By Suzie Ryan,
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have spent a fairly sizeable amount of time reading articles like this one. Maybe you’re feeling motivated to go forth and begin documenting your next-level, incredible all-singing-all-dancing, 30-slide content strategy, but you just want some extra tips to make sure you’re doing it ‘right’. Perhaps you’ll make a start, get your scribbled notes up into slides. Maybe you’ll go a bit further and format the slides a bit so they look really sexy and official. Maybe you’ll add some ‘interesting’ charts or stats in multi-coloured bubbles, or something. Then, something important might come up. You put it on hold. It sits, gathering digital dust in the dark recesses of a Google Drive folder.
“What was that thing I was working on?” you muse, weeks later, with vague memories of a bar chart and some meaningless words on a few beautifully-formatted slides. In the meantime, your content strategy, in practice, has remained as it was: nonexistent.
If you can relate to that, then this one’s for you. If this all sounds completely alien – then you’re clearly rather organised. You might actually want to consider running courses in time management.
Some mythical creatures – I believe they’re known as unicorns – are blessed with skills in both creativity and numbers, so I imagine they’re just as happy writing articles and coming up with daft ideas as they are using spreadsheets. But I am not one of those people. So here are my thoughts on how to get your shit together when you just need to produce some killer content, that isn’t completely misaligned with your business goals.
Stop Overthinking It
This isn’t going to be a lengthy how-to with downloadable templates, or lists of eight thousand questions you need to ask stakeholders before you can even begin jotting down your content strategy. There are other places you can go for that type of thing, and I’m not trying to diminish their usefulness, but keep in mind that they only exist as a form of content marketing themselves. Do you really need to download that gigantic ‘deck’ in exchange for your email address? Do you?
Put Pen to Paper
Or quill to scroll, or stylus to tablet. Whatever your weapon of choice, get some ideas down. Spend a maximum of one hour on a big old page of messy ideas. This is where you tackle the questions like, ‘who are we talking to?’ and ‘why are we doing what we’re doing’? These areactually important questions, but it doesn’t take forever to answer them.
- Who – Where do they live, what do they do for a living, how old are they, what sort of publications do they read?
- Why – Why are we creating content for them? What is it that they need to know, how can we help them?
- What – What sort of thing will they respond to? Articles? Longform, shortform? Videos? Social? eBooks, whitepapers?
- How – Who is responsible for creating each piece? Will you have a posting schedule? What sort of content/editorial calendar set up will you have to start with?
- Where – Where will your audience respond best to your content? Do they spend time on Instagram, LinkedIn, Medium? How will you reach them?
Newsflash: not everyone thrives in brainstorms. Some extroverts can find this concept absurd. But brainstorms often aren’t the most conducive to creativity for those of us with quieter voices: often, we communicate best in, well, writing. When it comes to generating ideas for your content strategy, think about different ways you could capture them: Slack, Trello or written pitches. And if you must make us brainstorm, make sure we each come armed with a list we’ve prepared in advance.
Now, how about we each take it turns to go round the room and say a fun fact about ourselves?
Take 10 Original Ideas, Make Them Happen
Here’s where things can often fall down: for me, it’s an annoying indecisiveness based on wanting only ‘perfect’ ideas to be seen through to the end. Not everything has to be completely flawless, especially at the beginning.
Stick each idea on a Trello board with a deadline. Hold yourself accountable to the deadlines. And if it doesn’t come out the way you intended? Move on and learn from it. That’s a more tangible result than deliberating over starting something.
Give Each Piece the Right Assets
This is where the pre-planning really helps. Sharing content can be a nightmare if you haven’t pre-planned the assets you’ll use to use across social media, for example. Make sure you think about what you’ll need to promote it on Instagram Stories, Instagram grid, Facebook ad, Tweet and a LinkedIn post, to avoid the inevitable panic that ensues when you realise you’ve forgotten to think about it.
Target the Right People
If you build it, they will not (necessarily) come. Until you’ve built up an enormous, engaged following, chances are you’ll have to do a bit (a lot) of promotion to get it front of the right people.
Let’s say you’re an online luxury retailer, selling women’s designer perfume. Imagine you’ve got this idea for an article, which has beautiful, bespoke photography of 10 iconic or unusual perfumes and why all the beauty editors are going mad for each one. This isn’t just a product listing page, it’s a crafted landing page with editorial details and customisation options – you can get your bottle’s label monogrammed, if you so wish.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if that wasn’t put in front of the right people? Think about a Facebook Ad targeting close friends, boyfriends or husbands of women aged 29 with a birthday in 7-30 days. Craft a compelling message with a clear call-to-action and make sure you think about the user journey. Boom, that’s a ton of women’s 30th birthday gifts nailed.
Facebook’s targeting can be applied like this to almost any situation. Friends of newly-engaged people? Yup. Political leaning – left? Yup. People living in shared accommodation? Of course. It’s all there for the taking, so don’t waste your chance to save your precious advertising budget targeting your stuff to the wrong people.
Check What’s Working
Google Analytics and Facebook Insights are your friend, not your foe. Data can be pretty addictive, especially when it flatters you. This campaign got us HOW many sales? Make sure you look at this stuff, and document it. Track it in a spreadsheet (I know, ugh) and share it with your bosses so you get the credit, and the budget to continue making amazing things. But mainly, the credit.
The moral of the story?
Yes, it can be important to have a firm strategy in place before proceeding with any kind of publishing –especially if you’re handing over the responsibility to someone else.
But don’t let the creation of a strategy hold you back and become more of a hindrance than a help. As long as you have a few solid insights and reasons, you can move on with things and keep your strategy as a work in progress. By doing so, you’ll be able to learn much faster what works and what doesn’t – even if you do make a few mistakes on the way.