The other day at work I opened an email containing a marked-up PDF from our legal department. The requests for edits were easy except for one that said “insert FBS on all.” FBS? What the heck was that? I turned to my colleague, who had many more years of experience – and lots of interaction with our legal department – for guidance but even she was at a loss. After a few minutes of futile googling and guessing, a quick call to legal dispelled the mystery around the acronym for “Fair Balance Statement.” The point I am trying to make is that something that may be super obvious in one industry might not be as apparent to those outside of it, or those who are working with a new team. As we have discussed previously, content (and its importance) has recently shot up in the past decade, and because of this, there are still some misunderstandings about areas involving content. In today’s post, I’d like to help clarify some of the most important areas of content and their functions. We will be covering: content strategy, content marketing, and content creation.
As we have touched upon before, content strategy is the planning, development, and management of content – in other words, it is a master plan. Like an architect has their blueprints, content strategy helps to map the journey and makes sure that each piece goes in exactly the right place for the maximum impact and engagement. A good content strategy will be able to answer some of these key questions:
- Why should the content be published?
- Where are we going to publish this content?
- When should we roll out this content to viewers?
- Who do we want to see it?
- What reaction are we hoping to receive from the content?
- What do we do with the content after we’ve published it?
In order to figure out what your audience really wants to see, it is wise to incorporate some user research and testing into this phase. This will help to determine the type of content (eBook, articles, newsletters, video) and where to put it. It will also do a great deal to heighten usability and accessibility; having these outside perspectives will provide the push necessary to fix any lingering issues with your website or platforms. After a sufficient amount of planning and testing, you should be left with an overarching strategy for all of your content to follow.
With that being said, it is also important to note that once you have a content strategy for one year, it should not be identical to the one for the next year. Changes within the industry, business, and audience will force you to rethink your approach. While it is important to maintain consistency with company and brand values, don’t let that confine how your business thinks about content. Take risks and experiment to see how you can improve your strategy. Like any good relationship, once you become committed to content, you have to work to maintain it. Consistency with quality and cadence will help seal the deal and make the most out of your efforts.
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. in a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Content strategy is not a single pillar within a company’s content approach as the strategy you set up will trickle down into various areas of the business, like internal communications and marketing. Most of the content a business will create will be external in the hope that it will lead to sales. This leads us to the practice of content marketing.
Content marketing cropped up with the growth of content strategy in the mid-2000s. As traditional methods of marketing became less successful, companies began using this soft-sell sales approach to gather leads and retain customers. Content marketing and its strategies can be thought of as a branch spanning off of your content strategy “trunk.” These secondary strategies focus on creating, measuring, and publishing content for specific, targeted audiences. In essence, content marketing is the strategic marketing approach to creating and distributing value to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.
“Content marketing is really like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.” – David Beebe
Social media has become a huge vehicle for content marketing as the reach and potential for sales is extremely high. Nowadays, people rarely pay attention to the ads on other web pages, however, if there is something interesting that pops up in their feed, they are way more likely to click through to it. Because social media is so personal, companies can use this to their advantage to build their story and through that distribute high-quality content. While content can be something as simple as a blog post, the social media and online environments where leads and customers lie have become very competitive, making content creation a hugely important aspect of content strategy.
In order to have content, a business must make put in the effort to create it. While curated content does a great deal for exposure and developing partnerships, in order to really make an impact with content, time and resources must be dedicated. Content creation, in a nutshell, is the process of identifying topics, deciding what form the content will take, and actually producing it. In this stage, content strategy and marketing play very important roles as each defines what type of content will be produced. The publishing environment is crucial as many platforms, like social media, have rules regarding imagery and text that define how their algorithms will affect your content. Currently, video takes the top position as the most universally consumed content with almost 5 billion videos being viewed exclusively on YouTube per day.
By identifying where your content will live and what form you would like it to take, then you are able to actually start producing it. Arguably, this is the longest step as gathering assets, editing, approving, and testing finalized content does take a while. In this section of the content strategy, it is ridiculously important to keep close ties with your stakeholders and marketing teams as they will be the ones who really direct this process. It is what they are looking to impart to potential customers that you will be relaying through this content.
I hope that this brief breakdown and overview of some of the most important areas of content helps to enhance your understanding. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend checking out the Content Marketing Institute. Here, you can find great articles and perspectives on all of the areas we explored. Have another source that is great for learning about content? Leave it in the comments below. Happy learning!