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Content Strategy—Plan and Execute

Content strategy refers to planning, creation, publication and governance of content. In the age of the web, where the phrase “content is king” has become over-used and cliched (albeit true), having a solid content strategy is essential to kicking butt online.

You know you need to create great content to succeed on the web, but where do you start? How do you go about figuring out what your “voice” will be, how frequently you will publish, on what topics, and in what form?

Should you use only text and images, or throw in some video as well? How do you make the time for all of this, and what are some newer or more “hidden” kinds of content you can publish during times where you’re stumped (or just to liven things up)?

Here are some tips to help you plan and navigate content creation.

1)      Determine Your Voice

This is perhaps the most important and foremost thing you should consider when developing your content strategy. Who are you and what do you stand for? If you’re a company, what kind of brand are you looking to develop?

One little trick is to ask yourself, “If my company/blog/website was a celebrity, who would they be?

Would they be Paris Hilton, or Paul Krugman? Would they speak in short, snappy sentences, using a lot of slang words, or write in more academic prose?

Once you can pinpoint a celebrity or well-known person as the “voice” of your brand, it should become much easier for your edit your copy, decide which words to keep or throw out, and how to approach your audience.

The important thing though is to always sound authentic. People generally gravitate much more towards content that seems as though it was written by a “real person”, even if it’s not always the most well-punctuated or grammatically correct. We’re not saying that you should shun good English, but simply that on the web, you should generally write as though you speak, and worry more about coming across as “real” than about writing pefect sentences.

2)      Know Your Audience

Okay, so now you know who you are, but who are you writing for? Content without an audience is like a tree falling in a forest—no one can hear it, and no one cares.

In the same way you develop a profile for your “brand voice”, you need to develop a profile for your “ideal audience”. Where do they work, and what do they do? What do they like to read, watch, eat, and do for leisure?

Creating a persona can be incredibly fun, but remember not to let your imagination run away with you! Make sure that the type of persona you create actually exists in the real world.

Ideally, you should be able to pinpoint at least one, or a few, real people who fall into the category of your “perfect audience”. Now, whenever you set out to write, you can imagine yourself writing for them, and all of a sudden, you’ll know exactly what to say.

3)      Create a Schedule

“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” (yes, random and cheesy Hallmark-card type quotations are totally part of the FabHire brand voice).

But seriously, creating a calendar is essentially to gaining control of the madness that is content creation, especially if you have multiple authors at your company. Regardless of whether it’s just you, or a bunch of people working on content, you’ll want to incorpoate an editorial calendar that puts you one step ahead of the game.  EditFlow is a great editorial calendar tool for small businesses.

Also, we recommend that you set out specific times on specific days to work on your content, and then stick to it—no distractions! So if you decide that Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9 – 11 a.m. are your times for creating content, don’t be swayed—the discipline alone with turn you into a content machine before you know it.

4)      Mix It Up

Words are great (and this is coming from a very, very avid reader),  but you need to get with the program and mix things up a bit! YouTube videos, images on Pinterest, and other forms of newer content have been exploding on the web for a while now, and you need to seriously considering including them as content formats if you want to keep your audience interested.

A word of caution though: We don’t recommend that you follow the crowd and do things just because everyone else is doing them—the type of format you choose really needs to fit in with your brand voice (see #1).

However, we do recommend that you keep your audience in mind when you create new content, and that you publish in fresh, new formats if you genuinely think it might be interesting to them.

So mix it up! If you’ve written 10 “How To” blog posts in the past month, why not do an interview with an expert in your industry, or publish an instructional video instead?

Yes, producing good content can be time-consuming, but remember, content is the currency of the web, so it really is a case of “publish or perish”.

5)      Stumped? Use “Content Fillers”

Yes, there will be days when you find yourself completely at a loss for words, or having too bad a hair day to put yourself on video.

What do you do?

Here are some neat options we call “content fillers” (just totally made up the term right here), that count as content, but are different from the usual text-image-video options.

a)      Publish a survey

Surveys are a great way to keep the publishing momentum going while not having to produce content that’s highly labor-intensive. Plus, any good company should be seeking regular audience input and interaction anyway!

A survey can take many forms—feedback on your product or service, or just random, amusing questions that would tickle your audience. Try to be creative here and don’t make it all about you.

SurveyMonkey is a great tool that let’s you easily create, customize, and publish surveys online.

b)      Conduct a Webinar

Okay, so webinars aren’t quite as easy to pull off as quick surveys, but they can be a great way to connect with your audience on a personal level and literally put your “voice” out there.

Webinars require pre-planning, as you not only need to determine a topic and vocal content, but also get your audience to sign up in advance so you know that people are listening. GoToWebinar is a great tool that makes it easy to plan and conduct webinars.

So instead of writing for an hour, why not sit back and chat with your audience about an interesting subject? Depending on your personality, you might actually find it more invigorating.

c)       Create a Slideshow

Slideshows are a great to way to provide digestable nuggets of information and educate your audience on a particular topic. Slideshows, especially ones with lots of easy-to-understand charts, graphs and statistics, can help you come across as thought leader.

Slideshare is an awesome tool that allows you to easily share presentations not just on your blog, but across the web.

What are some other types of content and content strategies you can think of?