Finding True North for Your Content Strategy
Content strategy is not journalism. People who are trained as journalists, especially editors, often make great content strategists. But content strategy is beyond journalism.
For a company, content strategy takes in product design, marketing, sales, customer service and business strategy. If you don’t believe me, have a look at www.ibm.com.
I met James Mathewson, the Editor-in-chief of www.ibm.com this Spring. In his recent book “Audience, Relevance and Search,” he says content strategy encompasses all parts of the company because it’s about your customers, not about your marketing department. On the Web Mathewson says, “You define your audience by some common traits and seek to attract only people who have those traits to your site. Print is passive; the Web is active.”
So we do more in content strategy than print stories on the Web. We’re creating a customer experience that’s active and engaging. The customer does half the work because they do all of the deciding—deciding what to search for, when to browse, and what read and pass along to others.
But one construct of journalism is still very valuable to the content strategist. It’s a version of who, what, when, where and how, that conveniently comprise the “Six W’s” of the content strategy:
- Who are we creating for?
- What need/desire of theirs are we fulfilling?
- What will they do with it?
- What change in behavior or attitudes are we trying to achieve?
- What business goals does this change fulfill?
- What will we measure to know if we’re successful?
These form what I call the “true north” of the content strategy.
Here’s an example, using baby products:
Who: We are creating content on a Website for parents of newborn children
What need: They are encountering new situations daily with their newborn. They’re freaked out.
What will they do: We tell them how to solve everyday problems they’re encountering for the first time, so they can care for their baby. They will come to rely on this resource regularly as a reference and they will recommend the content to others.
What change: In this way, our line of baby food and diapers will be top of mind—products from a trusted friend who genuinely wants to make life easier and better at a crucial time of their lives.
What goal: As a result we will build brand equity and sell more product more consistently at a premium price in commodity markets.”
How measured: Website traffic, especially return visits and visits versus competitive sites. Brand equity surveys. Pass-alongs to friends such as “e-mail a friend,” and “post to Facebook.”
In 25 words or less you could put it as a mantra “Build loyalty of parents of newborns by helping them solve daily problems, therefore driving deeper interaction with our brands.”
Here’s another that I’m doing for the Minnesota Center for Books Arts, where I’m a board member:
“We are creating and curating content about the book as an art form for book lovers and book artists, to show off the inter-disciplinary nature of the art form, so that as a result MCBA will be considered the leading authority and curator of the book arts in the world.”
The value of this central piece of brainwork should be obvious throughout the content development, deployment and governance process. It can be taped to the wall of cubicles, referred to during meetings, and serve as an introduction to any review of customer engagement metrics.
It’s a call to action, a mission statement, or better yet its “true north,” ---the vision that decides what content we create and what we don’t. This should be the first exercise of developing the content strategy, after an audit and analysis—or perhaps even before any contracts are signed or resources tasked.