Engaging customers with an effective content strategy.

iStock_000019172466SmallWhat is  “content strategy” versus “content marketing”?
The term “content strategy” has been around since the late 1990’s and refers to the planning, development and management of content in written and/or digital media.

Today, content strategy focuses on how organizations (for-profit, non-profit and government) use stories and smart-data to get important information to specific internal and external target audiences.

Although the “content strategy” is related to “content marketing’ it is different.  “Content Marketing” is designed to drive “profitable customer action”.   “Content Strategy” is primarily designed to help the target audience be better informed.  A content strategy includes credible, believable, trustworthy, transparent content that build’s on your organization’s strategic goals.

Why does there need to be such an emphasize on developing and sticking to a “Content Strategy”?

Today more than any other time in history there is a glut of information hitting your audience from every angle and every media that they participate in or come in contact with.

These 3 key factors apply.
1)  There is increasing mounds of information that your target audience has access to. According to IBM statistics, all of the world’s data from the beginning of history through 2003 has been doubling every two days since 2004.
2) Our time is limited.  We only have 24 hours a day or 1,440 minutes per day and much of that time is already committed to our jobs, eating, sleeping and keeping relationships with family and friends.
3) Add to that, the very complex communications messages that we get everyday from everywhere and our attention is sparse at best.

Why is knowing and understanding your organization’s strategic direction important when developing the “Content Strategy”?

Knowing and focusing on your organization’s strategic direction is important to developing an effective content strategy.  Your company strategy is a road map to the future.  Your content strategy should include and revolve around the direction and goals that the leaders of your organization have outlined.   Those goals are where the organization is going in the next 1-3 years.

What are the tactics?

The tactics are the steps that are needed to fulfill on the overall strategy.  The strategy is important and planning on how to implement that strategy is also important.

What is the first step to developing an effective “Content Strategy”?

The foundation to developing an effective content strategy lies in knowing and understanding your organization’s target audience(s).  The better your understanding of this audience or audiences the better you can develop content that is of value and perceived value to your target audience.

What information should I know about my target?

To really know and understand your audience, you should know what matters to them not only in their work environment but also in their personal lives.

Many companies have a good handle on the demographics (age, gender, life-cycle stage, income and occupation of the population) and geographic (where they live) but they don’t always have a good idea of the psychographics (what they think, feel, what is important to them).  Getting psychographic information is challenging but well worth the time.

How do I gather psychographic information about my targets?

You go where they go.  You spend time with them and you really listen both to what they say and to what they do.  Get really curious about your target. Human beings make decisions based on themselves and their time.

Why is this information important to my “Content Strategy”?

The more content that you give people that they want the more they will spend time on content that matters to you.  In addition, this valuable content must be convenient to your target and easily accessed and shared.

What are the foundational steps I need to take to create an effective “Content Strategy” ?

Start by learning your organization’s strategic goals.  Where does your leadership see your organization in 1-3 years.

Know and understand your target audience. Providing content that your audience deems valuable is key and the way to valuable content creation is  knowing and understanding your audience and what is of value to them.  How do they think and feel?   What is important to them?   What information (that your company can provide) would this audience find interesting? What content needs can your organization fulfill for your target audience?

Analyze where your audience gets their information? What and where is the best place to reach them?

Test your messages to see which resonate with your target.

What is your competition doing?  Complete a competitive analysis to see what and where your competition is providing information.

There are no quick answers.  This stage takes time and effort.

Then, develop a “Content Strategy” based on the information you and/or your company representatives collected.  And test, test and test.

Content should be story driven, useful, findable, current, engaging, flexible and sharable.

Why is gathering this information time well spent?

You can write all the content that you want and distribute it over many channels however if it can’t be found by your target and if they do find it and it isn’t valued by your target they won’t pay attention to your message.  Then, when you do develop valuable content for them they may disregard it because of their past experiences with your organization’s content.