August 15, 2013

The Content Courtship

Lori Greene is a proven multi-platform content executive proficient in all aspects of media including social, mobile, broadband, television, digital, and print.  She teaches digital content strategies at NYU and has a track record of helping major media brands like BBC and History Channel succeed in the digital arena.

Customers today have a seemingly voracious appetite for content. Your Facebook page needs it; your Twitter feed demands it. Pinterest and Instagram thrive because of it, and your newsletters and website certainly can’t live without it. Content is not just a business imperative, it’s the ultimate way to build a brand, to flaunt expertise, and perhaps most importantly, content woos new customers and engages existing clients to keep them coming back for more.

So, how do you satiate the masses without tarnishing your reputation? How do you create relevant content that authentically speaks to who you are as a company? What should you invest in and what should you leave for others? These are important questions because no matter what industry you’re in, content is a valuable business asset. It’s how you present your brand to the world and telegraph who you are and what you stand for.

To ensure those assets help achieve your goals, you’ll need a well-thought-out content strategy that dovetails with your company mission and sets the direction for the future.  The strategy should be inspirational enough to motivate internal constituencies, aspirational enough to help your business advance to the next level, broad enough to encompass a myriad of topics, and memorable enough that content creators can always keep it top of mind.

A content strategy acts as a filter, enabling you to make informed decisions about when and why content will be published. It also helps guide your product development strategy by keeping you in touch with what resonates for your most passionate users. This then fuels innovation, keeping you ahead of competitors.

Creating the ideal content strategy for your brand requires answering two questions – what do you do better than anyone else? And, what will people come to you for? Once those two questions are answered, you’ll need to ask two more – does the strategy support key objectives? And, secondly, does it meet the audience’s needs – helping them do things better, be smarter, or make things easier for them.

For example, the content strategy I devised for BBC America was about translating British culture for an American audience. This made sense because the British Broadcasting Company created British-centric content better than anyone else, and potential users who had an interest in British culture would come to the BBC first and trust it to deliver the information. This met the audience’s need to delve deeper into British culture and it supported the key objective of the network to be thought of first when it came to British entertainment.

Once you have a content strategy as a framework, then you’ll need to concentrate on implementation. It starts with substance – finding the right tone and voice for your company, deciding what will be created, and devising a content calendar that can be nimble enough to follow the seasons and some news cycles.

Then figure out the structure – how will the content appear, what is the optimal platform for the creative, how will content be tagged and organized? Set up a workflow documenting the processes, deciding on the tools you’ll use, and creating a plan to maintain the content.  Perhaps just as important is the decision-making chain of command – who is in charge, what are the roles and responsibilities of those who touch and create content, and how are decisions made and communicated?

After the infrastructure is in place, you’ll need to use analytics to measure which content is resonating with your audience and which is falling flat. What content is getting the most video views or page views, and which pieces are being shared on social media? Then you can refine your creative to publish content that engages and connects most with your customers. Finding the right content and balance is an iterative process and it takes time to see results. Success means reaching your goals, increasing traffic to your owned media, and moving customers seamlessly through the sales funnel.

The secret sauce is simply telling the very best story, in the most engaging way possible, on a platform that displays it in the finest light.  And finally, no matter what your content strategy, find a way to be original, be insightful, be different, be awesome. That will get your message to more people faster than anything else out there.