People are constantly pummelled with content; many are tuning out, switching on ad blockers or scrolling fast through feeds not bothering to click on that interesting, funny video you spent a day creating, that has nothing to do with them.
At the same time, they value useful information on issues that matter to them personally. A job hunter, for example, wants to know the average salary for their role in the industry. A new parent wants to know if the rash should send them to the nearest emergency room or if it’s part of the course with a newborn. And where do people go to find that sort of information? Online. Through search or social media or both.
That means that if you produce the right kind of strategic content, directly targeted to your audience and helpful or inspiring for them in some way, you will break through and over time, build a relationship with those audiences that pay brand dividends.
To do that you need to:
- know who you are and what you stand for,
- understand your audience intimately.
While that sounds 101, the foundations are often absent in content because communicators are under huge pressure to get stuff out; creating content that is not always strategically aligned with organisational goals and audience needs.
Strategic content ‘adds up’, articulating a broader narrative that over time and with consistent, high-level content shared on social media builds visibility, influence and trust.
Here’s how to go about it.
1. Put a flag in the ground
While most people have a good sense of what their organisational does, few can articulate its reason for being — the thing people would miss if it suddenly disappeared.
Before you embark on a content strategy, you need to get clear about who you are and what you stand for. A ‘flag in the ground’ guides what you create. Importantly, it also guides what you do not create.
With so much online noise, you need to build an identity that is unambiguous and instantly recognisable.
What do you want to be known for? There are thousands of recruiters in Australia. Be precise. Do you place jobs? Or are you the enemies of average. Are you ‘a recruiter’, or a home for the top 1% of creative talent in Australia?
2. Identify your spheres of influence
When people look for you on Google, what do they find?
Does a search provide a fast, clear understanding of what you do?
Your online identity emerges from all the planned and unplanned content, comments, references and reviews about your brand. And it can and should be directed by you.
You can do that by developing a conversational map that identifies the conversations, you want to lead or be part of online.
In the above example that might include:
- Creative Australia
- The future of work e.g. the gig economy and talent pipelines
This provides playing field that keeps content targeted.
For example, if the government puts out a white paper on making Australia creative, do you want to lead a discussion around that, reblogging parts of the paper and sharing it into your communities? Is it a priority? Or is it just something you want to comment on? Should you put out a white paper in response?
3. Know your audience intimately
You’re unlikely to find the executive director of HR for an ASX 100 on Reddit and a tech start up CEO may not be approving TV ads.
It goes without saying that every content decision should be driven by understanding the needs of the person you are trying to reach.
- What do they want to hear from you? Can you help them?
- What content do they like? Longform editorials? Videos? Gifs?
- What channels do they use? TV? Conferences? Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, GitHub?
- Who and what influences them?
Data is critical for developing an understanding of audience behaviour, including the data you collect about them, whether instore or through their online purchases or conversations.
There are countless tools like Mention that help you reach and build that audience, once identified.
The closer you are to your audience, the less content wastage you create.
4. Leverage of owned, earned and social media
Today’s fragmented media environment enables you to build strategic advantage by harnessing the network impacts of owned, earned and social media.
The greatest benefit is that you can build your own media channel with a direct path to customers, stakeholders and employees, rather than depending on any third parties to tell your message.
Although some people believe websites are becoming less important, I believe that having a website is a permanent online home. You can direct people to your website as a trusted source of information about your industry and house content, collect customer details and so on.
Using social media is vital but these are outposts in that because they don’t belong to you, you’re subject to their terms and conditions and algorithms, which can (and do) change at any time.
Sharing content on social platforms enables you to leverage enormous online networks and earn mentions in channels that you don’t own directly, like newspapers.
5. Create content once, recreate countlessly
Effective communications results from the consistent repetition of credible messages from credible sources.
One of the best ways to do that is to put energy into creating gold standard content that can be cut up differently and optimised for each channel.
Sometimes communicators worry about where the next content hit will come from. But any event is a content opportunity. For example, if you are at a conference, why not share insights via LinkedIn video? Facebook live the event? Create social media tiles from quotes?
At the same time, don’t be afraid to pull back and spend your energy creating one or two pieces of chunky work that tell your full story as a whole and when broken into small, digestible parts.
How could you maximise the impact of a hefty, fact-laden research report, for example?
Here are some ideas:
- Publish the full report on your website, create tweetable quotes and shareable graphics directly within the copy.
- Publish the report as a LinkedIn blog on the Company Page or using the personal profiles of relevant employees.
- Publish key insights with graphics as LinkedIn status updates.
- Turn report quotes into social tiles for publishing on Twitter and Instagram.
- Highlight key insights on short videos and gifs using Lumen5 or Ripl, which require practically no technical skill to use.
- Produce a full audio version of the report as an audio file, or podcast or using smaller soundbites for Twitter.
A piece of ‘macro’ strategic content can generate multiple pieces of ‘micro’ content, maximising your reach and creating a supply of evergreen content that can be shared again and again.