When I was in journalism school, I learned the fundamentals of a good news story—that every article should answer Who, What, When, Where and Why. The concept was called the "Five Ws"; the idea was to set some basics on how to tell a good story and make it relevant to the reader.
What does that have to do with marketing today? Pretty much everything. Just like good journalism, good content strategy focuses on the story you have to tell and the reader you are trying to attract.
In a newly social world—marked by an allegiance to authenticity, and engagement, and trust, and personality, and all that—businesses are rethinking how they approach their marketing and communications. What's more, in an online world where everyone and anyone is able to produce content cheaply and efficiently, you had better be sure that your own stuff is up to snuff. Otherwise, you—and your company—will be summarily ignored.
In other words, when you are trying to engage your intended audience, you need to create something that's compelling. Something people want to read, or watch, or listen to, or interact with, or otherwise consume. You want them to find it remarkable, even. You want them to love it so much that they'll pass it around, and share it with friends and contacts on the various social media platforms. In other words, your social media marketing strategy starts with a content strategy.
So what is content? It's relevant and useful information that your visitors will find helpful, educational, interesting, or (sometimes) just plain fun. It can take countless forms, depending on various factors: The needs of your audience, your goals, your organization's expertise and brand, as well as available time, resources and budget. Your content, then, might be a blog, or a series of ebooks or whitepapers, a podcast, or videos, or community platforms, or a combination of all those.
So how to you decide what to develop? Start by asking yourself a series of questions to craft a compelling content strategy that will resonate with your own customers and prospects. Answering these five fundamental questions will help you define your goals and your business objectives, and will allow you to consider how your content strategy integrates with your other efforts.
1. What are your goals?
The cornerstone of any content strategy is to match what you want to produce with your business objectives and strategic goals. Key here is to answer this question: How will your content strategy integrate with your other strategic efforts?
2: Who is your audience?
Who are the members of your target audience—customers or prospects? What are their problems? And more important: How can you help them?
3: What do you want the content to achieve?
What effects do you want you content to have? What action do you want customers or prospects to take? And how will you measure their behavior and define the "success" of your efforts?
4: What are you going to develop?
How can you present the content in a way that best engages the intended audience? What are their preferences, demographics? Are they offline or online? What types of media or which platforms best resonate with your customers, or your prospects? What's your budget?
5: How are you going to develop it?
What is your approach to developing whatever it is you are going to develop?
These last two questions (the What and the How of development) are central to your content efforts; it's critical to your success that you get them right.
So is content a cornerstone of your company's marketing? What have you created?
Bio: Ann Handley is the Chief Content Officer ofMarketingProfs.com, which provides strategic and tactical marketing know-how. She also blogs at her acclaimed personal web log. Follow her on Twitter @marketingprofs.
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