“Content is fire. Social media is gasoline,” according to writer Jay Baer, and most in public relations would agree. The trick is how to create content that is “fire” and will fire up audiences about your brand. We look at an eight-point plan that will help any team create, produce and promote meaningful content.
Bringing an earned-media sensibility to the effort increases the credibility for some content that is overly commercial, badly targeted, or stuffed with obvious keywords.
All good content marketing initiatives begin by getting everyone on the team in agreement with campaign goals.
Set content marketing goals
Start by knowing who your audience is and what they care about.
Then ask how reaching the audience through targeted content can help move the needle. “The needle” can mean drawing more customers to a retail website, lead generation, attracting donors or investors to a cause, or increasing app downloads. With a clear set of marketing goals, the team can more easily determine what the content output will consist of and better show how content marketing can help meet business objectives.
As with any PR or marketing campaign – leadership needs to know how it will impact the bottom line. What are the cost and revenue metrics that will make the program meet goals? For some brands, seeing content marketing as a way to reduce customer acquisition costs is a powerful motivator.
Define challenges and opportunities
Speak to others and help develop a clear short list of challenges, which can include anything from competition in the marketplace to overcoming a dated or muddled brand image. As well, offer up opportunities. Brand opportunities can include things like a truly differentiated USP or a seasoned management team with a stellar reputation. Whatever the list may look like, it is up to the content team to create stories that help conquer the challenges and leverage the opportunities. We like the way American Express has built its online publication Open Forum, directed at small businesses. The brand has many small business initiatives and has been very good at providing a ton of good info for companies who may not have initially thought that Amex was the appropriate credit card partner for them.
Develop a sound content strategy
Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads, according to DemandMetric, but many brands still have a haphazard approach to strategy. Here are the important factors to consider when planning custom content. Focus on who you’re really targeting. Often a B2B marketer may think they are targeting CEOs with their content, only to find that it’s actually those who report into the C-level who read and vet things to put before leadership. It may seem subtle, but it does affect how teams create effective content.
Using a custom content partner like HubSpot can help better define your audience and provide actionable assistance to increase readership. Learn what kind of content resonates best with the target – blog posts, in-depth “how-to” downloads like this, white papers, e-books etc. The strategy should also include design elements for custom content, subject matter and, importantly professional editorial guidelines, like any publication.
Appoint a content manager and team
It may take a village to plan and create a great content program, but it’s best to assign responsibility for the effort. Aim for an editor and one or two writers, if possible. The goal is to task great writers and to make posting a “real job” within the company and not a thrown-together afterthought where folks are scrambling to put out a blog post or keep to a social media posting schedule. Nothing creates better PR writers than a rigid writing schedule. People assigned to content creation and marketing are performing a very important service to the brand and should think of it as a plum assignment.
Calenderize a content schedule – but be flexible
Once you know your target and have defined editorial guidelines, coming up with content ideas should be less challenging. We regularly look at our own internal metrics to see what topics “pull” the most with our readers. This helps greatly in setting a content schedule. There are traditional seasonal and holiday “hot topics” as well as evergreen ones with a fresh spin. And, as important as a content schedule is, we also value flexibility to take advantage of breaking news which can offer up great opportunities to demonstrate PR expertise on a variety of topics. Once content editorial has been defined, it’s important to determine how often the team will post and on what platforms. Typically, a 1000-word blog post per week is effective, with scheduling of downloadable e-books and newsletters slotted quarterly to keep pipeline varied and full.
Create a content promotion plan
Here’s where the all-important gasoline gets added to the fire. There’s no point in publishing a bunch of terrific content that no one sees, so a crucial part of content development is promotion. To begin with, most smart marketers today employ a professional content marketing tool that offers products, assistance and analytics to turn any content effort into a well-oiled machine. But true success goes beyond simply retaining a firm. The brand needs to promote its efforts on applicable key social platforms, maximizing the targeting capabilities of Facebook for B2C visibility, using LinkedIn, which is influential for B2B marketing, and Twitter, which is useful for reaching business influencers and journalists. We also recommend a strong backlinking effort to ensure readers get to and from information in our posts. Additionally, linking relevant content within company newsletters and other output helps draw a larger audience. Other best practices include seeking quotes from influencers important to the brand’s target, emailing content directly to sources who are quoted, and creating content “snippets” that can be posted on social platforms and communities for days and weeks after the original publication.
Scale content through smart repurposing
Today’s consumer connects across a broad spectrum of social channels and savvy marketers realize that any new piece of content can be repurposed in several different ways. We recommend compiling blog posts into an ebook, for example, or turning a byline article into a how-to video for YouTube or slide presentation for SlideShare. We also like to package terrific client content and use it to interest conference and event planners in potential speakers. With so many established sites such as Mic, Quartz and others hungry for well-written thought pieces, content developed for one platform can reach exponentially greater audiences via such outlets.
Maintain high quality standards
Whether you’re creating a single piece of content per week or scheduling more often, set and adhere to producing the same level of quality with each piece. As teams build an audience, there will be a level of expectation and you don’t want to disappoint. Quality checks might include keeping the content fresh and interesting, peppering in visuals and making sure that grammar and syntax are correct – remember 10% of readers don’t scroll through articles at all. It’s helpful to develop an editorial checklist like this to make sure all boxes are ticked. However, even though a checklist is important to check on quality issues, its equally important that each post reflect the brand’s personal voice. The most visually appealing, well-edited blog will not attract an audience if its perceived as dull or inauthentic.