September 6, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
For many marketers, the planning phase of any project feels mind-numbing and tedious. Most of us love ideation, experimentation, and trying new things. Who wants to put together a plan you might not even follow all the way through, anyway? While planning and strategy development isn’t the most exciting way to kick off a new project, it benefits your business in the long term. Today, we’re looking into how to incorporate content strategy best practices into your planning sessions to make development a breeze with topics like:
A content strategy is a process that involves planning, creating, and delivering informational or otherwise valuable content to your audience. Within a content strategy, you can have written pieces and audio and visual content. Creating a brand content strategy helps you identify what pieces and messaging already exist for your company and the overall market. Then this process helps you discover what you should create to fill content gaps and why there’s a need for that content.
If you want to get technical about it, you don’t actually have to follow any rules for your content strategy. You could plan your procedure how you see fit to showcase your company and meet the needs of your customers. Or you could ditch a plan altogether. But while going off a hunch sometimes works and can bring results, best practices in any industry or niche are time-tested. Most users see favorable results, so those best practices become the standard, most-recommended tips for anyone who wants to create a content strategy.
There’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation, which we actually recommend for marketing and innovation. But if you’re new to content strategy or you’re not seeing the results you expect, it’s helpful and encouraged to fall back on best practices to realign your plan and goals.
Use these best practices to guide your next content strategy session:
You can’t have a strategy without a goal. If you’re not working toward some kind of outcome or objective, you wouldn’t need a strategy. The right goals for your brand come from both your audience’s needs and your company’s needs. Both groups have to benefit from any strategy you create. During your initial brainstorming sessions, consider what your brand gets out of content creation. Why are you developing content and what’s it going to do for your company?
Most brands engage in content marketing to increase awareness or increase thought leadership and trust in their industries. These big goals often lead to smaller, more trackable key performance indicators (KPIs), such as increasing web traffic or engagement by a certain margin. You also need to consider what your audience gets out of the content your brand produces.
The pieces you create have to align with their needs. Otherwise, they’ll blow right by your content and choose a competitor’s pieces instead. Understanding your audience’s search intent and where they currently sit in the marketing funnel are good ways to uncover what your audience needs.
A content strategy takes teamwork from multiple members of your organization, not just the company leaders or even the marketing department. Make sure when you’re getting ready to plan a content strategy, you’ve looped in all the right departments and disciplines to get their input. Some of these areas include:
It’s important to remember that all these departments won’t contribute to every aspect of the content strategy or even the development of the plan itself. But these are all groups to consult when planning, creating, distributing, and analyzing your company’s content.
Brain Traffic developed the Content Strategy Quad to help marketers and other strategy professionals think about and develop all the components of quality brand content.
Image via Brain Traffic
As you can see from the diagram above, content strategy has four principal components. From the content design side, you have the editorial strategy and experience design. From the systems design side, you have structure and process design. The systems design part sits at the bottom of the quad because it’s the foundation for successful content design. The framework is cyclical, but the system’s pieces lay the groundwork for content development.
It’s important to include information from all four sections of the quad in your content strategy. Hitting each point lets you know not just what you’re creating, but why, for whom, and how you plan to provide the right access to each piece.
Content design simply means the creation process for your content. That’s the time when you use data and evidence, like market research and analytics, to influence decisions. Engaging in content design helps you understand what your audience wants to see and how they access it. The two components of content design meet the following needs:
Systems design is the more technical aspect of how your audience finds and interacts with your content once it’s published. The two components in this part of the quad include:
The content lifecycle is another framework for viewing your content strategy planning. It lays out the process you can take to research, develop, track, and retire content as it becomes more or less useful to your audience and brand. Depending on what source you look at, the content lifecycle has between five and seven stages. In the five-stages model, the phases include:
The content lifecycle framework gives you a linear process you can use again and again to guide your content strategy execution. It helps you hit all three key areas of strategy: planning, creation, and distribution.
Many brands view content marketing as a free or cheap channel for spreading the word and gaining brand awareness. While it’s true that content marketing costs considerably less than traditional advertising, it’s not a free tactic. And if you’re not putting any money into your content strategy, you might not be getting back as much as you could either.
Don’t be afraid to engage in paid marketing tactics within your content strategy. Organic traffic is great, and it helps build a solid foundation for your brand on search engines and with your audience. But it’s not the only way to play. Sometimes, your goals include a quick revenue boost to meet a KPI for the quarter. Or, you have a time-sensitive promotion that you want to get as many eyes on as possible and fast. These are great times to engage in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or boost your social media posts.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, the best strategies come from good planning. That’s because having a plan makes execution easier for everyone involved. When your team knows who’s doing what and when they need to do it, there’s no confusion. There’s also no excuse for not hitting deadlines or meeting expectations. During the creation and distribution phases of content strategy, developing and sticking to a content calendar helps your team establish hierarchy and priority for every piece you create.
Sticking to a content calendar also helps you establish expectations and trust from your audience. For example, if you post a new blog post on a hot topic every Monday morning, your audience will recognize that trend. Then, you might see increased traffic to your blog on those mornings. The audience knows they should come to your site during their mid-morning break at work to read the latest publication.
Content marketing has come a long way since it got started in the 1700s. You’re no longer limited to print content or words on the page. Content strategy planning is the perfect time to break out of your brand’s content comfort zone and introduce new offerings to your audience. Your best strategies likely have equal parts planning and experimentation. If your brand uses tried-and-true blogs and articles most of the time, what else could you introduce to expand what your offer to your audience?
Different people like to engage with and consume information in unique ways. There are anywhere between four and eight types of learning styles that tell you how people interact with information best. The four basic categories of learning styles help you choose what types of content to provide, while the four secondary categories help you choose information and content direction.
As a marketer, you want to pay attention to the four primary learning styles and types of content to go along with them. When providing variety in your content offerings, consider:
Aside from the four primary learning types, there are four more to consider that affect the angles of your content pieces and the distribution methods. These include:
Speaking of accessibility, it’s important to make sure you’re not accidentally excluding valuable members of your audience by not adding their considerations into your content strategy. Accessible content is any piece optimized to provide value to an audience member, regardless of their abilities or special requests. Things like closed captions on videos or alt text for images are just two common accessibility optimizations marketers use to make their pieces available to the widest audience. Incorporating accessibility considerations into your strategy makes them become second nature, both in planning and creation.
One pitfall of content strategy is that when you work hard to provide information that your audience needs in a way they’re used to engaging with it, your pieces look cookie-cutter. How many pieces of content can different brands really put out on the same topic before they all sound alike? While your audience has certain expectations for the content you provide, like easy readability or good quality visuals and sounds, they’re also looking for some novelty. What makes your piece unique?
Adding elements of individuality to your content strategy and the pieces your team develops comes from knowing your brand inside and out. You need to know your company’s unique selling proposition (USP) to do this. What is it you want people to say when your brand name comes up in conversation?
Finding your USP comes from knowing your team and your company’s history. It also comes back to your goals and understanding what you’re trying to achieve with every piece. The more you can leverage what makes your brand, content, or solutions unique throughout every phase of your content strategy, the better results you’ll see.
Best practices are best for a reason: they work. But marketing is an ever-changing field. What worked for your brand or even your entire industry last month might not work as well today. That’s why one of the content strategy best practices is to be flexible. Human behavior is unpredictable. Sometimes, industry happenings or political and economic factors are unpredictable, too.
The best way you can prepare your strategy for the unexpected is by developing the skills to change directions and plans quickly as new information becomes available. One way to prepare for these situations is to know the competitive analysis frameworks available to use within your strategy. These research plans help you discover potential changes and threats within your own company, the industry, and the global market to prepare backup plans if you need them.
Since all the best content strategies start with data and a plan, let CopyPress provide all the information you need to get started right in your inbox. When you request your free content analysis report from us, that information is exactly what you get. Browse how your current content compares to your top three direct competitors. You can also get insights into your backlink profile and suggestions for topics to fill content gaps. Additionally, this report provides a list of syndication partners to expand your content reach.
Share your information below to get started. Then schedule an introductory call with our strategy team to review your results and see how CopyPress can help you take your content to the next level.
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