Companies are well aware that quality content — engaging, personalized and distributed at scale — is an essential part of modern marketing. Whether it’s using light-hearted memes or in-depth reports, an agile content strategy builds relevance and brand awareness while also establishing companies as thought leaders in their industries.

Though businesses worldwide are developing increasingly sophisticated content strategies to generate leads, demand and revenue, our latest research – surveying 484 executives across the U.S. Europe and China – uncovered some powerful focus areas for companies, specifically in Europe, to hit those goals. Here, we outline the three digital content imperatives European companies should be actioning against now:

1. Optimize Your Organizational Structure

A slight majority — just over 50% — of all European companies in our research use a centralized creative team, which manages content across departments and geographies. That’s not surprising, since for many years, that’s been the go-to model.

In the past, there were good reasons to consolidate content production with a central creative team. This internal agency model allowed for better governance, more consistent quality and a quicker production time. As businesses became more digital, they moved away from creating awareness through brand-centric content and focused more on mid-funnel content, such as thought leadership or buying guides. These factors were instrumental in companies shifting content production away from external agencies.

But this model is only sustainable up to a point and as many companies transform for the digital age, conditions are rapidly changing. Badly judged centralization can constrain the ability to tailor content locally and add significant differentiated value. Our research showed that German companies are most likely to rely on a centralized approach, at 60 percent. That compares to 53% in the U.S. and 44% in China. The European companies we spoke to said that aligning multiple teams around a unified content strategy is their biggest challenge, at 27%, this compares to 23% in the U.S. and 15% in China.

A better way: Increasingly, more companies — and 32% of our global sample — have moved beyond centralization, setting up additional content-producing centers. Typically, they still have a central creative team, which sets much of the overall content strategy. This team creates and enforces editorial guidelines for quality and owns the visual and verbal identity for consistency. It can also hold the technology and provide training for data-based content creation and the measuring of content success.

The work with our clients in Europe has shown how helpful this organizational structure can be in meeting the unique content demands of different business units and geographies. It’s vital in European markets, which often face other regulatory guidelines.

2. Embrace Tech and Data to Create, Personalize and Measure Content

The biggest challenge for today’s content producers is to consistently produce personalized content at a large scale — and do it in a way that increases revenue. To do this, companies need more than the right content. They need to deliver it to the right person, at the right time and in the right channel – and that requires using more data and automation.

Yet companies in Europe are most likely to say that their solution is simply to hire more content creators, at 24%, compared to 18% in the U.S. and 13% in China. Producing content at scale isn’t something that can be solved by simply adding more employees.

Only 11% of European respondents say they use AI to create and deliver personalized content at a large scale, based on AI-driven customer segments and analytics. That compares with 22% of those in the U.S. and 25% in China. (Germany presents the most extreme example of this at two percent, versus 10% in the U.K.)

And just 10% say they rely on AI-driven analysis of demographic, behavioral and psychographic data, enhanced with third-party data to create customer segments. That compares to 19% in the U.S. and 35% in China.

European companies are also noticeably more conservative about most uses of consumer data, citing more concerns about privacy than those in other regions. And for good reason, as data privacy legislation in Europe is more stringent than it is in the U.S. or China.

A better way: Our research shows that the best approach is investing in an innovative set of practices that make up an agile content system. These systems:

  • Use data to inform content creation
  • Produce content in modules for approval and recombination
  • Centralize and automate content storage
  • Upload a standard design system
  • Measure content effectiveness beyond awareness and engagement

European companies need to push harder to create clear guidelines on how data is used. What is acceptable, and why? What are the guidelines for content aimed at consumers versus B2B efforts? These conversations are increasingly important as companies face a cookie-less future.

3. Tune Campaigns for Different Regions

European countries have long understood that regional differences are significant and strategies that resonate in Portugal might be a total failure in Finland. But in a world of digitally-driven content and AI that can be finely tuned for each market, those differences are not what they used to be. And they can often become excuses for inconsistencies that limit the effectiveness of a content strategy.

These disparities can also be seen in channel effectiveness, with European countries less likely to say their audience engages with them on critical social-media channels. Just 37% of European companies say Facebook provides their highest engagement rate, compared to 55% of those in the U.S. Also, only 15% cite LinkedIn as their most effective, compared to 20% in the U.S. (Interestingly, more European companies say Instagram is their best source for engagement, at 31%, compared to 22% in the U.S.)

Companies in Europe are more likely to use reach as the primary metric of effectiveness than the more advanced engagement metrics used in the U.S. and China. But, companies in Germany (36%) and Spain (34%) are more likely to lock those metrics away in silos specific to individual channels.

A better way: In developing a company-wide digital content strategy, investigate differing standards and requirements in each geography. What changes can be made for greater consistencies within markets, especially regarding automation and success metrics?

Final Thoughts

European companies are well-aware of the importance of content in their overall business strategy, but to stay relevant and keep up with fast-moving digital audiences, it’s no longer enough to produce quality content. Content must be personalized, engaging and delivered at scale.

Our research shows that European companies have essential steps to take against some important measures, but by optimizing organizational structure, leveraging tech and digital data to create personalized content for varying consumer and regional segments, they will reap the full benefits of an effective and strategic approach to digital content. Watch those leads come in, that demand increase and that revenue rocket.

Prophet can assess your content strategy and help find alignment across business units and geographies. For more on how to scale your content, drive efficiency and maximize growth, contact our Marketing & Sales practice today.