Overview :

Short answer is “yes” and here is why and reasons for taking the time to establish a content strategy plan. Laying the foundation to your content strategy program not only saves time but money too.

Content Strategy is it Really Necessary?

Let me start by thanking you for joining me today at On Point Conversations, a podcast about how to market in Covid, and hopefully, post Covid times, as well as just times when there is disruption.  My name is Jacalyn Holsted and I am a Content Marketing Strategist and owner of On Point Thinking.

To start today, I want to talk about and address the question of why is a content strategy really necessary?   Often times, I get asked this by clients when I start working with them, or if they don’t ask me something I know that they’re thinking about and wonder why they have to spend time planning a strategy when they just want to move forward and have content created and placed in various locations either online or printed or whatever the medium is that we’re talking about, or mediums that we’re talking about.

First of all, I want to go back to defining what a content strategy is.  If you go in to your search engine and you put in “content strategy” there are a lot of ways to look at it, but I’d like to tell you the way that I perceive a content strategy to be because it’s not only a strategy document, it’s also a planning document, so it does your company and your business a lot of good to actually go through the exercise of developing it.   A content strategy, in my mind, really focuses on the planning.  Keeping your business goals in mind, so if you’re not the entrepreneur and you have a team or an executive team and you’re not sure what the business goals are, you do need to know the business goals for your company and also your brand.   And it’s taking and planning how those business goals along with brand, are going to work to be involved in creating the quality content to your specific audience.  So you’re planning really the creation, the messages around it, how you’re going to deliver it and where it’s going to be delivered at, because it’s not always the words, although  the words are a very, very important part of course, is the content messages, but it also includes images, and the multimedia that are used, and the different ways that you’re communicating your brand, and benefits across different channels to your audience, potential customers and current customers.  What it does with the plan is it really works to ensure that you’re creating useful and usable content, as well as well structured, easily found, consistent, and I really like to say, delights your customers.  It’s kind of like when they open a package at Christmas time, a birthday gift, hopefully, they’re happy about it, and they’re happy to see your content, and they’re delighted because they’re learning something, they’re benefitting in some way, and they’re seeing how they can make their lives easier.

I often like to start with a pros-and-cons list when I’m making a decision, so if a client actually asks me this question outright, I’ll go through this, but if not, I still have these pros-and-cons in mind. So, I’m going to start with what are the cons of doing a content strategy that I hear or that I understand that a client might be thinking. First of all, the marketing landscape changes so much if I have a plan in place, it’s just going to be changed tomorrow anyway.   Others would be, no time, we have no time for this. We just need to get this out there and do this quickly.  We saw that in the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis where companies had not prepared themselves to really have an online presence.  They might have had one, a really effective online presence, but jumped into the developing Zoom meetings and doing things that was quite a jump before they were actually planning what they needed to do.  And no resources.  There’s no one here to do it, we can’t, we don’t have anybody who can really do this, to the plan, and we have no money. We don’t want to spend any money on a plan, because a plan might have a bad connotation of it takes forever, it takes tons of people and tons of time.

But, in my mind, there are many pros to doing a content strategy.   It’s really the foundation of your marketing program.  You wouldn’t hire an architect, or you wouldn’t hire a construction worker to build your house without having a plan, a foundation plan. Whether you hire an architect, or whether you buy a plan, you have to have a plan in place, and you know what you’re moving towards.  That’s what a content strategy plan does for you.   It’s looking at ways to create that quality branded content, posting it across applicable medias, putting it out there systematically and consistently, delivering that consistent message that provides your customers and potential customers with engaging material, and starts to build trust in them because they need to be trusted, they want to trust your company. It’s used to, of course, increase sales, which is ultimately your goal.   We need sales and revenue in order to keep our companies going, and the ability to save money, and time, in the creation of marketing materials, because you don’t want to have to re-invent your messages over and over again. Cause that takes time, that takes effort away from your actual program.  If you have the foundation in place, I really guarantee you it’ll go a lot more smoothly and a lot more effectively, and if you have more people in your team doing content, you know that they’re working together then, because they know what they’re working towards.

So let me, just briefly today, go through how you might build a content strategy. Some of that will differ a little bit, but some of it is very much the foundation of any marketing program.  First is outline your objectives. So really, the first thing I like to do, is review all the current content, or as much of the content as I can of a company that I’m working with. So, basically, I’m auditing their content program in the beginning. I’m looking at what they’ve done, and I’m evaluating it according to what the strength was, what the weakness was, what worked, what didn’t work. And, I answer questions to myself, or to the company of:  Is the graphic identity as well as the message consistent? Is the image that you wanted to portray consistent? Does it communicate your unique selling proposition? Are people and customers delighted to read your content? Are they reading your content? Is it geared toward your target audience, and when you really have a clear picture of what you’re doing, it’s easy to evaluate, easier to evaluate what works and what doesn’t work? So, it’s really defining in the beginning that over-reaching content strategy objectives, including this, you really do need to know your business objectives are. That’s another key part, and if you’re a person who works in a company, and you’re working on a team, and you’re not necessarily on the executive team, or you don’t know what those business objectives are, this is a good time to find and discover what they’re looking for. They’re definitely looking for things like revenue and sales, but there are other business objectives that they’re looking towards, product introductions or product enhancements, things that they might be doing differently in the future, or maybe some strategy they’re taking on for capturing a new market. Those types of things are really good to know in the beginning, when you’re developing your strategy.  And then, you’re going to look at the, of course, media outlets.  How are you going to measure which is the good media outlet, which is a working one, which isn’t, and the specific objectives for that medium?

The second principle is a basic marketing principle — define your audience.   In many times, well, often times, clients will say to me, “oh, I’m really offering all things to people,” that just isn’t going to be the case. I haven’t found that, anyway, very often, if at all.  So, you want to know, and have a really good idea of who your target audience is, what they want to hear, what they need to hear, and what’s beneficial to them? Always looking at where are they going to be benefitted positively or helped? Saving time, saving money, too, being more attainable.  What does you audience do for work and pleasure? How do they benefit from either your product or service? It’s a really good time for you to focus on what types of positive results you’re going to want, including sales and revenue, but also, in other positive results., like how are you going to measure those, and make sure that, by the way, objectives are measurable.

Be sure to look at what your competitors are doing if you have a competitive marketplace.  Where are your competitors? Because, there’s competing time among your customers on who they’re going to look at from a competitive standpoint. So, look at where your competition is, and where your target audience gets their information about your category.  Where are they going to look you at?

In this same area of defining your audience, you could also look at how are you going to segment your audience? Are there different segments in your population, and how do those segments differ, and how might you be putting content differently to those different segments?  Are there certain things, some segment is more interested in than another segment?  So, this is a good time to consider where those opportunities are.

Part of your strategy is also establishing your distribution strategy. Where you’ve been the most effective reaching your audience in the past and what are you going to be adding to see what other types of medium you might be seeing as effective to reach your audience. There’s also a combination of media channels, so it’s not doing everything at one time, but creating  a ladder or a system of when something is, if it’s posted on social media, when it’s posted, where it’s posted, the time frame it’s posted, and then laddering that a little bit, so you’re not inundating a customer but you’re giving them different ways to access that information.  As I said before, really establishing measurements at this point is really good for objectives. It will be really good for you, if you have a management team that you have to go back and justify what you did, and looking at how you’re going to measure that, and what’s important to them. Again, you know, we always go back to, or I do, anyway, there’s a concern with sales and revenue is how that is working out, but there’s also other goals  that your management team or executive team should be aware of with regards to your brand, to your new markets, to what you’re doing to make them measurable, also make them doable.  We don’t want to make them too big or too small, you want to start right where you are, and then grow in increments from there in your measurement standpoint.  Cause, we want to lean towards success and not try to do failure in the very beginning by being too risky or trying to do too much.

My favorite: consider contracting with a content marketing agency. Very few companies that I work with have the resources or expertise to create content in house, so you may need to hire an outside agency. Be very specific with the agency, what you’re looking for, include the things that are important to you: what project criteria you are, who they’re going to work with, your working budget; be very clear up front.  Choose wisely, every consulting company, because they will make a big difference. It’ll be a real positive, or it’ll be a negative. In another podcast, I will go through selecting an outside agency and some of the things you can do to help be successful with an outside agency.

Now, create content, that’s where my clients always want  to go, “how do we create content”, and that’s part of your strategy, too, is “what content and messages are you providing?” because now you’re back to objectives, and that planning point, “what messages do you have, and how are you segmenting your audience, and what audience message goes to what group? And then, you’re going to look at how do you create this content, what’s the most effective way to create content for your audience? Is it, most likely going to include visuals and, words, because people differ in how they learn things, and how they even want to get and take in information.  There are different ways of doing it, again, some people are very visual, you know, I’m visual, other people like to read more, some people you know, like to download and read a manual and print it themselves. There are all kinds of different things you could look in to. Social media, if you’re looking at Facebook, there might be different groups that are really more applicable to you, and that you might want to join and go from there, or be quiet in the beginning, and then kind of  coming in, but you might be able to talk more about your company and benefits later on.

The other thing is agreeing to your launch strategy, because now you’re getting in to, when are you going to launch?  what are you going to launch? where are you going to launch?  And, is your launch as you’re watching the aspect of how are you meeting those objectives that you’ve established in the beginning so that you can be tweaking your program? So, a lot of launch strategy.  And you want to launch systematically, I think, so you can keep track. You can launch everything at one time, but you want to systematically know how you’re going to be observing it, and how you’re going to be evaluating it.

And then, part of that big process of the strategy, because then we’re kind of, again, talking about strategy, we haven’t got quite to, we’ve talked about creating content messages, but we’re going to be writing and putting our visuals together, and our images and visual after the strategy is complete.

We are going to want to look at debriefing and evaluating. So, as you’re going through the process of content creation and distribution, and segmenting your audience, and looking what are your consumers needing, or potential customers are needing and benefitting from.  You want to be regularly debriefing and regularly evaluating how the program is doing, because that keeps you on top of things that change in the marketplace, because, we know that things change quickly, and therefore, you can keep on top of it.  If you’re working within a team,  then, I would suggest  at the least, a weekly meeting,  and if you’re working with an agency, of course, they should be recommending a status meeting every week, or you should be recommending that they have a status meeting every week, and you can actually also do, debrief and evaluate more often than  that  as you’re going along the process.

At this point, you can move forward and we will definitely be talking more about moving forward and creating content and getting more into this.

I really appreciate you listening today again this is OnPoint Conversations.  I’m Jacalyn Holsted. If you have specific questions, or you’d like me to pursue another subject, or additional information on the topic I presented today.  You can go to onpointthinking.com, I have a contact page. Let me know what you think.

Comments- I read all the comments and I respond to those comments, so if there’s anything specific you think “well, this is making no sense to me,” or “I’d like you to do more information on this particular topic”, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you and thank you for listening.