Content marketing sounds like a straightforward term, but a surprising number of marketers and community managers don’t get it. But no worries, because we love content marketing and are here to help in building a content strategy.
What is content marketing?
Glad you asked! Content marketing is so much more than just adding the right keywords to your copy. It’s looking at your content as a “living” (nonstatic) being, and focusing on the creation, aggregation, governance, and expiration of all your content — yes, all — and ensuring the best content is readily available when and where your audience needs it.
But how do you get started, and ensure you’re set up for success?
Step 1: Begin with buy-in
First, you need to promote content strategy — and its importance — within your org. This helps others understand what content strategy is, and why it should be funded as a part of their department. Remember: Good content strategy helps the entire organization work more efficiently, effectively, responsibly and most important, sustainably.
As Erin Kissane wrote in “A Book Apart: The Elements of Content Strategy”:
Sustainable content is content you can create — and maintain — without going broke, without lowering quality in ways that make the content suck, and without working employees into nervous breakdowns.
Don’t know about you, but tactics to help employees avoid nervous breakdowns sound like an easy win.
After securing buy-in on the importance of creating and maintaining content strategy, it’s time to hammer out the strategy itself.
Step 2: Create your messaging architecture
Message architecture is vital to aligning communications efforts across an organization when building a content strategy. It also reflects the organization’s common vocabulary regardless of channel.
So how do you build message architecture?
- Gather the key stakeholders involved in defining your communications initiatives
- Organize the key terminology used to describe your brand
- Think about your organization holistically
- Who you are
- Who you aren’t
- How you would like to be perceived
Sounds easy enough, but let’s look at a brief example.
Moo.com case study
British company Moo.com likes to call themselves, “cheeky.” For those who don’t understand slang from our friends across the pond, it’s essentially a way of saying “naughty” but with a wink. Everyone within the organization — especially those who communicate on Moo.com’s behalf — understands what cheeky means in this instance, and how to convey that sentiment. Beyond that, Moo wants to be perceived as responsive, customer-oriented, approachable, helpful, and accessible.
Both their cheekiness and their customer-centric approach are clear in everything they produce from their product collection to the lingo they use, their CTAs, photography, even their typeface. They take their “cheeky” image seriously — and project a fun and engaging brand identity as a result.
Additionally, Moo.com’s message architecture guides which comments to feature or respond to, the response’s tone, etc. As a result, their content and interactions remain unwaveringly on-brand and consistent with how the company wishes to be perceived.
Step 3: Conduct a content audit
Before you can even begin to consider creating new content, you need to take inventory of what currently exists and assess whether it’s worth using (as-is, slightly revised, or completely overhauled) or if it’s better being archived. As you are building a content strategy ask yourself these questions:
Questions to ask about content sections
- Who owns this portion of the site?
- When was it last updated?
- What is the purpose of this portion of the site?
- What are the different types of content found there?
- What templates are used for these content types or pages?
- What taxonomy/tags are used in this section?
- Is anything missing?
Questions to ask about the content
- Is it current?
- Is it relevant to its section?
- Does it fit into the message architecture?
- Is the quality worth keeping it in rotation?
- How does it perform? (Analytics are your friend to determine if people like it!)
- Does it need to be simplified?
- What is the CTA?
- Is it tagged appropriately (or at all)?
Some people consider content audits tedious, but they’re full of valuable information — especially when it comes to your overall content health. They can even be fun when you rediscover valuable content already in existence that could just use some slight updating. Hooray for easy lift wins!
Step 4: Implement a Content Curation Process
Once your audit is complete, you’ll have a better understanding of what high-quality content already exists. Now to fill in the gaps. The best way to do that is by establishing a content curation process.
Content curation processes help content marketers or community managers answer the following questions:
- How can I engage with the audience?
- What five things should be read first?
- What gets me up to speed on the news?
- What’s most important about this topic?
- How can I improve the work I do?
Answering these questions can help you establish the tags needed for and the areas of the site in which the content actually makes the most sense.
Step 5: Own the strategy
It seems silly, but after completing the previous four steps, many organizations falter at the final step: Determining who actually owns the content strategy.
With no clearly identified owner, your content strategy becomes passive and ineffective. In short, it failed.
Like we said earlier, content strategy is a living thing — it should grow and change as your organization responds to industry influences, customer feedback, and matures. Even if your team doesn’t have a content strategist role, you need to choose your champion so your efforts aren’t wasted.
Remember these tips when defining and conducting your organization’s content strategy, so you’re making the most of your content while communicating your brand’s message clearly and consistently. After all, a sustainable and well-defined content strategy not only steers the creation and development of new content but can strengthen your brand identity and help make connections in your community more meaningful and engaging.