Sorry, content. Experience is king.

Enough with the content. Create experiences.

I’m a storyteller and a believer in the power of words but even I can see the writing on the wall. Content enjoyed a good, long reign but it’s time for a new king, and the crown belongs to user/customer/donor/“insert your constituency here” experience.

The pace at which content is created today, combined with our ever-shortening attention spans, means that talk is very cheap. Any organization can claim “excellence” or “global relevance,” but do they live it? If you get up close to their work, see it in person – experience it – do you believe in it to the point that you want to be a part of it?

Authentic communication today is an invitation not just to observe, but to experience the brand.

Great stories and powerful messages will always have the ability to grab a person’s attention and even inspire action, but we have to go deeper. We have to open ourselves to our constituents in ways that allow them to touch, see, and feel the organization. We have to be genuine in our quest for engagement, not just interaction.

The Experience Economy

As a person who works with organizations in a “call to action” environment (give back, advocate, get involved, etc.), I have long been interested in the interplay between communication and behavior – how do the things we say inspire people to do something… or not?

This is where experience has the advantage. We know that those who visit a college are more likely to apply. Those who volunteer for an organization are more likely to give. Overall, those who have an authentic experience are more likely to take action.

This is why the concept of the experience economy is more relevant than ever.

The gist is this: As goods and products become increasingly commodified, it’s the unique, meaningful experiences we have with them that attract and engage people.

Build it Together, and They Will Come

In talking about experience and engagement, I often go back to the adage, “people support that which they help build.” We need to create opportunities for true engagement, where people can roll up their sleeves and join with us in achieving something bigger.

So what can you do about it? Here are three ideas:

  1. Unless you’re a rock band or a Broadway star, stop thinking in terms of audience. Tell stories that earn attention and invite engagement, meeting people where they are. Think about your community as a whole, and the micro communities that form that community. Develop your understanding of each and why they are drawn to you, what they seek from you, and most importantly, what they believe you stand for.
  2. Stop counting things, and start tracking outcomes. There are good reasons to know how many clicks, likes, and attendees you have but make sure you are focused on metrics that matter. Look at engagement and behavior, based on clear calls to action.
  3. Get serious about engagement. This has become the buzzword of the moment, particularly in higher ed, but it requires an incredible amount of work to make happen. Engagement requires an openness to dialogue, and opportunities for the people on the other end of the discussion to influence decisions at hand. Not every idea or program requires – or would even benefit from – this type of engagement, but many will… and these are the experiences that matter most.

Keep telling great, authentic stories, but make sure you’re finding ways to invite people to go beyond the words and experience the impact you have on the world.

Original Article