Content should be leveraged to achieve the following:
- Reinforce the brand promise
- Engage all customer segments throughout the customer lifecycle
- Achieve desired business outcomes and objectives
Historically content has been one directional – companies created brochures, white papers, advertisements, and other types of articles that were pushed or published them to a broad audience. Content was largely created and distributed without differentiation and while this one-size fits all approach seems antiquated by today’s standards it wasn’t possible to do much more. Fortunately the confluence of data, technology, and real-time adaptive learning has enabled the growth of a dynamic content capability. In today’s business environment content has proliferated in terms of touch points, how it’s consumed, where it is consumed, curated, and most importantly how it is shared. Companies are increasingly taking a strategic perspective and focus on content as an engagement tool and one that can generate brand amplification.
An important part of an effective content strategy is it’s integral linkage to a digital framework. Digital is quickly becoming or more likely has become your organization’s primary communications, sales, marketing, channel of choice. The fuel for this digital engine is content in all of its manifestations spanning channels, devices, and touch points. Content has become inseparable from digital and this combination has led to an increasing complexity i.e. delivering a highly personalized, data driven, experience. In addition to this complexity, there is a broad impact within organizations specifically in respect to those activities needed to manage all aspects of content creation and distribution. Company’s need a clearly articulated governance model across all functional areas to manage, review, and approve what content is produced and distributed. Within this new ecosystem is the necessity to embrace a new skill-set if not new mindset to address user-generated content, which is content, created by individuals, not within the editorial control of an organization.
Plain and simple content has always been important for a number of reasons, however, content today has become more portable, consumable, accessible, and democratized. Although this is good news it’s a double edge sword – content now has to entertain, inform, and bring value to the reader. The rewards include recognition by a company’s target audience, which in todays socially connected world means amplification at a rate of speed and magnitude that paid media would find difficult to replicate. Although one solution may not be appropriate for every company there are five areas that can help to shape a content strategy. These five steps to developing a strong content strategy include:
- Understand your audience – Determine who the target audience(s) is and how they currently consume or want to consume content.
- Integrate across touch points – Will your content be suited for the channel it is distributed to? What are the linkages to connect content across channels and what are your expected outcomes.
- Build an inventory – Maintain a strong pipeline of new and current content, create an enterprise calendar, and leverage user-generated content as part of your overall strategy.
- Measure and analyze – Content consumption/efficacy now requires a more structured approach in terms of measurement and distribution. Content is far more dynamic and complex, measuring the full value of content requires data analysis, testing, and optimization tools.
- Optimize content – The new standard of measure is your audience's desire to consume, share, and engage with your content. Content must be engaging and can become a rich source of earned media and drive a proliferation of views and shares.
Content is also intertwined within the customer experience and this creates an opportunity to deliver a more surgical approach to delivering valuable, timely information. Imagine going to a website or mobile app that has great content but it isn’t purposed or organized in a clear manner or, conversely, going to a website or mobile app with a great experience but lacking relevant or personalized content. The outcome will be the same in both cases namely frustration and abandonment. It is an expectation by consumers that content is informative and has relevancy to them. Although many of us are a bit unnerved by receiving targeted content those same people would lament if they were served generic content. An experience that comprises of content that is well organized, informative, and tailored will result in higher levels of enrollment and engagement.
Another important tool that enables delivery of relevant content are optimization tools which is analogous to a strategic command and communications center. These sophisticated data and analytic tools deliver all forms of content in a very efficient manner to optimize return on investment (ROI). In addition, having a robust test and target capability is needed to continuously increase engagement through A/B and multivariate testing. The good news is that you don’t need to build these data tools and predictive modeling – software as a service (SaaS) and other platform solutions are readily available in the market today. Whether organic or outsourced you have the ability to deliver highly targeted content to a person(s), across channels and devices, at a specific location. In time, adaptive technology and deep learning will raise the bar further easily crunching real-time enterprise data, behavioral patterns, conversion data, etc. to drive incredibly relevant content delivery.
Taking a customer journey perspective as depicted in the illustration below, content has a role to play across the entire customer life cycle. It is very important to note that content is not about “selling” it is about providing useful, relevant information that will lead to a specific outcome because it is credible and useful. User generated content can promulgate and help drive desired business outcomes – research shows that peer comments have much more credibility and believability than company sponsored content. A goal is to create earned media, which is "audience word of mouth" and is publicity gained through shares, likes, reviews, mentions, retweets, recommendations, etc. Good content can create momentum, perhaps go viral, and will drive higher SEO results, which in turn increases exposure, traffic, and engagement – a truly virtuous cycle.
Content has become a dynamic, sophisticated tool that can have tangible, bottom line results. But these results don’t come easily; content take considerable work, commitment, endurance, dedication, and organizational alignment. Across the enterprise functional areas beyond marketing and corporate communications are generating content and these efforts need synchronization. Alignment and governance will ensure that content creation and distribution is coordinated, coherent, and is refreshed on a regular basis. Although some companies are experiencing difficulty in evolving their content model, expect many pivot to a more focused dedicated model. In closing, I would recommend that we all embrace content it will create engagement and loyalty, a competitive edge, amplify your brand, and drive better outcomes.