IN MY VIEW: Everyone loses if content is not at the heart of the brief

We've all done it at some stage in our working lives. The brief comes through from the client. There's a sense they're attending the event or exhibition because they feel they have to. There isn't any clear view on what should be communicated. So we develop an attractive design solution, put the necessary production elements in place and then wait and see what content the client comes up with.

I hope this approach is the exception rather than the rule, although judging by some of the events I've attended recently, I'm not so sure.

While there's evidence of content-free thinking in just about every discipline, it's perhaps more obvious when it comes to live communication. It might be something to do with the fact that a bad TV commercial is over and done with in a few seconds, whereas a content-free event may last days that more realistically feel like months. Also, the sheer intensity of live communication, where pretty much all the senses may be engaged at once, means that anything less than a well-thought-through idea will quickly be exposed as artifice.

Developing fantastic content is as important as coming up with the right design solution, film treatment or table plan. And yet very often, content is left behind in the development of a project. More production-focused suppliers actively avoid getting involved in content, leaving everything up to the client.

Given that they have day jobs, the content then tends to be cobbled together at the last minute, with no editorial control being exerted, resulting in lacklustre, unstructured, and might I say, boring messaging.

To improve the quality of what this industry produces day-in-day-out, we need to champion the cause of content. It needs to be institutionalised in the creative process. We need to demonstrate its value to the more cynical clients. And perhaps most importantly, we need to identify and nurture the people who can develop it. And perhaps they should be part of the business, rather than the freelancers who are brought in when things get desperate. So when that difficult, content-free brief comes in from the client, you know where to turn.

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