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Part 2: Why Your Brand Needs a Content Strategy: Input & Outputs

BY: Robin Riddle

Within Part 1 we shared the building blocks on building a content strategy. With that as a foundation you can begin to gather the inputs to generate the outputs necessary to deliver a successful strategy.

The five main inputs for building a content
strategy are:

1The Competitive Editorial Landscape

This is a review of both direct and indirect competition, as well as of industry best practices with brands across the spectrum—and not just competitors, as it’s also important to compare what editorial sites are doing. For example, if you’re offering financial services, how does Money.com or Kiplinger talk about the subjects that are of interest to your customers? The point of doing this exercise is not “let’s just do this type of content and we’re good.” It’s “this is the bar—how do we beat it?”

2Social Listening, Desk Research and SEO

This step identifies how your customers and prospects are talking about (and searching for) the type of services you offer, along with how they’re discussing your brand and your competitors. This helps you understand the types of foundational and evergreen content (more on that later) you’ll need to create the basis of your program.

3Focus Group and Key Stakeholder Interviews

These discussions are best held with your frontline staff members who are most closely in contact with the customers. They will clarify what your unique sales propositions (USPs) really are—rather than what you think they are—in the minds of your customers.

4Customers Journey Mapping

This exercise helps you understand the process via which your potential customers experience changes in need state. It will help to inform your editorial line up, especially as that relates to your foundational content (see Content Stack below).

5Design and UX

Your content should correspond with the form and function of other similar content channels. This is best done when performing your competitive audit, as it involves reviewing the same sites but from a visual perspective.

From here, we’ll take these “inputs” and deliver
the following “outputs”:

1Editorial Mission Statement

This is usually just a sentence or two that defines the purpose of the program.

2Right to Voice and Content Pillars

Some of the biggest errors we see among content marketers are efforts that result in too broad or unfocused content. Not only does this type of mistake make the content appear inauthentic to readers, but it also puts an unnecessary burden and cost on the marketer. We typically spend a lot of time with clients figuring out where their consumers give them permission to communicate with them and where the brand has authority. Once we’ve done this, we map out the pillars around which we will be developing content. These pillars may or may not also serve as the names we’ll use for the content channels on our client’s website’s persistent navigation.

3Tone

Here we’ll map out the way we want the content to be perceived by the reader. For example, is the content intended to inform, entertain, change perceptions or drive sales?

4Content Stack

The Content Stack is a proprietary methodology we developed to address three core elements of the program. First, we consider the type of content: foundational versus news versus franchise. Each serves its own specific purpose and is an important part of any successful program. The amounts produced among the different types of content will change throughout the life of a program. To begin with, there’s usually a real focus on producing foundational content. Once this repository is sufficiently built, the focus turns to ensuring the program is current—and this is where news content comes in. The last building block in this section is franchise content—think of this as the program’s thought leadership content. Next, we turn to the part of the funnel at which the content is aimed. Content is normally used in the upper/mid funnel, building brand awareness and consideration, but it can also be used effectively for closing—especially for lead generation. The final building block for the Content Stack is the format. For example, we know that articles are really good for increasing time on site, but listicles, infographics and flip cards work much harder for engagement. We’ll make sure the program has the right mixture of formats to hit on the program’s key performance indicators (KPIs).

5Editorial Calendar

Using the Content Stack, we’ll propose specific pieces of content that fit within the brand’s right to voice. Here we’ll look to develop assets that are additive to the content that’s already published. For each piece we’ll ask: What utility is this providing the reader, and how is this different from pieces our competitors already have?

6KPIs

This takes us right back to where we began this piece. How would we ever know whether we’ve been successful if we didn’t first define our goals? Typically, we’d look to set metrics around softer measurements like web traffic, time on site and bounce and exit rates. We’d also look to develop harder metrics by identifying high-value actions—such as form fills or conversions.

I’ve tried to break down what we do and simplify it to make it easy to follow—but building an actual strategy is often more complex. If you need help building a new strategy, or with the execution of a current one, we’d be happy to discuss your requirements individually. Please reach out to me directly at robin.riddle@meredith.com.

BIO

Robin Riddle is the lead content marketing strategist at Foundry 360. He works across B2B as well as B2C and specializes in financial services, insurance and health care. Prior to his time here, he led content marketing businesses at both The Economist and The Wall Street Journal.

A passionate advocate for the value of content marketing, Robin is also heavily involved in industry issues and speaks at many events on the topics of content marketing and native advertising.

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