May 04, 2021

by Mariela Azcuy

There are many ways to execute content on behalf of people and brands.

Constraints are proven to increase innovation and creativity. There's a reason they're sometimes called "beautiful."

So, we applied some structure around the elements of a good content strategy. These elements ground us as we build ongoing content plans on behalf of clients and also help us educate clients in the pre content SOW stage. As a bonus, many of them are useful for one-off content projects like a bylined article.

A customer-first lens. Conceive all good content from a customer's POV. Ask yourself: what do they want to hear, learn, or solve vs. what do we want to talk about? What do you want your target audience to think of when they think of you? That's why so many good content ideas are generated from client interactions. If one client has a question, they're probably not the only one with the same question. Find ways to answer those questions publicly and build dialogue.

Align with business goals. It's tempting just to start creating. (And that's a great strategy to combat writer's block.) But, it'd be smarter to know what the ultimate goals of our creations are. For the content we create on behalf of Carve, we have a few goals. One of those is to own important-to-us topics in the marketplace so we've sliced and diced ways to tackle subjects like Sustainable PR, Growth Stage PR, and Merging Content and PR in the future.

Address big picture and niche topics. Let's stick to Sustainable PR as an example. We might create an initial post that defines the term, lists some elements for achieving it, and details why it's a good strategy for brands. We might follow up with a blog post on each of those elements, or choose to publish a case study on what Sustainable PR looked like for a client over the past year. We might interview a client about their thoughts on Sustainable PR. Think of each content pillar as the center of its galaxy, with planets big and small surrounding it, representing all the possible ways to cover the topic. This approach serves readers who want a deep dive and helps with organic search.

Be consistent. This one is deceptively tricky. We've found that clients often think of content as a campaign or a stop-gap measure between other initiatives. The reality is that content is a way of doing business. If you can't do it consistently, then you probably shouldn't be doing it at all.  

You may see some immediate rewards -- a jump in traffic as a result of a newsletter you distributed, an inbound lead in response to a LinkedIn post -- but the real groundswell happens after a sustained period. This doesn't mean you need to publish a daily blog post or a weekly podcast, but it does mean you need to set audience expectations and deliver. If you plan to send out a newsletter every other Tuesday, let your audience know and don't let them down.

Content queen Ann Handley does this beautifully. She starts each newsletter with a version of this: Welcome to the 84th issue of Total Annarchy, a fortnightly newsletter by me, Ann Handley, with a focus on writing, marketing, life.  

Choose an anchor platform(s) and storytell across formats. We like to recommend being focused on platforms and generous with formats. For example, choose LinkedIn as your anchor platform and try short and long posts, videos, images, polls, carousels, and more there. But don't try to do all the things across Twitter, Tik Tok, Facebook, and Clubhouse, too. Or, focus on a weekly blog and then cross-promote across social. When you think of one or two platforms as your anchors those also become community builders and idea generators for earned opportunities like contributed pieces and speaking engagements.

Sound like a person vs. a corporation. Read it out loud. Does it have words you'd use if you were talking to your teen? Does it have a personality? Jargon and lack of specificity are the two biggest soul killers in content. Instead of calling something innovative, give a specific example of what is new and unique about it. Or, use an easily understood comparison point to get me to where you are.

This is an extreme example, but producer Adam McKay made sure I understood how disgusted he was about the possibility of another "The Fountainhead" movie adaptation when he said: "Ugh. You can put that in the interview. 'McKay makes a look like he just ate rancid bacon.’" Got it.

Be flexible. All the content calendars in the world won't stop news from happening, new clients from coming on board, or good ideas from springing up. Allow for unplanned topics to fit into your system in a timely way. For social, we typically like to say that roughly 70% of content should be planned and 30% can be spur of the moment. The ratio isn't as important as the overall notion of flexibility.

There's one more way we like to think of flexibility. Every good piece of content should have the capacity to be adapted and reused. One blog can be three social posts and an infographic, or one appearance on a panel can lead to three interviews with the other panelists and a short video highlighting the event takeaways. No content should ever be one-time-use only. It's an inefficient use of time and effort.


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