What does it take to be a great content strategist? There are a few qualities that stand out, including excellent communication skills and a deep understanding of what solutions will work for a specific client.
Essentially, content strategist must be a driving force in implementing a great content strategy.
More often than not, a content strategist needs to become efficient in managing the needs of all stakeholders (the client’s business objectives, expectations, content creation, team obstacles, etc.).
Content strategists are expected to:
- Create above, below or through the line advertising campaigns for a specific period to boost sales or build brand awareness
- Understand long-term objectives and build an effective monthly content strategy with clear communication objectives (also at the centre of short-term campaigns)
- Have all the answers!
Account managers, brand managers, small business owners (often tackling strategy project management themselves) and even content creators (copywriters, designers, illustrators, etc.) all need to be on the same page, and also understand where they fit in.
If this is you, (regardless of your role) here are seven steps to developing an effective content strategy and helping you identify who to collaborate within your team to get the job done:
1. Always Start With Your Target Market
The cost of acquiring skilled content resources is high. To get the most out of your efforts as an individual or a team, you should know everything there is to know about your target market (referred to as your buyer personas) and then aim to segment that market and build your target audience (those you choose to specifically target with advertising).
Make sure you cover the following questions:
- WHO are you talking to?
- WHAT makes you different from other brands?
- WHY are you creating your content?
- WHERE will your content be consumed?
- HOW is your content helping solve a problem?
The road to converting a reader into a lead, and then into a customer, is by knowing the purpose of your content and telling the story accordingly.
The buyer’s journey consists of 3 stages:
Awareness: Helping your audience identify their problem with blog titles that include words like ‘troubleshooting’ / ‘resolve’ / ‘risks’ / ‘improve’ / ‘optimise’ / ‘test’
Consideration: Helping your audience decide on the best solution for their identified problem with words like ‘solve’ / ‘tools’ / ‘solutions’ / ‘software’ / ‘checklist’
Decision: Helping your audience take action with words like ‘compare’ / ‘pros and cons’ / ‘benchmarks’ / ‘benefits’ / ‘reviews’
2. Develop Clear Content Themes
Once you know who you’re speaking to, decide how to consistently communicate the core brand messages, and achieve business objectives in a way that encourages engagement, while positioning you as a specialist.
The best ways to do this include:
- Brainstorming/ideation sessions with the client, the account manager, the copywriter AND the designer
- Benchmarking yourself against competitors, seeing what they talk about regularly and finding the gap to create content that highlights what differentiates you
Spend your time building quality content pillars. Then, be smart in how you package content to fit where your audience is in the buyer’s journey.
Examples of overarching content themes to refine to your specific industry and speak to your content goals include:
- Emotional — how the audience connects with your brand, their level of engagement and sharing.
E.g. Thought-provoking video campaigns from Dove that just make you feel good. This could also be simple content like funny memes, cartoons or curated content that you have something to say about.
- Educational — this is about creating brand awareness and offering solutions for your audience’s problems.
E.g. blog articles of interviews with industry leaders, trends, tips and how-tos, recommendations and reviews to help them make decisions.
- Promotional — speaking directly about your product or service and generating leads from your audience.
E.g. Competitions and giveaways and free tools that require your audience to give you their email address.
Promotional content should make up the smallest part of your content themes and should be supported by a measurable, paid advertising approach to sell products, sell tickets or advertise services, combined with engaging content to support it in your editorial calendar.
Work with your team to find a balance in terms of how much of each theme to include, based on resources and business objectives. If you have a small team, consider including curated content that fits in with your themes.
3. Develop Clear, Measurable Content Goals
Consider your marketing objectives and what is important when building your audience and creating clear, two-way channels with well-chosen content. Ask yourself: “What does success look like for a particular campaign or client?”
Examples of KPIs (key performance indicators) could be:
- Growing an online audience
- Email list building
When you already know what you will be speaking about in your identified content themes, your content goals will help you attach a clear call-to-action for your content that can be tracked, such as ‘share’ / ‘enter’ / ‘subscribe’.
4. Create A Strong Brief Template
4.1 The Message
Once you’ve done your high-level planning and know what type of content is important to create, it’s time to involve the content creators to bring it all to life. A good brief that summarises what the content goals are, who the audience is, and which keywords are important to include will ensure effective content creation.
Be clear about the following:
- Content pillar (a substantive and informative piece of content on a specific topic) — are you creating a new content pillar based on one of your content themes, or are you creating content to support an existing content pillar, e.g. blog article, landing page, whitepaper, etc.?
- Content format — Is it a thought-leadership article to position your brand, or is it short format, engaging content to fill your social media editorial calendar? Consider that you may need to collaborate with different copywriters to produce the best content.
- The single-minded message you want to communicate
- Clear calls-to-action to include
- Relevant hashtags to use in your social content and to use consistently
4.2 Visual Elements
This step may come before developing your message if you are creating visual content for your social media calendar, as often the content produced is dependent on what visual elements are available or are at the centre of a great idea.
Your visual resources could include:
- Designed posts that communicate your brand identity or style — a good graphic designer understands the nuances of a positive user experience and more often than not, less is more. Here are some tips when briefing:
- Try not to be too prescriptive, rather encourage creative thinking that can be scaled back to a realistic concept
- Include other examples of visuals you like or that you think are effective in communicating the right message
- Ask for 3 options to choose from and decide on one direction to move forward in
- Stock photography — there are countless, free, stock photography resources that could solve your design needs, but for a long-term client you could consider developing custom stock photography that communicates the brand personality and maintains a consistent image.
- Collaborate with illustrators to produce something original — this option is most likely relevant for short-term campaigns with a dedicated budget.
*Make a note of visual content that you easily engage with, understand why, and test the same approach in your own content.
5. Collaborate With The Right Team Members
It’s time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s to make sure your content reaches the end-user and scores flying colours.
- Test your content objectively before publishing. Once you have a finalised campaign, advert or blog article, test it out on a few people, who haven’t been part of the process, and ask them what they got out of it. If it’s not the desired message or emotion, it’s wise to make final tweaks before publishing.
- Consult with each content stakeholder whether the content meets their specific requirements to implement their part of the project. Consider the following:– Are the visuals in the right format for the paid team to create ads versus your editorial calendar needs?
– Is your sales team aware of the content goals and are they aligning their sales speech to share and support it?
- Consult with specialists if you keep hitting a brick wall. Often you only need to be pointed in the right direction with a critical eye or specialised experience. Working with consultants or niche agencies can be an effective way to complete your project and deliver an effective strategy which you feel confident about.
6. Publishing Your Content
Now that you have high-quality content that speaks to business objectives, has a clear goal, sounds great and looks great, it’s time to publish it and work to achieve your goals with measurable KPIs.
Publishing your content can take place on the following platforms:
- Owned channels (website, in-store) — make sure you are using your owned platforms to make the biggest noise about your new content. Should anyone find your content through advertising, it needs to be easy to find on your website.
Consult with your web developer and managers to promote the content and understand the goals.
- Social media — focus your energy on the platforms that match your buyer personas’ behaviour, as well as the resources available (effort vs reward) and allocate your budget accordingly for paid advertising on those platforms only.
Consult with your community managers and paid specialists to boost your audience and promote your content to the right people.
- Email marketing — this is a channel that will strongly support your promotional content theme and should be done with a segmented approach to list building and sending regular content on the same topic.
Consult with a specialist to build a strong email strategy rather than just sending out a newsletter for the sake of it.
- Events — when you’re trying to educate your audience with meaningful content pillars like research and whitepapers, it often requires a PR element to get the media in the same room to engage with it. This is a costly exercise, but it might be the best way to achieve certain content goals and amplify awareness.
Consult with a PR specialist to advise if it’s necessary or relevant to invite the right media to achieve strategic business objectives.
7. Measuring Your Content
The final step in managing an effective content strategy is analysing the performance of your content against the identified KPIs and making adjustments accordingly.
Ask for a monthly or post-campaign report from your website manager, community manager, email marketing specialist and PR specialist to make sure you are on-point, but remember that tapping into real-time opportunities requires constant analysis, challenging the status quo.
It also requires agility and flexibility to get the best results for the final report you present to your client.
By effectively measuring the success of your campaigns, you can eliminate the channels that don’t perform.