Successful Content Strategy Demands Context
Have you ever walked into the middle of a movie or TV show and gotten sucked into the story, only to spend the rest of the show trying to piece together the narrative? Dinner parties and networking events provide plentiful examples of social butterflies landing in the middle of conversations and interrupting the speaker to clarify. We are wired (some more than others) to understand and seek clarity. Clarity comes from context, which is the difference between hearing and knowing.
Context is just as important for your content. As the popularity of content marketing and strategy increases, the amount of research and data — as well as the number of opinions on the topic — also increases. Most of this information is helpful, but creating and marketing content without context is not. Colleen Jones nails this idea in her book Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content (Voices That Matter), in which she says, “The faster and better you understand context, the faster and better you can influence it through content.” We believe context can be achieved by integrating a company’s business goals, competitive landscape and customer research into their content.
In Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter), she says, “Generally speaking, content is more or less worthless unless it does one or both of the following: supports a key business objective and fulfills your users’ needs.” Great strategy begins with diagnosing the business challenge, a customer intent or an obstacle that stands in the way of growth. Defining business goals before creating content provides both the needed context and the means to measure success. Before embarking on any marketing activity, discovering and defining the business goals should be documented within your strategy. Differing goals will have an effect on the content’s focus and topics, including the messaging. For example, if a business challenge is a lack of brand awareness, content should target top-of-the-funnel topics. Conversely, if a company needs more leads, the strategy should dictate content promoting benefits and features. At Ethology, discovering the needs of the customer along the customer journey and the client’s business challenges for each phase creates a stronger opportunity to communicate value and education.
Conducting a competitive content audit should unearth several valuable insights into your market and landscape. One insight is the strength or weakness of competitors’ content effectiveness. Learning which topics or themes your competitors are publishing against and their organic visibility will shape your content creation. The competitive audit will also help to identify new topics and themes, which could expand your reach, as well as “white space” topics with a low number of direct competitors. An important note when analyzing the competitive landscape: Your content is competing with more than just other brands — your competitive landscape will include publishers, review websites and partners, all seeking the attention of an audience.
Finally — and perhaps most importantly, in terms of driving context for your strategy — there are your customers. To gain the attention, trust and business of your customers, content should address their wants, needs and intent. By leveraging empathy maps, customer journeys, personas, search query data, stakeholder interviews, surveys and analytics, brands and marketers will have the acumen to create a holistic content strategy. Creating and publishing valuable information at the right time is a powerful influence for turning browsers into customers. Unfortunately, companies that disregard customer research will continue to create and publish content that fails to resonate.
In Summary, Plan Before Publishing
Conducting research and audits, and crafting your content takes time and resources, yet without it, the value of your content will be diminished. We believe your brainstorming sessions, editorial process and marketing efforts will be stronger when operating from a defined strategy. Strategy rich in context also helps define the direction of the team and produces relevant content your customers will love. Guiding your content creation with business goals, a competitive landscape audit and customer research will give you the proper context before publishing. If you have questions about how to create research-driven content strategy for your customers, email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-855-384-6564.
Context is just as important for your content. As the popularity of content marketing and strategy increases, the amount of research and data — as well as the number of opinions on the topic — also increases.