If one thing needs to happen in 2014, it’s that brands must get content right. Content is the lifeline into the digital ecosystem. It’s how we reach consumers, break through the clutter and change their behavior. It’s pretty obvious, I know.
What’s not so obvious though is that we need to elevate the conversation beyond just the content marketing insanity.
Content marketing by nature, is tactical. It can easily be done in a silo. If you work for a large brand, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from creating, aggregating, and curating content and then posting it up in social media channels without having a strategy.
You can hire consultants, agencies, and even third-party journalists and bloggers using platforms like Contently, Skyword or eByline to create content and campaigns on your behalf. And, it’s fairly easy to use valuable platforms like Newscred to help augment your content marketing initiatives.
And guess what? You can do all of this without actually talking to anyone else in your company.
Don’t get me wrong. These platforms are all valuable and very much needed as a part of your content initiatives. But without a vision or a holistic strategy, the content itself might not be as epic as planned or change any specific consumer behavior.
The reason why many of us struggle with content, storytelling, and being able to scale our content operations is because we tend to look at content from a very elementary point of view. Content isn’t a box you check, a bubble you fill in, or a bullet point in a new business capabilities presentation. It’s more than search, more than real-time content and so much more than spitting out buzzwords like “content marketing.” And you can only learn so much about content from clever-link-bait blog titles like “10 Proven Tips to Do This” or “5 Smart Tricks to Do That.”
Content must be considered a strategic imperative for your brand. You must become a content organization if you want to take your business to the next level.
Just as there is an art to storytelling; there also needs to be a strategic and operational plan that can help you create and distribute content; integrate it across paid, earned, shared and owned media; and measure it effectively. As a marketer, brand manager, or small business owner you must move beyond the content marketing buzzword and commit to building a content strategy that will allow you to execute your tactical content marketing initiatives flawlessly and at scale.
Here’s how I see this playing out; and let me introduce 4 pillars of content strategy.
Brand Goals: This is obvious but worth mentioning; and it’s critical. You must decide very early on what your specific content goals are? Are you trying to increase sales of a specific product or change perceptions about your brand? In either case, having documented goals that are aligned to your business/marketing goals and supported by your executive team is kind of an important thing to do.
Brand Narrative: Too many of us jump right into social media channels without understanding the story we want to tell; and then we get frustrated when we run out of things to say. The narrative exercise should be done early on and consider several factors – brand positioning, audience interests and affinities, media/community perceptions of the brand, historical content performance and search. From there, a good narrative coupled with storytelling principles and an editorial framework will give birth to a highly successful “gives-you-wings” type of story.
Content Operations: Believe this when I say that successful storytelling requires a significant amount of operations in order to actually work. Newsrooms create thousands of pieces of content daily and it’s not a free for all. Establishing a content supply chain (workflows that facilitate content ideation, creation, approval and distribution) are needed to build consistencies in brand storytelling and controls to avoid inconsistencies. Identifying roles and responsibilities, internally, are also important especially if you are mobilizing employees to help tell the brand story. Also, building and operationalizing customer/employee brand advocacy programs is a smart thing to do and requires an investment into a technology platform (i.e.Branderati, Dynamic Signal, Influitive).
Media Integration/ Distribution: Consumers need to interact with your content 3 – 5 times before they actually believe it. The concept itself can be compared to the “learning by repetition” theory that was taught by ancient Egyptian and Chinese educators thousands of years ago. And, when you consider the fact that there is a content/media surplus and consumers have an attention deficit, you can understand how difficult it may be to reach them and then make even a sliver of an impact. This is why it’s important for you to tell a consistent story across every channel – paid, earned, shared and owned.
In order to do this, you must prioritize your storytelling principles and content and then map them specifically to various digital channels. It’s also a good idea to deploy converged media models (the integration of paid, earned, shared and owned media) simply by promoting relevant/resonant content on Facebook and Twitter or use platforms like Outbrain and OneSpot that can also deliver converged media models. You can then decide whether or not you want to launch a real-time command center operation in this post-Oreo era to capitalize on news and recent events. Not critical but it’s an option.
Analytics and measurement will undoubtedly play a critical role in each pillar – determining a consistent measurement framework, KPIs, measuring real-time content performance, audience research and establishing benchmarks that will help you determine when to use paid media to amplify organic content.
Oh, and I am a huge fan of Public Enemy.