Is your content pushing up daisies? It should be. That’s the way to grow and blossom. I call it the R.I.P. Content Marketing Strategy: (1) Relevance; (2) Ideas; (3) Plan. [Coincidentally, adhering to these principles should bring peace of mind so that you can rest easy in the knowledge you’re doing the right things (relevance; ideas) in the right ways (plan).] So, to mimic Do,Re,Mi from the Sound of Music:
Let’s start at the very beginning,
A very good place to start.
When you read you begin with A, B, C.
For content you begin with R.I.P.
1.a. Let’s go backwards and start with the pre-PLAN. A recent post on marketingprofs.com, Before You Plan: Four Vital Questions About Your Content Marketing, addresses the fundamental reasons why we must always “start at the very beginning.” In his Marketing Trenches blog, Mike Sweeney notes: You can’t start a content marketing program without a solid plan, and you can’t create a solid plan without asking (and answering) the right questions. The key questions are these:
1. Why are we doing this? This is where you look for your passion.
2. What’s the goal? How will you measure success?
3. What is our unique story? Weave what is special into all of your content.
4. Who is on our team? This means who’s in charge of each step (planning; creation; optimization; distribution; reporting and analysis) and, most important, who’s the decider/where does the buck stop?
1.b. Next step is the PLAN. Mike Sweeney of Right Source Marketing offers more questions to guide us in incorporating coherent objectives and strategies into our map for success. Let’s ask:
5. Who is our target market?
It’s very difficult to write a letter to “anonymous”. Try to create a persona
of who your audience is (you may have several personas); then tailor your content accordingly.
6. What are the themes for the year? This is akin to clarifying your case for support. Which key programs need support right now? What issues are top-of-mind for your constituents today?
7. What type of content shall we create? A blog? E-newsletter? Facebook posts? Tweets? The answer to this question is dictated by your target audiences. Where are they? How do they like to consume content?
9. How will your content be distributed?
Will it be shared by your staff? Board? Volunteers? Will you ask fans to “share”? Do you have an e-newsletter? A blog? Is it appropriate for an industry publication? Or for a comment on an industry blog?
10. How will you report on success? If you don’t incorporate means to do so at the outset, chances are you won’t measure what you’re doing. This risks sending all sorts of energy out into the universe, but never recapturing it and bringing it back home. No one can afford this.
11. What’s the budget?
This one sounds obvious, but too many of us simply begin implementing strategies ad hoc
, only to find that we have no resources to see them through. No one can afford these fits and starts. Per Managing Content Marketing
, brands around the world today are typically spending 25% of their marketing budget on content marketing. How much are you budgeting?
2. Now, on to IDEAS. If we’re just recycling our own and others’ old content, are we really offering anything of value to our constituents? What will keep them coming back to us? What will enable us to grow? The answer is informed creativity. In a blog post on Forbes, Is Creativity Missing In Content Marketing?, Chris Perry, social media thought leader, offers a thought-provoking post on the evolution of content in the digital world. Check it out, as you’ll really want to think about how you may have become “efficient” (using content as ‘filler’ for brand presence) at the expense of being “effective” (content as a gateway for engagement). Ask yourself:
12. Do I have ‘active listening’ strategies in place so I know what content people care about? We shouldn’t be guessing here. What kind of content do you see your audiences sharing via email, Facebook and Twitter?
3. Finally, let’s look at RELEVANCE. In a nutshell, if your content is not designed from the perspective of constituent interests and motivations then you’re coming at it bass-ackwards. We don’t want to be looking in a mirror when we publish. That’s all about us. Boring! We want to be looking out a window. It should be all about our constituents. Here’s what we should be asking:
15. Am I filtering content through a user-centric agenda?
Marketing in our digital world is not a one-way street. We can’t just push our agenda. We have to be sure what we’re doing/saying has meaning for our target audiences. And this is true in spades if our target is donors
; for them to care about us we must show them we care about them.
16. Do I understand the nuances of my different networks? Twitter and Facebook users are not created equal. They have different expectations. Content is not one-size-fits-all. It must be tweaked.
17. Am I producing shareable content, in formats people can access? Do we know if our consumers access us on mobile? Can they see what we’ve delivered? Can they easily share it? Do they prefer photos, video, audio, photos, infographics or… what?
Do you have a content marketing strategy? How do you create compelling content with limited time, talent, or resources? What are your best tips for feeling you can be at peace with your content creation, distribution and constituent engagement?
If the marketing/communications department is not in charge of overseeing all communications, how do you ensure that the overall messaging is the same, that the voice is unified? My concern is that if the development department handles their own communications and marketing/communications handles the rest how do you ensure the communications sound like they are coming from the same organization. I would love to here how organizations handle this. Thank you.
This is indeed a problem. It's so important that everyone be on the same team, understanding they're working towards a common goal. And the more departments work together as one, the better the content will be. If everyone is siloed, we end up not sharing some of our best content with our constituents. There is no doubt great stuff being created by various program departments that neither marketing nor development staff ever hear about.
In my experience, the most effective organizations have leadership that understands the importance of a unified communications strategy. They understand that we have more than one constituency and that inevitably these constituencies overlap. They themselves, or someone they delegate, assure that before any content is created or distributed it is run through a system that assures all constituent perspectives are taken into account.
Before we create/distribute any content we must ask the question: WHY? We must also ask: WHO? In other words, what do we want someone to do/think/feel when they see this content AND could someone else seeing this content react unfavorably or perhaps be confused?
Thanks, and hope this helps.
As I shared in LinkedIn, Claire. I appreciated the thoughtful discussion you kicked off about marketing/development silos. Regarding marketing content, your RIP tool and steps (while not new to most of us) are a very useful framing for getting beyond the silos. Bottom line is the smart coordination and leadership from the top to value and open those paths to communications. Rare in my experience, but changing.
Thanks Danielle. Agree that leadership from the top is key. And, hopefully, these types of discussions will shine a light on the need for increasing integration.
With demands for nonprofits' services far outstripping capacity (there's an article in today's Chronicle of Philanthropy to this effect) we simply cannot afford to not work 'smart'.