If it takes you more than two or three sentences to explain your content strategy, chances are you’re overcomplicating things. In my experience, enterprise companies try so hard to create a highly complex environment as justification for their content marketing budgets. It’s easier to fall on the laurels of traditional thinking, but it’s much more beneficial to challenge the status quo. If the strategy is so complex a C-level executive can’t understand it, I guess that’s job security?
Jokes aside, a convoluted strategy will be difficult to sustain, challenging to drive results, and your audience will have a difficult time knowing what the heck it is your publication is trying to provide. So where do you start? A mission statement for your strategy.
When developing a strategy mission statement, I like to think of three questions. Your mission statement is your two to three sentence summary of your content strategy. It’s also the guiding force behind everything you do as part of the strategy. If your story topics in your editorial calendar don’t speak directly to the purpose of your mission, that’s no good. Ensuring your content creators and editors keep your mission statement close during the content creation process allows you to focus on why your publication exists, and therefore execute in complete alignment with your mission.
Ask yourself these three questions to start simplifying your strategy:
If you can’t answer that question, you will fail at content marketing. Content marketing is all about truth and value. If your business or product doesn’t provide value to customers, you will have a hard time providing value in your content. People today can see through fluffy marketing messages in a heartbeat. But in the slight chance you are able to fake value in your content (which won’t last long), you will fail when trying to connect your content to your business. Your audience will feel betrayed when they go from one experience with your content to a poor experience with your business or product.
Simon Sinek, in his popular Ted Talk from 2009, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” says, “Every single organization on the planet knows what they do. One hundred percent. Some know how they do it. But very few organizations know why they do what they do…by why I mean what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief?”
His words are still very relevant for brand leaders around the world, and perhaps especially so for beginner content marketers.
This second question aligns with the first. If you know why you’re in business, and you’re passionate, intelligent, and driven to provide value, then the next question is “Why is your value proposition any different from your competitors?” This is where you carve out how your content will be different than that of your business competitors and publication competitors that are also vying for your audience’s interest. You need to understand the needs of your audience so you can appropriately create content that speaks to those needs. Take Patagonia for example, they know their audience comprises outdoor enthusiasts that care about the environment, care about their health, and are charitable. On Patagonia’s “The Cleanest Line” blog, it talks about exquisite outdoor experiences. In its campaign “The New Localism,” Patagonia uses content to engage people and tell a story about how they can get involved and help.
This is where you get into the execution of your strategy. What are the things that your audience cares about and you provide value for? Those items become the pillars or core themes of your strategy. Your publication needs to stand for something, which is why you need a mission statement, but in addition to standing for something, you need to immediately correlate your mission statement to the themes of your content. People have tiny attention spans, so if they can’t immediately understand the purpose of your content and feel good about it, they’ll go to another website.
Being able to clearly articulate your strategy is the first step to content marketing success. The mission statement that results from having your strategy completely thought out becomes the main direction to guide the way you recruit contributors, create content, come up with new ideas, and establish the tone and voice of your content.
So, you’re standing in an elevator and someone asks you, “What is your content strategy?” How will you respond?
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