This is the third article in a series by Tricia Travaline, VP of Marketing at Skyword, on the art and science of brand storytelling. The previous article in this series outlined the perspective and mindset needed to achieve breakthrough moments in content marketing. In this piece, Tricia covers a process for building a content strategy that builds audience and allows your brand to stand out from the crowd.
As brand marketers, we are reeling from the diminishing returns we see from interruption marketing. With less than a .1 percent click-through rate on banner advertising, 4 million complaints per year registered against telemarketers, and the ever-widening black hole for news release distribution, it’s getting harder and harder to build audience and get our brands to stand out. Bombarded with more than 3,000 brand messages a day, people have quite frankly tuned us out. Yet the solution is actually pretty simple: We have to stop interrupting what people love and start becoming what they love.
How do we do this? First, we need to put away our brand marketer hats and start thinking like a publisher or brand storyteller. People love stories. And the best marketers in the world, such as those at Microsoft, IBM Security, MasterCard, and Western Digital, are connecting with their audiences through stories that inform, entertain, and educate. Many of them deploy a fairly simple but incredibly powerful process for developing their content strategies that should be part of your content marketing planning.
10-Step Action Plan
Bring your team together for a day and imagine that you’re launching a magazine with the goal of building a content strategy that taps into the passions, interests, and challenges of those you’re trying to reach. Here are 10 critical steps to guide you through this process:
- Define your target audience. Many of you have done a significant amount of work building personas. My advice is to focus your content strategy on two personas initially and hit it out of the park with them. Who are these people professionally? And perhaps even more importantly, who are they personally? What do they need help with? What do they value?
- Brainstorm topics they would love. This is the time to throw topics up on the whiteboard. What would be valuable to them or disrupt their thinking? What’s entertaining? What are their pain points and what stories address them? What topics have the potential to build relationships? This exercise will very quickly illustrate how well you know your audience professionally and personally.
- Eliminate the topics that don’t align with your brand. You’ll likely uncover a lot of topics that are important to your audience; however, your brand has little to no authority in those areas. Make sure your topic areas align with your company’s mission and that you are a credible source for this information. If you’re not, cut them.
- Group your topics into content categories. Think of your content categories as ongoing columns. These are the big ideas or themes that will form the framework of your editorial strategy, so try to limit yourself to three or four ideas that can be easily articulated.
- Check out the competition. If your brand is going to stand out, you need to create stories that are different or, if not completely different, better than the competition’s. So, make sure you know what your competition is doing. Also, as you transform your team into a publishing unit, your circle of competitors expands. If you are in high tech, you could now be competing with WIRED for audience share—in addition to companies in your industry sector. Do you have a unique value proposition?
- Test headlines. Now’s the time to try your hand at headline writing. Create compelling headlines for your narrowed list of topics in each category. Your headlines should attract people at the various stages of the buyer’s journey: reach, engage, and convert. Throw a large net with your reach topics. Focus on subjects that have nothing to do with you and everything to do with your audience. The engage topics should be aligned with your industry and offering, but they should not be a sales pitch. Convert topics and headlines should focus on people who are specifically in the market for your product. The formula we use at Skyword is 60 percent reach, 30 percent engage, and 10 percent convert.
- Choose the right frequency. How often do you want people to come to your site? Do they come several times a day, daily, weekly, or monthly? This will guide your publishing frequency and timing and whether you want to publish strictly evergreen content or try your hand at news content. If you choose to publish daily, be prepared to have the publishing technology and storytellers to fuel the machine.
- Build out a cadence for the categories. How often should you publish content in each category? Should one category only publish on certain days of the week? Build out an editorial calendar to ensure that you are diversifying your assignments and categories according to plan.
- Determine your key performance indicators (KPIs). Now is the time to determine how you will measure your content’s performance. If you are building audience and loyalty, your KPIs should not just be an increase in traffic, but should also include new subscribers, returning visits, decrease in bounce rates, anonymous-to-known leads, and lead sources.
- Articulate your value proposition. At the end of the day, write down your value proposition. Why will people first visit your site, what will they find there that they can’t find anywhere else, and why should they keep coming back? Keep it simple, and then put it front and center as you move forward.
Interested in hearing more about content marketing? Contact Skyword today for a free content strategy workshop.