There is more to a content marketing strategy than just having a content marketing strategy. There are stakeholders to manage, an organization to inform and innovations waiting to be discovered. This post will help you understand the elements you should managing around your content marketing strategy. Elements that will help ensure your success
Working with content marketers day in and day out, we see and hear about many of their challenges. From lack of a documented content strategy to unaligned executives to the “always on content machine” that urges you to Produce! Produce! Produce! It’s not an easy job.
Thankfully, I also get the opportunity to see what consistently works well for content organizations and how to overcome some of these challenges. To that end, I’ve developed 5 U’s (yes, I actually came up with 5 words that start with the letter “U”) to help keep your content initiatives on track.
Understand your content universe
One of the biggest and most consistent problems I see with brands is the sheer volume of content offered. The average number of public content “pieces” (web pages, white papers, tweets, blog posts, etc.) we see for a B2B brand is in the neighborhood of 1500. For B2C brands, that number is closer to 2000. We have seen content universes over twenty-thousand pieces for a single brand. TWENTY THOUSAND. There is no way any brand can delivery a relevant and interesting experience with twenty-thousand plus content pieces on offer.
The first order of business is to understand the intersection between what you have and what you need. There is usually opportunity to conduct what we call a “Decommission/Reconstruction” project. You should segment your content based on characteristics that help you understand its usefulness by assigning attributes like type, performance, relevance, persona fit, profile etc. This exercise will help you to weed out and get rid of content that’s not aligned with your strategy and/or not performing well. At the same time, you likely have an opportunity to repurpose preexisting content to get a bump in engagement without having to create from scratch.
Content marketing people are an amazing breed. We are in an endless cycle of creation, which requires remarkable skill. The trick is to create in a unique way to pique the interest of the audience in a refreshing way. And it’s tough. Very often we see a couple things that happen to content marketers as the cycle continues to roll on and on.
First, we see content marketers fall into a “pattern of creation.” We begin to see an approach that becomes repetitive, whether it’s writing style, content types, topics, etc. This is why we encourage our clients to explore the opportunity to do something different. Nicole Yershon of the Ogilvy Innovation Lab suggests that you get out of your comfort zone by going places and doing things where you know no one and nothing. Force yourself to try new approaches, and we guarantee you will discover something awesome.
For example, Rob Fuller and I, as co-founders of 8-Point Arc, have started a podcast (shameless plug: Be Better, Be Different). The experience is exhilarating but also nerve wracking. It is a significant ask for people to take 30 minutes or so out of their day to listen. The presumption of value delivery is high. It will take time to build an audience but we already have some regular listeners. It’s a long term play and who knows if it will ever “pay-off”, but it’s relatively low cost and hopefully achieves our goal of being helpful and insightful. We will keep you updated on its progress, but the point is we’re putting ourselves out there and are giving it a go.
Second, we see a lot of “copy-cat” marketing. Understand your personas, use data to drive your strategy and research the competition…but not to replicate what they’re doing. Research them to figure out how you will be unique and different.
The hardest thing for a CMO or any senior marketing leader is to balance the requirements of those that depend on you while performing your function the right way. Stakeholder pressure can cause us to cut corners, to disregard a strategy and ultimately go off the rails. Don’t allow the situation get to a point that forces you to choose between staying true to your strategy versus appeasing short-term requests.
The way to diffuse that pressure is to include those stakeholders in the process and communicate. Sell them on the value of a content strategy, educate them on the process to create it and then get their input agreement on the result. Here are some good templates published by CMI to help keep stakeholders aligned
Use the strategy (every day)
One of the biggest missteps we see with brands is a lack of connection between the content marketing strategy and the content production process that is occurring every day. If you look at your production schedule and don’t know what the specific purpose is for every piece you are going to publish and how it maps to the overriding strategy then you have lost that connection.
Put you and your team to the test on content purpose. Require a content brief that in part explicitly states purpose. There are a million of them-just check with the Google machine.
Update the organization
Don’t assume because you have an agreed-upon content marketing strategy that you will have nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Stakeholders, mostly unintentionally, will present you with all sorts of opportunity to abandon the very strategy they helped build. The way to combat this is to head it off at the pass. Proactively re-sell the content marketing strategy with updates on progress along the way.
The point is there is more to a content marketing strategy than just having one. You have to actively manage and sell that strategy and accept that having one is the beginning not the result.