Part Eight of the Modern Communications Plan: Content Strategy

As we continue this series of planning your communications, we hope you’re seeing where you may strengthen your public relations, advertising and marketing communications efforts.

This next topic — content strategy — is often where too many companies start their communications efforts. For one, developing content, like blog posts, white papers, marketing brochures and more, seems like a good communication move no matter where you are in the process. But if you haven’t identified your vision, goals and objectives, identified your target audience, including where they are (i.e. communications channels) and designed a strategy around reaching them, what makes you think your content will get noticed?

But let’s say you are ready for step eight: Content Strategy. This is not to be confused with just putting words down on paper. In today’s modern world, how your content will be displayed also is key.

For instance,if your audience is swayed by research and data, how you present that information can make or break the effectiveness of that entire effort. It’s why infographics have gained popularity. It’s a visual way to represent a lot of information so its more easily digested.

Consider a content strategy as how you are going to assess, develop and manage the ideas, thoughts and content you will use to direct  conversations, viewpoints and reputation and image.

Start with listing your “big ideas.” What do you want people to walk away with from your content? Go beyond just “buy my product.” Rather, what ideas do you have around your products and services that others don’t? What’s unique about your viewpoint?

Is there a call to action? Are you asking people to do something they’ve never done before? If so, you may have to justify that request with data. Or, perhaps you’re trying to change behavior. Why should they? What compelling case can you make and how can you deliver that message that is different and will break through any barriers to change?

How is your content furthering your identity? For example, if you’re selling something fun, your content better be delivered in a fun manner. If your goal is to be taken seriously, then your content should be designed to reflect that.

What are your audiences pain points? Can your content help further their own goals?

These are just a few things to ask yourself when designing a content strategy.

Read the entire template for the Modern Communications Plan here.

Part 8- Content Strategy


Developing A Content Strategy for Today’s Communications Plan

What is a content strategy anyway? This is a list of things you will do to ensure that what you have to offer in the way of content (information, data, video, audio, ideas, etc.) will reach all facets of your target audience in the way they want, when they want.

This is why you need to deeply know your audience first.

You must know how you will design content for all contexts via any device in use today: phone, computer, iPad, online, anywhere. Not only will you need to tailor your content this way, but you will want to be able to remerchandise it in various forms. This will ensure your messages and stories, news and product announcements, white papers and thought leadership and more will reach your audience and be well received.

Additionally, a content strategy should include some idea of how you will develop it, including workflows and responsibilities. Do you have the resources to offer content in the digital age? This often (but not always) means offering a multi-media, conversational, 24/7 experience.

What do you have to offer?

First, know what you have to offer and what you’ll primarily be using as content:

  • Original pieces, such as white papers, research studies, market data and more?
  • Product announcements, event announcements or the like?
  • Opinion and “think” pieces?
  • Other people’s research, writings, video and more?
  • Presentations, productions and performances?
  • Conversation starters from the position you hold, past experiences or an event?
  • “Reports from the field,” giving an eye level account of something happening?

What will your content reputation entail? Who will you “be” in this age of information?

  1. Content curator: collecting and passing on information from other sources, making you an expert on a particular topic, idea, industry or market? American express does this well with their Open Forum. And, Guy Kawaski with his AllTop service is another great curator.
  2. Original content generator: issuing original thought leadership, ideas and stories. Shel Israel of Global Neighbourhoods is one such content producer who provides practical, yet original thinking and ideas.
  3. Enabling and empowering user-generated content: inciting conversations among people that form new ideas, positions and philosophies. Many radio talk show hosts fall into this category, asking listeners to call in and direct the conversation.But, so does and, whose product review functions are  legendary for influencing and spurring (on or off) sales.

Most organizations will fall into the first two categories. Most companies and nonprofits engage in a mix of content curation and distributing original content. But, do decide. Also, have some sense of how you will be as a communicator:

  • “The first to know, the first to share” (breaking news)
  • The commentator? (adding to the conversation, bringing in a different angle or filling in holes)
  • The provocateur? (stimulating or debating?)
  • The objective source? (just the facts, please)
  • The correction agency? (dispelling myths)
  • The influencer (directing and guiding other’s thinking)
  • The expert (on a market, industry, product, service or other?)
  • The entertainment? (bringing in a pleasant, fun, humorous or other characteristic to a market or conversation?)

How will you design your content?

Is your audience highly mobile and need content in a variety of forms (phone, computer, iPad, and more)? In today’s multi-media world do they need visuals, infographics and video? Or, are they editorially focused, such as reading peer-previewed journals and reports? Your content should be able to be “remerchandised” to fit a number of channels. But, know the main channels that you need to fill, robustly. Just because you can deliver content in one form, doesn’t mean you should given your unique goals and objectives. (More on this tomorrow.)

How you will develop it?

Someone has to deliver this content. Do you already have a pipeline of material that is pretty full, just waiting to be shared? Or, will it need to be developed? Who will do this? What team do you need (help from creative, communications, marketing, online)?  Who will do the posting, tweeting, uploading, downloading, pinning, designing, writing, distributing, monitoring and tracking and reporting?

Once you’ve determined these things, develop your section of the communications plan that will:

  1. Declare who you’ll “be” in the way of content sharing and the reputation you want to build.
  2. Declare which channels will need to be filled and in what form.
  3. Identify where you can “remerchandise” your content (and where it makes sense to do so).
  4. Assign roles and responsibilities to the content generation, sharing and monitoring.