Written by Baron Manett on February 25, 2015
in Content Strategy

On February 19th, I had the pleasure of teaching the Canadian Marketing Association “Building Content Strategy” seminar with my colleague, Ariad Senior Strategist and Suffering from premachurn?’ author Kieran Miles. Here at Ariad, we work with our clients every day to build content that’s strategic, beautiful, useful, and generates business results. But what do we really mean when we talk about content strategy? How can marketers and brands fully embrace content as a holistic philosophy?

First, we need to define what content isn’t. Content isn’t copy. Content isn’t messaging. Content isn’t media. So, what is content? Content is the essence and substance of your brand’s conversation with consumers. A brand’s essence is how it provides real value to its customers’ lives. It’s the why behind the what. A brand’s substance, however, is the demonstration of how a consumer can engage with the brand. A perfect example is the iconic IKEA catalogue. It represents the essence of the brand (beautiful home design for everyone) and the substance (what your home could look like, and how to order or purchase IKEA products) in one beautiful, shareable, engaging piece of content.

Now that you know what content should be, how can you build a successful content strategy yourself? By following these steps:

  1. Define business objectives: Your content strategy needs focused and measurable business objectives in order to guide your content and assess its effectiveness.
  2. Define and document your customer: If you don’t define and understand your customer, how can your content create the business impact you outlined in your objectives? Take the time to profile your ideal customer and map out their customer journey.
  3. Define their content needs: Where along your customer’s journey do they need help? What touch points are the most crucial and what channels should you use to distribute your content? The holy grail of content is to deliver the right content in the right place at the right time.
  4. Create a strategy statement: A strategy statement sums up the overlap of your audience’s goals with the goals of your business objectives. By spelling this out in a concise strategy statement, you can keep your content strategy on track.
  5. Do your creative discovery: Define your brand’s essence and substance through creative discovery and audience understanding.
  6. Create a content plan: Your content plan is a formalized way to translate all the content opportunities and possibilities into a doable, fundable, compliant, and sustainable plan of action that is aligned with your business priorities. Identify the best channel, format, and timing for each of your story ideas.
  7. Consider maintenance and measurement: Once your content strategy moves from planning to execution, the job isn’t over. Ensure that you measure the KPI’s of each content piece, assess how those pieces impact the business objectives outlined in step one, and consider how you can improve the performance of your content moving forward.

Content isn’t a buzzword. It’s not a fad. And it’s not going away. Content is how smart brands have been interacting with their customers for over a hundred years (the first Michelin Guide was published in 1900, for example). But, that doesn’t mean that creating good content (and good content strategy) is easy. It takes time, effort, insight, empathy, and creativity. If done right, content can create the kind of long-lasting loyalty that is the hallmark of the world’s most successful brands. You just have to start at step one.

Baron Manett is Senior Vice President, Strategy at Ariad Communications. For more information on the CMA Building Content Strategy seminar, you can read and download the presentation deck and workbook on SlideShare.

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