I think it is always a good idea to look from the consumer's perspective and answer the questions what drives the strategy. I've been browsing through my daily reads and thinking why I am reading the stuff I am reading and I came up with a very simple answer: I am reading someone's posts because:
The content adds knowledge (adds value) or entertains me;
The content is supplied by trusted source;
The content is accessible to me.
Adding value and the art of Curating
In order to add value the content strategist has to think like a scientist:
- Has to recognise the problem why he/she is doing the project and foresee the possible outcomes in order to monitor them. The content strategist has to be very familiar with the target audience and analyse what are the main objectives of the brand (provide knowledge or entertainment) and how does the company want to affect this target audience (stimulate action or spread brand awareness). The strategist also has to setup the milestones which indicate the success of the project in order to monitor
- Has to do the research and find a gap in the market. It is one of the most challenging tasks today - finding something new, interesting and engaging to write about and that is a problem that the most bloggers face at some point if they haven't got a clear content strategy, but that's
why it is quite useful to think like a scientist. According to Harvard Business Review, almost 95% of inventions are based on innovation - the best companies that we have like Facebook, Google and Amazon are just brilliant innovations which added knowledge to existing platforms and positioned themselves from the different angle. So the main art of the content strategist is not necessarily to find 100 % unique topics to write about, but really to understand the content market and to find the gaps in the most relevant topics to your target market and creatively innovate by adding knowledge to these topics. It's also very important to understand that company can add value not only by creating the new content but also by curating the existing one. There is a big discussion going on about Creation vs. Curation and Who is the King - Content or Curator? Well, it simply doesn't matter as all of these things have to work together in order for content strategy to be successful. While doing the research you also have to pay attention to your overall SEO strategy identifying the top keywords and possible partners who can help you to achieve your ultimate goals.
- Has to present the unique ideas which generate action. Just because you haven't got a 100 % original subject to write about it doesn't mean that you cannot be unique. Adding knowledge or entertaining people is an art. The right context strategy can give the brand a competitive edge. Playing with different subjects and combining ideas from different industries can be an answer i.e. writing about your super milk product and getting insights how astronauts are using it in their daily life. It has to be "fresh", entertaining and useful. Literally, there can be hundreds of perceptions or variations about the same topic; therefore you have to identify which perceptions resonate with your brand values, target audience and build-up on that. Analyzing the buying decision process of your product and offering the solutions for different stages of this process to your consumers can always help.
Becoming a trusted source
This is not an easy one. It always helps if you are a high-flying executive or your brand is super famous in your industry and people already know it and trust it. If you are not, it will take a lot of hard work and patience to build your personal or company's brand. During the research I've notice these main trends which help brands to become a trusted source:
- Consistently providing superior quality content is the key. If you cannot be consistent there is almost no point in doing it unless you are doing it just for your own pleasure. It doesn't matter how good your content is or how creatively you present and distribute it, in the times of information overload you will be forgotten in a second. If you follow the rankings of Ad Age 150, you can notice that even some of the most famous bloggers have to fight for their place in the stardom. Planning is the key to keep the content flowing; knowing when to write about the certain topic reduces the anxiety of finding the right topic and leaves more time for research. That's why doing the series of post on the same topic or attaching the day tag to some topic can help. It also builds a habit in the mind of the reader and keeps him engaged. That's the techniques tested by time in offline media and they do work. As discussed earlier, the curation of content can be a value adding strategy of the brand and help with consistency. There is a flood of user generated content (UGC) online which usually attracts most interest from the consumer. Therefore, tracking and employing such kind of content for brand initiatives should be one of the main aims of content strategist.
- Bain-sourcing and community building. It's a strategy employed by many bloggers. Most of the top blogs today like Mashable, Econsultancy or Search Engine Land are the outcome of this strategy. These guys managed to attract the right talent at the right time in order to stay consistent and provide value. It's really quite simple rule of the network effect - the perceived value of the content increases when more people read the content which is often a result of more people writing the content (each person brings his/her audience to the platform). Social Media Examiner is a very good example of this, in one year it managed to grow from ground zero to one of the most read blogs on the net and the key for its growth was the right people, who provided good content and brought the audiences with them. Community building has a vital importance in becoming a trusted source but it has been covered so many times in various blogs so I just don't see the point of writing about it again.
The role of distribution of the content has really increased significantly because of the times we live in. Getting or probably staying in front of your consumer is the most challenging job these days.
Reaching the consumer
In order to reach the consumer, the content strategist will have to think hard about choosing the right type of content and channels as the number of channels is constantly increasing. The new devices like smart phones or tablets build the new consumption habits and understanding of these habits will have a significant importance. Even blogging is a decreasing form of social art, the sharing volumes and information overload are increasing which brings even a bigger problem - because of our social graphs we may be surrounded by the same content which might be not relevant to us.
The content strategists will have to become curators who build accessible and valuable knowledge pools for their target audiences. Nevertheless, building and developing your own social channels is not going to be enough. Empowering the existing communities in certain areas will be a challenge. In order to reach more consumers the content will have to be accessible and attractive (valuable) for other curators who will spread your message across the web.
So even though the distribution of content and the role of the distributor may change, the old rules of trust and value are not going away. In fact, these features will still be the main tools bridging the gap between the brand and consumer.
So here are my thoughts about the content strategy. I would really welcome any feedback and your thoughts on this subject.