However, we are in an age where there’s a virtually limitless supply of content, and audiences are growing increasingly fickle and fragmenting their attention among various media channels. To succeed in this environment, marketers need to have a content strategy in place—one that can help them build the right kind of content for their target audience at the right time.
78% of companies that believe their content marketing is very successful have a documented content strategy, illustrating how vital it is to be thorough and take content planning as seriously as any other essential business process. With that in mind, this article reviews the important steps to take in building a content strategy, from planning through to execution.
What is a Content Strategy?
A content strategy defines how an organisation plans, creates and publishes content on various platforms and how that content should meet business goals. It provides a roadmap for keeping customers engaged throughout the funnel and retaining them after purchase.
Some key components to consider when building a content strategy are:
- Audience: Who is the content being created for? What are their needs, motivations, and interests? What do they already know and what do they need to learn? This helps in identifying the types of content to create, as well as where and how it should be distributed.
- Objectives: What does your content need to achieve? What does it need to accomplish in order to be considered a success? What action should audience members take as a result of consuming content and how does that tie in with the overall business goals?
- Channels: What is the best place to publish different types of content? What is the goal for each channel in terms of how it will move customers towards a sale (or retain them)?
Why You Need a Content Strategy
Aside from the data linking having a documented strategy to success, having a content strategy is vital for keeping up with publishing schedules and creating the most suitable content for different audience segments.
Many companies have a functional content strategy, but not one that is designed to meet strategic objectives. Reviewing their content strategy and ensuring it is comprehensive enough to be truly beneficial is crucial in such cases.
Planning a Content Strategy
Content Strategy and Culture
Sometimes, stakeholders are not aligned when it comes to planning and executing a content strategy. For example, a marketing team may be creating the right kind of content but they may not be communicating with product teams and may therefore publish content at the wrong times.
In addition, if senior level stakeholders don’t recognise the importance of content – or their role in supporting it – your content strategy may never reach its full potential.
Ensuring that an appreciation of the importance of strategy when it comes to content is embedded in company culture and communications is a vital step in establishing consistence and adherence to the strategy.
Content Planning Approaches
The Content Bubble
The Content Bubble is a model I developed to guide content planning from a range of perspectives. It defines three bubbles:
- The smallest bubble involves any content that is specific to your company, such as product launches, events and other news. When creating content that falls in this category, it’s important to make it engaging for the audience and not too internally focused.
- The middle bubble involves any topics relevant in your sector. It may include new technologies that affect your industry, regulatory changes, industry trends, and so on.
- The largest bubble concerns everything else, from political events to sports matches.
Naturally, it’s important to find a relevant angle when discussing broader topics as opposed to talking about them for the sake of it. Why would your audience be interested to hear about this piece of news from your company in particular? Keep that in mind when creating content in the middle and large bubbles and keep engagement and relevance at the forefront of your mind for all three categories.
Proactive vs. Reactive Planning
Planning is essential in content creation, but you cannot plan for everything in advance; unexpected events may occur that have an impact on your industry. Proactive content planning means using the Content Bubble to inform your topics ahead of time, while reactive planning is about responding to events as and when they occur
While the outcomes of some important events will not be known in advance (such as election results), you can still plan ahead by creating the backbone of the content for each possible scenario. This way, you will be ready to respond in a timely manner when the event occurs. Plan the angle the topic will be approached from for each possible outcome and have content creators ready to create the complete pieces once the news hits the headlines.
Reactive and proactive planning work together. When you create your content calendar, ensure that any major events are included so that alternative pieces can be prepared in advance.
Define the Audience Segments
The more granular the audience segmentation, the better, as this will help in choosing the right kind of content to create as well as decide where it makes sense to publish it. It will also help you identify any demographic gaps in your existing content which can then be filled.
There are numerous ways to segment an audience and the decisions on how to segment them and which are most important to target should be data-driven. Budget is another factor in determining how many segments to target with unique pieces of content, as well as the scope for split-testing different variations.
Define the Objectives
When defining objectives, it is important to establish which metrics need to improve as a result of engagement with content and why. For example, if one goal is to increase the number of email subscribers, ask yourself why that’s important. What do you want those subscribers to do once they sign up? With that in mind, you can start creating content that helps you accomplish those objectives – in this case, list-building content such as e-books or white papers would be a starting point to consider.
Decide on the Right Channels
Naturally, content needs to be published across multiple channels, especially those where the audience spends the most time. In some cases, it is necessary to be more specific about which content to publish on which channel. Content that is specifically designed for gaining new followers may be published on a company blog rather than on social media channels, for example. Again, data should be the foundation for such decisions.
Establish a Content Calendar
Once a content strategy is in place, the best way to execute it is by using a content calendar. This helps in establishing the best topics to cover at certain times of the year, which can then be scheduled for publishing ahead of time. It also ensures an organised workflow and that deadlines are always met. Many people experience creative blocks at times, so planning far ahead ensures that this is not an obstacle to delivering consistent content that is published on time.
A content calendar can be as detailed or as basic as is needed. It can include specific topics to cover, the platforms on which they will published, and which members of the team will create them.
Planning content topics involves reviewing the data on what your audience is already engaging with (whether that’s your own content or that of your competitors) and what they are searching for. The audience can also be surveyed about what type of content they would like to see, through social media polls, email surveys or other appropriate means. In addition, trending topics and seasonal themes make a good basis for content topics.
Creating and Distributing Content
Best Practices for Content Creation
When creating new content, there are a few things that can ensure everyone’s efforts are as successful as possible:
- Value: Always keep this principle at the forefront of content creation. While content needs to deliver business objectives, it must provide value to the audience in order for them to engage with it and, ultimately, take the required action that will fulfill those objectives.
- Originality: Make sure that whatever has been created is unique, checking for plagiarism where relevant (such as longer articles). If content is copied from other sources, there is the risk of getting penalised by search engines as well the possibility of legal action from the owner of the source material. Ensure that all content creators are well aware of the risks and consequences of plagiarism.
- Tone: Ensure the content creators thoroughly understand the brand identity and the correct tone and messaging they need to use when addressing your audience.
- Consistency: Ensure the user experience is consistent across all channels. For example, if social media accounts get 2,000 visitors per month but the website offers a lower level of user experience (in terms of content quality, in this case), it will make a bad impression.
Another way to get the most out of content is to repurpose it. This can be done in a number of different ways, such as turning an existing article into a podcast or audio file or a series of tweets. Using different media ensures you reach as many members of your audience as possible.
Having a well-documented content strategy is vital for ensuring your content marketing is successful. All content objectives should be based on the overall business goals and should be designed so that users take action that will fulfill them. Decisions about what content to publish and how granular audience segmentation needs to be should be data-driven for optimal results.
To ensure your company gets the most from its content strategy, all stakeholders should be aligned and understand its purpose, and communication channels must be in place to ensure that everyone is aware of the standards regarding content creation.
To discover how we’re helping businesses worldwide develop leading marketing strategies, contact us – we would be delighted to assist.