Don’t release content just for the sake of carrying out an editorial plan. Be sure to have a solid strategy in place before you share your content to ensure maximum impact and engagement.
You know you’re in trouble if the following conversation ensues in a business meeting:
“I have a great idea! Let’s write weekly blog posts to share on Facebook and Twitter! We’ll use plenty of emojis, memes, and clever one-liners!”
“Sounds good. And what will the blog posts actually be about?”
“Oh, um, you know… whatever we want it to be about.”
It’s not necessarily a bad idea to try to be cheeky, current, or even a little corny with your articles, but be careful you’re not putting just anything up onto your company blog. Content marketing usually becomes aimless when it’s missing one extremely important ingredient: a solid content strategy.
“Editorial Planning” and “Content Strategy”: Same or Different?
“Content strategy is not an editorial plan,” explains Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic CEO, on Rep Cap. Too often, companies mistakenly assume they’re one and the same.
It’s true that you need all the vital elements of an editorial plan, including a list of blog ideas, a social media publishing plan, and an organized editorial calendar, to effectively disseminate content. Meghan Casey from Brain Traffic acknowledges on Content Marketing Institute (CMI) the importance of determining the right voice and tone, formats and channels, and frequency for publishing and sharing content.
But content strategy places a bigger emphasis on the content itself. Halvorson explains that nine out of ten companies believe that “publishing more is better,” driven by metrics such as “production” or “engagement,” when in fact they should be focusing more on content development.
The Content Marketing Institute‘s Michele Linn says, “Content strategists aren’t motivated by ‘likes’ and conversions.” Rather, they’re committed to helping users have the best experience possible by providing a steady stream of meaningful, relevant content.
Defining “Content Strategy”
So what exactly is content strategy? Halvorson on LinkedIn defines it as “the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” It’s not just deciding “what,” but also “why, how, when, for whom, by whom, with what, where, how often, what next” — a thorough strategy for establishing meaningful content.
Elaine Larkin on LinkedIn uses the New York Times as an example of a publisher that embodies several different types of content strategy. Although it utilizes various websites and social media accounts, each one caters to a specific audience looking for specific information: for example, while NYTco.com tells you about the paper’s organization and staff, nytimes.com is the site that publishes timely news.
“Strategy Before Tactics”: Crafting a Solid Content Strategy
It’s always important to develop a content strategy first before doing anything else. Sure, editorial calendars are great in that they allow you to plan out and follow a set schedule, work ahead, and keep track of released content. You can share content through blog posts, news articles, interviews, webinars, case studies, infographics, podcasts, etc. But what if no one’s engaging because the quality of your content is subpar?
Casey emphasizes putting “strategy before tactics,” and not the other way around. She defines content strategy as helping “organizations provide the right content, to the right people, at the right times, for the right reasons.” Simply put, if you’re not publishing content that people actually want or need, then nobody’s going to read it. She also astutely observes that “the general public is no one’s audience,” highlighting the need to pinpoint the right people.
Don’t fret if you don’t know how to strategize. Casey recommends asking yourself the following questions as a quick four-step brainstorming process to generate and refine a list of effective ideas:
– What is the organization’s mission?
– Who is the target audience?
– What are the business goals?
– What are the content objectives?
If you’re looking for a shortcut, you can even create a core content strategy statement that answers all four questions right from the very start to help guide your brainstorm. When everybody’s on the same page, your team will be able to produce fruitful ideas without having to go through a lengthy process of elimination. And if you ever wander off track, just refer back to the core statement.
Voila! By crafting a solid content strategy, you can confidently carry out your editorial plan and share your relevant content with the world.