In the world of experiential marketing, you’re not just selling a hotel room or a pair of shoes. You’re selling the feeling of hiking a trail on a crisp autumn morning, or the excitement of staying in the heart of town.

This "product" doesn’t live on a shelf. Rather, it’s an ever-evolving idea in the mind of your audience, which sees you as a trusted source of information — in some cases, even an expert. The idea connects your product or destination directly to your audience. It’s a connection fostered through the colors and textures of your storytelling, and it contributes to the authenticity of your brand’s image.

How much effort is needed to create that meaningful connection? Those of us who work in content marketing know just how much work goes into a creating a single piece of experiential content, whether it’s for your website, social media channels, email or display advertising.

This work is not limited to the act of writing your message in a few simple words. It involves creative brainstorming and strategizing, art direction, image collection, and likely uploading, tagging and fact checking (Yes, fact checking! You can’t be a trusted source without accurate information). Many different jobs and skill sets are needed to make a single piece of content.

So the question becomes: Is it better to staff up to meet all of these needs, to outsource your content, or a mix of the two? The following explores the costs behind creating your own content and the benefits of outsourcing.

Who Manages, Produces and Publishes Content

Jeff Bartlett

Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and outdoor brands tend to have only a few people dedicated to content marketing, if they're lucky. In some cases, in-house talent writes and edits articles, and in many other cases content is curated from a mix of bloggers, freelance writers or other outside agencies. Many don’t have in-house art directors or even senior editors to develop storylines or bring stories to life with visuals.

"Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and outdoor brands tend to have only a few people dedicated to content marketing, if they're lucky."

At Seattle-based clothing brand ExOfficio, marketing manager Amy Brown is tasked with managing and publishing content almost single-handedly. At the Colorado Tourism Office, whose website lures over 10 million unique visitors per year, director of US marketing Amber Kollman King has only two people dedicated to creating content. "We outsource a lot," she says.

So how much does it actually cost to produce content on your own?

Consider the landscape in which content is created. There are many hands that touch a piece of content before it makes its debut in a tweet or newsletter. Likewise, the price of content varies widely depending on quality, the difficulty of research, location and many other factors.

The hard costs of writing and art direction are only part of the equation. There’s also management time for all those involved in the content process, and the training required to get team members up to speed on your organization’s style, voice and content mission. This doesn’t take into account editorial meetings or the creation of content guidelines, nor time spent managing workflow and revisions.

When Outsourcing Makes Sense

Jeff Bartlett

If you’re only producing a few articles a month, you might not have the need for a senior editor or a full-time art director. However, having those skills at your disposal could enhance your content. "We operate with an efficient balance of internal staff and external resources and that gives us the most cost-effective output," says Dave Santucci, vice president of marketing at the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau in Tennessee. “It is not cost effective to have a huge staff.”

"[RootsRated handles] the process end-to-end, and they have a unique and powerful distribution channel that reaches an audience that we are not capable of reaching ourselves."

About half of the Chattanooga CVB’s content is produced and distributed by RootsRated. This is where an end-to-end content solution becomes enticing. Full-service content platforms, including RootsRated Compass, often fill staffing gaps with the customized expertise needed for effective storytelling.

"It’s good to work with specialized experts who do nothing but create content, and it’s at a cost that is far less than having an internal staff," Santucci says, adding that RootsRated functions like an internal content studio for their organization. “They handle the process end-to-end, and they have a unique and powerful distribution channel that reaches an audience that we are not capable of reaching ourselves.”

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