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Content strategy practices that will make you a better marketer

by , Marketing Consultant

Good marketers have embraced the value that content brings to the marketing process, but that doesn’t mean that content strategy is in every marketer’s toolkit. This is a shame, because adopting content strategy practices can help your team create and share content more consistently, and ensure that the content they produce resonates with your audience. This results in improved customer experiences, and improved branding, and what marketer doesn’t want that?

Create a Content Mission Statement

Before you create your content strategy, you should have a strong mission statement in place that includes who you are trying reach, what their needs are, and your business goals. How else can you create, curate, promote, or publish the right kind of content, if you don’t know exactly what you are trying to accomplish?

By creating a content mission statement, you define all of the things mentioned above. Then, you can use that statement as a reference when discussing potential content topics, or settling disagreements on topics related to content marketing. It’s also very handy when it comes to establishing priorities.

How you define your content mission statement depends largely on your business model and the goals you are hoping to accomplish. However, your statement should include the types of content you plan to offer (e.g., informative, authoritative, humorous), the response you want your content to evoke, and the business goals that your content will help you to accomplish.

Here’s an example of a Content Mission Statement:

We create amazing content that helps us to build relationships and establish thought leadership. We accomplish this by serving up engaging and relevant content to financially secure adults so that they feel confident in planning luxury vacations.

Of course the key to achieving this mission with your content is to ensure there is a clear and shared understanding of what makes content amazing, being able to measure its engagement, and knowing what makes content relevant to your audience. The mission statement will guide you and is a good reference to come back to to anchor your content in consistency and authenticity.

Use digital governance strategy to scale content and create cohesion

When people think of content marketing, they tend to think about creating and publishing. Content must also be distributed, maintained, and promoted. There is also the job of communicating and maintaining content standards, not just within the content team or marketing department, but across the entire organisation.

Your digital governance strategy is a document that clarifies each person’s roles and responsibilities within the content team. It also establishes policies and procedures that govern content strategy decisions. This document cements who the go to person is for each area of responsibility, who answers to them, and how things are done.

If you think you are fine, at the moment, without a digital governance strategy, you might be right. If you are a small company or an early stage startup, you may be creating great content that reaches your audiences just where you want, while taking a very casual almost improvisational approach. The only problem is that when you grow, this seat of your pants approach isn’t going to work. It’s better to create a digital governance strategy now in preparation for growth than it is to create one in as you are doing damage control.

Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Know when to apply a Digital Governance Strategy

When it comes to testing news waters with content, there are three phases. The first is the experimental phase. You may be trying out a new social media platform, or a new content format. At this point, digital governance is too stifling. Be creative, and get feedback from as many team members as possible. The second is analysis. Did the experiment work for you? If it did, it’s time to move to the third phase. If you are going to scale it, you have to use digital governance to avoid chaos.

2. Identify the content team members

This may be more difficult than you think. While your core content team might be located within your marketing department, you may identify other team members in other departments. Basically, if someone is going to be used as a resource for information, you should consider them a member of the content team. Finally, figure out who the policy makers are, along with who will be defining the strategy.

3. Create the documentation

Here, the strategists and the policy makers join together. Your strategy team will define your strategy, and a path for implementing that strategy. Your policy makers will insure that content meets quality standards, and that it is brand appropriate.

Review, update and purge existing content

An effective content team cannot succeed simply by thinking about the present and the future. They also have to look back to ensure that the content that they have already produced and distributed works to meet their business goals. This means tackling the often dreadful task of performing a content audit.

Unfortunately, if your content is spread across multiple platforms, and you’ve not established any method of indexing or organising things, that can cause real problems. How can you audit your content, if you aren’t even sure where all of it is located? Fortunately, once you make it through your initial content audit, you can use the other practices in this guide to ensure that future audits run much more smoothly.

So, what should you be targeting when you conduct your audit?

The final step of your auditing process should involve creating a variety of categories and subcategories in which your content is stored. Categories could be…

You can then create subcategories that further define the types of content that are in your repository. For example:

Here’s an infographic cheat sheet that you can use to identify some current categories as well as new categories that you can use for future content offerings.

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Infographic by smartpaperhelp.com

Of course, as you conduct your audit, you should take the opportunity to identify any weak spots that really stand out in your overall content strategy.

Establish a branding persona and guidelines

You may create buyer personas as part of your content strategy. In fact, we will touch on that later. However, one important step that many strategists and marketers working on content strategy miss is creating a branding persona, and then establishing content guidelines based on that persona.

Think about it. Your content is essentially the mouthpiece of your company. Don’t you want to make sure that your content actually reflects your company’s values and personality? In order to make sure that it does, you have to create a branding persona. Think of it as a character representing your company. Sort of an internal mascot. You can then use your branding persona as a litmus test. Before you share a piece of content, the content team should verify that it is something your branding persona would either say or pass along with a seal of approval.

Taking this step allows you to maintain high standards and helps you to guarantee that the content you produce is as relevant as possible.

Further, once you know your branding persona, you can establish guidelines for your content team as well as for other business areas. After all, content isn’t limited to social content, blogs, and landing pages. It is in emails, marketing slicks, product packaging, even in customer service scripts. Successful branding only happens when everybody is on the same page.

Create a centralised place for all content assets

Finding a data asset management solution is a key part of any strong product strategy. This is what helps to prevent redundancies in storage, and allows all content creators to access images, infographics, videos, data, and other information that they can use to create new content. It also provides creators a place to put content ideas, templates, and examples. Of course, having a good data asset management solution in place will also make future content audits go much more smoothly. It also helps to guarantee that your content team will only use approved logos and images. Speaking of which, it is a good idea to put procedures into place that determine what assets are added to your data repository.

If the idea of managing your own content assets makes you twitchy, that’s okay. A third party solution such as GatherContent can help you to manage both your content assets and workflow. This can give you more time create growth related, content strategies.

Finally, be sure that your data storage solution includes air tight security. The information there may not be as sensitive as customer data, but it does contain a lot of important intellectual property.

Developing buyer personas

As a marketer, you know that developing buyer personas is a very important step. It is equally important to content strategists. When developing buyer personas, you could ask the following questions:

What is the demographic information of my target audience?

What challenges do they face daily, and what do they enjoy?

Example: Debbie enjoys meeting with her patients, researching medical cases, and helping to solve complex medical issues. However, she struggles with dealing with the financial and logistical side of her medical practice including scheduling and invoicing.

What obstacles might stop the persona from converting?

Example: Questions whether or not the product is customisable, has had bad experiences with other brands, or needs to convince his superiors to buy in.

What are their primary struggles, both related to your product or not?

If you know the challenges they face, you can tackle them head on. This is achieved either through refinements and improvements to your product or service, or by producing content that addresses and answers their struggles and needs.

Where do they socialise and gather information? Social networks, television news channels, publications.

This can inform what platforms you should produce content for and it can also give you an insight into how they talk about products, brands and services too.

How do they relate to the people around them?

Example: Jane is seen as a natural leader among her coworkers. She would love to get some guidance on becoming an even better mentor.

Let’s end with a word of caution. We’ve identified lots of data that can be useful in helping you to define your buyer personas. Any of it is potentially useful to you. Most of it won’t help you at all. Be judicious in the information that you use to develop your personas. Every company’s needs are different. Isn’t that what content strategy is all about?

Conclusion

Implementing a content strategy requires a lot of effort and can be challenging. Fortunately, once that strategy is in place, it makes reaching your customers much easier. Better yet, it gets everyone on the same page and helps you to scale your content efforts much easier in the future.

About the Author

Marketing Consultant

Rick Riddle is a marketing consultant and an up-and-coming blogger whose articles aim to help people with digital marketing, entrepreneurship, career, and e-learning. Feel free to follow Rick on twitter and LinkedIn.

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