They once asked Jack Welch what he was most proud of from his time as CEO of GE for 20 years.

Think for a minute about what it could be: The amazing profits? The revolutionary talent management system? The global growth?

All good guesses, but none of them on the mark. Welch, instead, gave an incredibly surprising answer.

Why Values Are So Important

When Jack Welch was asked what he was most proud of about his tenure as CEO, he answered that it was the values they developed at GE.  Welch explained that they held global town hall meetings to  understand how to shape the value system for the entire corporation. Furthermore, he said it took a thoughtful 2 years to understand the values fully, as well as how to roll them out and communicate them.

At Aha Media, we’ve spent a lot of time understanding and sharpening our values. We use these values to make critical decisions—sometimes really hard decisions—that shape how we treat our customers, our employees and the field in which we work. But we also think you should have values around your content, too.

Why? Because values attract people to you, they embody the behaviors we expect from others and they define how we should act. If your brand is the promise of a personality, then your content absolutely should have values.

What would content values look like?

Well, they’re not branding or identity pillars, and they aren’t voice and tone. Instead, content values should encompass how you make decisions about what, how, when and to whom you publish. Think about it like this:

Our content is:

  • Straightforward
  • Valuable for our target audiences
  • Never jargon heavy
  • Conversational, but not too informal

Those attributes above aren’t about how you sound or your audience. They’re about what your content stands for, which ultimately becomes what your brand stands for. They’re what you use to decide if something matters to your audience, why you should share it and how it should make people feel when they interact with it.

Ultimately, your content values make hard decisions for you. I was recently writing an email newsletter about my Facebook fast, which I alluded to in another newsletter. And I wrote the whole thing—a full page on Word in 11-point font. But I realized it wasn’t useful to you, my reader. You weren’t going to walk away with a new understanding of content and digital strategy delivered in a tell-it-like-it-is fashion with a splash of hot pink energy, which are my content values.

So spend some time thinking about your content values and if what you’re publishing, Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, etc. is living up to them. It’s probably a worthwhile exercise with your content team over lunch or in a 2-hour workshop.

Do you have content values? Think about it and let us know by tweeting me @ahaval!

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