeper into the needs of the users as a basis for developing a content strategy and later for brainstorming, you will find the necessary help in the Persona Canvas.
3. Developing Content Ideas
I recommend at Context in terms of the outer zone of the canvas. This allows us to critically examine the needs of the users (frustration and motivation), the internal resources ( know-how and stakeholders) and the market situation (competition and platform requirements).
Step by step we are approaching the solution or the content idea, because at the core of the model There is a comparison between the problem and our proposed solution – this is where the value proposition and the positioning not only of the content strategy as a whole, but also of each individual idea opens up.
Based on this, we can now plan topics, derive and prioritize concrete content ideas, design prototypes or content MVPs. Basically, the same applies to brand content and marketing content as to journalistic products: a clear value proposition (Value Proposition) towards consumers.
One beneficial bundling – as mentioned at the beginning, a single article is not necessarily suitable as a product. However, if we summarize enough articles in a narrative, it quickly becomes a kind of magazine or even book that corresponds more closely to the conventional understanding of a product; see my thoughts on content portfolios.
One habit-forming effect (ritualization, habitualization), such as the Sunday morning newspaper or the 8 o’clock news on TV. If you want to achieve a long-term effect with your digital product, you must also be able to create new rituals and an emotional bond.
A holistic understanding of quality in content, user experience and technology (see also my article on what we can learn from Spotify and YouTube about content experience).
Platform specific storytelling in the sense of an adaptation of existing formats (e.g. radio broadcast, TV program or print medium) for other platforms (e.g. as a podcast, YouTube video or Instagram story) instead of the unchanged secondary exploitation.
As you can see, the Product Field is versatile and a tool that offers a new perspective apart from or in addition to established “Content Frameworks”. It expands our own understanding of content as a business asset and is, in a way, a natural evolutionary step away from content as a pure marketing tool towards content as the basis for our own business model.
To ensure that the canvas is helpful in the long term and that the effort involved in developing it pays off, I recommend two things:
Don’t think of the product field as a static map that you work on once as a team and then you hanging over your desk. In the meantime, the developers have developed a suitable software solution with Field in order to continuously develop the Product Field.
Work with the canvas as much as possible to really understand how to best use it for your purposes. After all, it’s just a tool designed to make your work easier. So be clear about in which context you are using the framework: Have you, for example, described the context (in the sense of the outer zone) and are you looking for a suitable core? Or the other way around? Or maybe you have already defined both and are looking for gaps? The canvas also offers proportionately exciting approaches for content development.
Just try it out! The least that happens is that you sit down with all your colleagues at a table to describe the canvas. That alone is worth trying. 😉