The Best of Digital 2014
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The Best of Digital 2014

Summer 2014

Be Content: How To Create A Content Strategy in 10 Smart Steps

by: Sam Douglass

Content is a unifier; it connects people to brands and their messages. But the power of content is only as strong as an understanding of the audience you seek to connect with. A content strategy is as much an internal device for aligning all parties as it is about streamlining content investments. Optimize impact with these content strategy guidelines.

1. Determine Objectives

Content development and distribution are significant business expenditures. Marketers must treat content investments with the same scrutiny applied to other business assets like machinery or servers. If not ROI, all marketers should at least be able to argue content choices from the stance of Return on Objective (ROO). Develop communication objectives, and clearly tie them to a business objective or goal. Otherwise, you may struggle to determine the business worth of content investments down the road.

2. Get Everyone On Board

A great content strategy should align all parties to the same objectives and the dynamics necessary to achieve them. Parties should understand who is responsible for delivering what messages, when, and where. Roles and associations between parties should be clear. Offline and online communication ecosystems should support each other.

3. Strive for Clarity

A solid strategic plan should make sophisticated systems simple to understand. Defining objectives, goals, and measurements upfront will allow all parties to understand the task at hand, why it needs to be done, and how success will be measured.

4. Define What NOT to Do

Strategy is about choices. Sometimes these choices are hard, but those choices should reflect an optimal mix of activity given a brand’s current resources. Anything more or any activity off-plan is wasted effort and wasted investment. So your plan is as much for describing what you’re going to do as it is about what you’re not going to do.

5. Define the Content Themes

Your content will need to resonate with your audience along multiple levels of communication: lifestyle, emotional, categorical, etc. So define your themes and let them serve as your anchor. The creative interpretation of these themes is critical for your message to break through and resonate.

7. Map the Ecosystem

Your content strategy should not simply describe the parts of the whole. The plan should describe how the parts of the whole are connected and how they work together. How do they deliver a complex brand message at every point of the purchase path? A properly constructed plan will make it easy to see how all channels are connected through content.

8. Stick to the Plan

Your plan is a guide, and its power is in your ability to follow and execute it. So refer back to it often to make sure the current activities are true to the plan. This doesn’t mean you have to change it all of the time. It just means your activities must be aligned to it, filtered against, and checked often.

Your plan is a guide, and its power is in your ability to follow and execute it.

9. Measure

This action must go beyond simple diagnostics like downloads, likes, and shares. Measurements should seek answers to the bigger business needs. Did the content make the audience’s connection to your brand stronger? Did it provide the audience with reasons to consider you over competitors?

10. Set for the Future

Making modifications to the plan should be easy, but done only to account for new market entrants, market dynamics, business-need shifts, pop culture news, and seasonality. The plan should not be re-written each year nor adjusted substantially just because of a shiny new object. Snapchat, for example, isn’t right for every brand. In addition, a plan should weather any personnel changes and allow others to hit the ground running. Does your plan ensure legacy? Does it inspire content choices that prove impact? It should. It can. It will.