Content Strategy can be a messy, complicated affair.
Apply this to an unsuspecting workforce or business and it becomes even muddier. In an age of industry crossbreeding and hype-driven terms many ‘strategies’ can lose their vigour and relevance. Knowing how to approach a tool or framework like Content Strategy, never mind implement it, is a challenge.
Building quality Content Creators
Content Strategy is a team-wide priority. The search for high quality content is on, and regardless of your business, company or project, you should never underestimate the weight great content holds. Yes, hiring a copywriter or professional writer is an option, a good one at that, but every company has a content/creative goldmine at their fingertips: their team. Your team are privy to a wealth of knowledge even a CEO doesn’t have, train these in-house brand advocates to use this expertise with direction and you’re onto a winner.
It’s not just about teaching them how to write, anyone can do that, it’s about training them how to;
- Understand the role of content
- Identity an aim or message
- Communicate it effectively and on-brand
- Engage and monitor
Content Strategy – How to communicate your goals.
‘Creating content’ can be a phrase that fills your team with fear, and probably an assumption that ‘creating’ is some kind of whimsical, artistic exercise. There is always room for creativity when producing content, but effective content is underpinned by purpose. Content Strategy is as much an exercise in research, goal definition and communication as actual content generation.
So many people jump straight into producing content with little to no understanding of the impact it has or the opportunities it can present.
Content Strategy can offer you a framework, a way of arming your entire team with a means of defining business aims or goals and producing the content that communicates them.
Content Strategy is also about finding the best ways to get this message to the right people, it’s pretty much the total package.
All content needs to start with objectives, define your goals first and foremost. Do your team know what your business objectives are?
- Do you want to drive more traffic your way?
- Are you looking to sell, sell, sell?
- Do you want to share thoughts or improve brand reputation?
Only when you know what you want from your content can you get to work creating it.
From CEOs to sales, employ an ‘All for one and one for all’ ethos.
Business goals can often be poorly communicated to the front line team members. Dreamed up by CEOs, marketed by marketing and sold by sales, it’s easy for each department or team member to become disjointed from the rest of the team and from the bigger picture.
Get to grips with this as a group by actively working hands-on with this concept. Start by producing content as a group, associate goals with topics and keywords and find ways to develop your skills as a collective.
- Host a weekly blog brainstorm where you create topics and blurbs.
- Encourage team members to self-pen their bios for your site.
- Develop a social media strategy that demands regular, staff-created content.
Breed a Content First Culture
Bad habits are hard to break. I’m not just talking content creation habits here but attitudes to content itself. If, as a team, you can see the value of great content then you are halfway there.
Nurturing a Content First culture within your team not only prioritises the role of content but it instills good wider practices, such as research and collaboration, from the off.
Producing great content is a process, a pattern of production that begins with insight and ends with feedback.
To breed this Content First culture you need to introduce new routines and establish new mantras.
1. Pattern of Production.
A Content First attitude actually has more to do with content legwork than actual creation. Never write anything without embarking on research whether it be to establish the target audience, industry insight or competitor’s efforts. Utilise the team around you, if you want to know the most FAQs then ask the customer care department. Getting to grips with the idea of audience can be an alien concept to team members without the know-how so collaborate on creating Reader Personas.
2. Responsibility & Accountability.
Giving your team the freedom to create content will not only build their confidence, but it can ensure you have a constant stream of high quality content to hand. Offer outlets and platforms for the team to develop their content skills, rewarding quality and skill with prizes or prestige. Blogs, social media or even webinars are perfect. The Adidas Group did exactly this when they encouraged their employees across all departments to contribute to their blog. From marketing to design, the Adidas staff offered an insight exclusive to their role and area of expertise, all under the umbrella of the Adidas brand.
3. Power of Personality and the Employee Brand.
Your team are your company. They are an asset in more ways than one, and they have the ability to communicate important company or brand messages in a completely unique way. Advocate this, utilise personality and winning traits. Stand out team members can become the content poster boys, or girls, of your company so develop them as you would your brand. Combine their natural writing skills with a business objective and create a company Stylebook. Stylebooks are a guide to how your talk about your company or writer guidelines. The language you use, the tone and style of how you talk all feature, and many of these Stylebook are great pieces of branded content in themselves.
MailChimp’s and Gov.uk’s guides are both wonderful examples of this. (http://mailchimp.com/resources)
Content needs to be maintained in order to stay relevant and effective
Some see this as having a glance over the analytics and withdrawing the slow runners, but content is as much about timing and monitoring as engagement.
Have you ever taken the time to comment on a particularly great blog post only to be left deflated by the absence of a reply? Your responsibility to producing quality content doesn’t end when you hit Publish.
Feedback needs to be outlined in your content strategy, how will you handle positive or negative feedback? Can all members of the team reply to blog comments and social media contacts?
Consistency is king so employ a system of strict monitor and feedback protocol, it may sound a bit extreme but so many opportunities are missed as a result of poor planning and execution.
Love your analytics. They will highlight areas for exploration, hint at improvements and fill your team with a sense of accomplishment in one fell swoop.
It can be easy to become too bogged down in stats and numbers, but the more you familiarise yourself with these analytics, the more you can recognise traits and patterns. Aftercall, content is as much about curation as creation.
This is a guest post by Nic Evans. Nic is a freelance copywriter based in Glasgow; she believes that no matter what the medium, brief or platform, using the perfect words in the best possible way can create a story, a natural communication between people, their ideas and the rest of the world. You can learn more about Nic over on her [beautiful] website, and you can also follow her on Twitter.