Create Your Content Strategy: Bring your dish-to-pass

Potluck Dish-to-PassI attended my first SXSW this month, and I am intrigued by various sessions about creating and marketing content that seeks to inspire, entertain, and educate an audience, be it an audience of consumers who have grown more skeptical about what you have to offer, students who have become more and more disengaged by coursework and classrooms, and even some SXSW attendees who are less than enthralled with the size and spectacle that SXSW interactive has become.

See Various Sessions: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, Content First, Everything Else Second, Not My Job: Content Strategy Smackdown, Brave New World: Debating Brangs’ Role as Publishers and No Child Left Inside: Mobile Tech Meets Education.

These days I’m mainly focused on creating content for a large brand. In my opinion, creating and marketing compelling content for a brand can be one of the most important intersections of business, social media and marketing because it gives the brand something to have conversations about and around other than their products — conversations which, by and large, are falling on deaf ears. You can think of this more engaging and compelling content as the dish-to-pass that you bring to a potluck. Like most any meal among colleagues or friends, it’s the object that warms them up and creates an opening for conversation and connection.

Good Content & Good Potlucks
The content you create serves many purposes and can meet different business objectives. Like any good potluck — the event gets better the more different kinds of dishes there are. The types of content we can create may include videos, podcasts, text, slideshares, infographics, white papers, FAQs, apps, games, etc. Because of SEO issues and trying to serve the needs of a diverse audience, creating as many of these types of content as possible is important and necessary. Plus, you can consider how you might aggregate content to invite conversation and build engagement. Of course, when you’re ready to ramp things up, you can ask your users to help create content.

Having worked for several large brands, I know that content development and content aggregation can be one of the biggest challenges facing teams because of all of the different forms that “content” can take. And, from what I’ve seen, not many brands are staffed with expert content developers in all of these areas.

Content Strategy Priorities
Once you have your business objectives in hand and before you begin creating all these different types of content, you should consider the following.

1. Define the target audience
2. Identify the content topics that will appeal to each audience
3. Specify the level of content detail to provide and all associated metadata
4. Create appropriate calls to action to achieve business goals (engagement, sales, etc.)
5. Develop an editorial calendar to guide and prioritize the creation and publishing process

Next Steps
Once you have a content development strategy, then some next steps include:

1. content marketing: as you create the content, you also need to figure out the mix of paid media and social media you’re going to do to promote the content and build engagement around it, as well as how content aggregation might fit into your plans.
2. content measurement: define your plan so you know what content is working and you’re able to fine tune your efforts
3. content management: (not to be overlooked) you need to define the lifecycle of the content and what plans you have to maintain, archive, or delete.

In The Thank You Economy keynote, Gary Vaynerchuk advocated developing strong relationships with consumers and showing them that you care — not in just fuzzy-feel-good-ways — but in authentic ways before, during, and after the sale. As he writes in his book by the same name, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond” (ch 1).

Add one more quality to the list of what makes for great content: genuine. People can tell when you’re faking it.

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