“15 Ways Content is Going to Change in 2016”
“6 Ways You Can Improve Your Content Strategy”
“7 Ways to Tell if You’ve Read Too Many Content Listicles”
You’ve read them all, and honestly, so have I. I’ll be the first to admit that content marketing is a tricky beast to tame and as marketers, it’s difficult not to fall into the clickbait-y trap of an article that promises to tell us exactly what to do to save our company’s content strategy.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need any salvation. Instead, ask yourself and your team this one simple question: Does the piece serve its purpose? What is the point of the piece? I’m sure at some point or another, you’ve been told that your company needs to start a blog. Think about why anyone starts a blog or publishes an article online. To build readership? To go viral? To provide helpful insights to readers who have similar interests? If you aren’t entirely sure what that might mean for your brand (i.e., what your message is, who your audience is, or how the message will be packaged), you might need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture before you go on a posting spree.
With that said, it’s tempting to crank out a quick blog post for the sake of having something to post for the week, but that might do more harm than good. Posting for the sake of posting opens the door to potential reader confusion regarding your brand’s message and no one wants that. By figuring out the purpose of your blog or article series, you can begin to brainstorm how your posts can work to serve that greater purpose.
So how do we ensure that our content pieces fit into this greater strategy? It’s useful to think about your strategy in phases:
- Start with your message. Your overarching message is what drives your whole strategy. Without it, your pieces are no better than those semi-terrifying inflatable airdancer things one might see at a car dealership (you know what I’m talking about). Figure out the storyline; what is the story you’re trying to tell your readers and how will your team tell that story? What’s the point of this whole thing?
- Will this resonate with readers? As I mentioned before, if the piece isn’t doing anything for your readers (i.e., not telling them something they don’t already know), it’s probably not a great idea to publish. It’s important to be able to point to each piece of content and say, “We wrote x because it does y.” It can be challenging to think about what might resonate with readers, so before you dive into your writing process it might be helpful to think about each piece as if it was being written for a specific person. Developing these roles, or audience personas, can help you make sense of a) who your audience(s) are and b) how to write for them.
- Determine how the pieces will be consumed. Once your pieces are written, you need to figure out how to bring it all together in a way that makes sense for your reader and the context in which they are consuming the content.. Depending on the audience and how they find things on the Internet, some channels might be more effective than others (i.e., Twitter vs. LinkedIn). This is yet another instance where your audience personas come in handy; if you’ve identified where your audience is most likely to consume content, based on demographical data, you can plan on using those channels.
Creating and deploying an effective content strategy is a process, and it’s important to remember that. It’s something that we as marketers, writers, and strategists need to work on consistently. The last thing the Internet needs is another expected, useless listicle.