Content Strategy Explained in 180 Seconds

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Andy Crestodina
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Impossible? Probably. But here’s our best attempt to explain the basics of content strategy in 3 short minutes.

If you have a minute for a few more details, let’s go a little deeper…


What is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is about planning the creation, promotion, and measurement of content. This content attracts visitors to our website, creating meaningful interactions that meet the needs of our audience and our business.

Really, strategy is just a fancy word for plan. So a content strategy is a plan for content marketing. It’s the plan for attracting visitors and inspiring them to take action. It’s the plan for generating demand by using content.

It’s usually done once in the beginning, referred to weekly or monthly, and revised yearly. It includes these things:

  • Audience

  • Mission …for us and our audience

  • Topics

  • Keywords

  • Influencers

  • Social and email promotion

  • A plan
  • Measurement and ongoing optimization

Let’s take a closer look at each:


audience_rounded

  Audience

Knowing our audience, their fears and hopes, their needs and dreams, is the key. We must know them so we can give them what they want. If we give our audience enough of what they want, we’ll get what we need.

Empathy is the greatest marketing skill.

The formal process for this is called “persona development.” Formal or not, it’s worth the time to do anything that puts us in their shoes. Kevin Cain has a nice set of questions that will help.

Targeting Business Buyers? (B2B)

  • Where do they work and what are their titles?

  • What do they need?

  • What’s going to motivate them to make a purchase?

  • What are their pain points and what concerns do they have that could potentially prevent them from buying?

  • Are they the ultimate decision-maker?

  • Are they an economic buyer or a technical buyer?

  • Who influences them in terms of their buying decisions?

Targeting Consumers Directly? (B2C)

  • How old are they and where do they live?

  • What do they need?

  • What are their personal tastes and preferences?

  • What are their pain points and what concerns do they have that could potentially prevent them from buying?

  • Are they the ultimate decision-maker?

  • What is their lifestyle like and how does that impact their buying decisions?

  • Who influences them in terms of their buying decisions?

gear

 Mission

Businesses have a mission, vision, and values. These describe why they exist. Brands have positioning statements. This describes the value of the offer to the world, but content strategists go one level deeper…

A content mission statement describes what content we offer to our audience and how it is helpful to them. It’s a cousin to the publishing mission statements that newspaper and magazine editors have used for decades.

To put our content marketing on a mission, Joe Pulizzi suggests filling in these blanks:

[Our company] is the place where
[our audience] gets
[what information] that offers
[what benefit].

Write it down. From this day forward, this is our compass. Our guide. Everything we publish aligns with this. Everything we share (whether we wrote it or not) aligns with this. A mission statement is powerful because it’s focussed on our audience. It’s focussed on the benefits.

Orbit’s mission is:

Orbit Media (our company) is the place for business owners, creatives, and marketers (our audience) to find expert, practical advice on web design and content marketing (what information). Our goal is to help you get better results from the web (what benefit).


guide-topics

  Topics

Now, let’s get specific.

The right topic is one that answers the questions our audience is asking. It helps them make a buying decision. Great content is either informative (learn), useful (do), or entertaining (feel). If we create something that isn’t one of these, we might be in advertising mode. If so, don’t hit the publish button.

Our topics should fit together like a hub with spokes. Creating content hubs both makes our sites more search friendly and more meaningful for visitors. The result of good content planning is a well organized set of pages.

Some pages show the big picture (like this one), others drill down and get very specific with prescriptive advice. Together, all of this content comprises our brand’s “lifetime body of work” …or LBOW.


keyword

  Keywords

This comes next because it overlaps with researching topics. Often, we discover topics while searching for keywords. Or we’re inspired by a topic and then find a keyword to align it with.

Either way, every page is an opportunity to rank for a different phrase. The marketers who win are the ones who know how to check to see if a phrase is popular (search volume) and if they have a chance of ranking for it (competition). Read How to Research Keywords to learn more.


Influencers01

  Influencers

Look around. There are people in our industry who already have the attention of our audience. They may be social media types, media websites, magazines, or authors. They’ve already built the audience we’re targeting.

If we find these people, we can borrow their audience and get attention quickly. This is what advertisers have always done, but as content marketers, we’re going to get there another way: by providing value.

  • Provide useful content to them, and publish on their website

  • Invite them to create content with us, then promote it together

  • Interview them on our site

Either way, the goal is to make something great and make it highly visible.

With a non-salesy pitch and a collaborative mentality, we can politely pitch influencers and create something that our combined audience will love and share.


mail

  Social and Email Promotion

The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins. The best content doesn’t win. The best promoted content wins. via @orbiteers So we need to share and send, using social media and email marketing.

We all have our favorite social networks, but our goal is to be active in our audience’s favorite social network. Hopefully, we discovered this during our audience research above. And hopefully, we’ve taken the time to make friends and build a following there. Build the army before you go to war, as they say.

We’ll send out our content through email marketing. Email is critical. We don’t own our search engine rank or our following on social media. These are on proprietary websites (Google, Facebook, etc.), but we do own our list. Every serious content marketer I know is aggressively growing their email list.


chart2-measurement

  The Plan

The outcome of our strategy work is our publishing calendar. This is the plan. Here, we commit to the schedule. This schedule includes the what, the where, and the who.

Make no little plans.

So said Chicago architecture legend Daniel Burnham. Little plans have no power to “stir men’s blood.” Make big plans. Here’s what a big content plan isn’t…

  • Not just blog posts.
    We’ll create content in different formats – videos, guides, graphics – whatever our audience may like.

  • Not just on our website.
    We’ll publish different places, wherever our audience spends time. This will be social networks, but also other blogs and media sites.

  • Not just created by us.
    We’ll work together with influencers to co-create content that our audience will love and the influencer may share.

All of these elements, what/where/who, go into our publishing calendar.


chart3

  Measure and Optimize

Every action in content marketing has a measurable result. Every tweet, post, visit, and visitor can be measured. But measurement alone isn’t enough. Our goal is to improve, make better decisions, and get smarter. Our goal is to optimize.

There are two forms of optimization: one for traffic, the other for conversion rates. Every action we take should affect one of these two numbers. Understand this and you’re ready to improve.

Here are some questions we can answer:

  • Which of our content performs best in which channel? Let’s do more of that.

  • Which pages are inspiring visitors to subscribe? Let’s make more of those.

  • Which types of visitors are most likely to take action? Let’s find more of them.

Performance varies wildly. We must always seek to find which topics, keywords, influencers, partner websites, formats, and channels work best. The faster we learn, the faster we improve our growth rate….

B2B marketers who have a documented content strategy are far more likely to consider themselves effective (66 percent vs. 11 percent).
source: Content Marketing Institute/Marketing Profs


How’d We Do?

We know that there are some veteran marketing pros who read this blog. OK, senior content strategists and MBAs. Your turn. What did we miss?

Be gentle. It’s not easy to summarize a huge topic in three minutes! Ask, answer, and contribute your insights with a comment below…

Also, we’d like to give a special shout out to Jeff Hurd for knocking out the video for us! If anyone would like to use or embed the video you can do so here

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Comments (27)
  • Excellent video Andy

  • Another great example of how Orbit walks the talk. Not only do you create terrific websites to help us do business better – but you lead by example how to make the most of it (increase traffic and customers).

    • Thanks, Stephanie! I’ll pass along that compliment to the team. We couldn’t do it without the talented crew we have here.

  • Thanks for this post. It’s always key to remember that the customer comes first. We need to always remember to give them what they want, in the format they want it and in the environment where they’ll find it. Great read and video.

    • You just summarized Andy’s summary perfectly!

  • Andy, it just needs to be said: You are a master at this stuff and getting better and better! Thanks for the great post.

  • Thoroughly enjoyed this. Looking forward to reading more!

    • Thanks for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment. Glad you enjoyed this one!

  • You nailed this, Andy. Superb 5,000 foot view in 180 seconds. I’m always impressed. Drilling down an organization must explore it’s ability and capacity to create/generate content, practical frequency to publish, what internal/external resources are available or will need to be integrated, budget and will to plan, execute, stay committed etc. However, you’ve laid out a spot-on road map for any organization to start effectively content-marketing. Well done and thank you.

    • On behalf of Andy, thanks for the kinds words! I’m sure he’ll be chiming in on Monday when he gets back from his birthday vacation in Belize. If he chimes in now, he’s going to be in big big trouble! 🙂

  • I am totally impressed with all the content. The best 3 minutes and great read. thank you for creating.

  • Great video. Was Prezi used?

    • Glad you liked it!

      Our super talented friend, Jeff Hurd, made the video for us using After Effects.

  • Y’all are on fire!! Excellent video!

  • Amazing content that hits all of your self-defined marks. I’ve already shared on Google Plus. My only dismay is that each and every time I share one of your genius posts, the social media channels can’t pull an appealing image that reflects the wonderousness that lies within.

    • Hey Lori! Amanda here (a.k.a the blog editor). Thanks for sharing the post!

      We usually have one ‘featured image’ to go with every post. This one was different because of the video. That’s why you got Andy’s mug as the thumbnail 🙂 Are you having issues with the main image showing up when you share?

      • Thanks for the follow up, Amanda. I’ve got you over on Google Plus for the resolution. This content is just too wonderful not to share.

        • Agreed, Lori!

  • Really well done Andy. I see ideas in here from a lot of different places and you’ve pulled it together nicely. I’d definitely call this a content marketing strategy vs. a content strategy. There’s a governance piece that needs to be included to be a strategy for content in general.

    • Interesting distinction! Yes, this is “content marketing strategy” and I see how “content strategy” would be a larger topic. I never write about governance because I’ve never really had to deal with it. You’ve identified one of my blind spots…

      Thanks for the input, Lee. I knew it would be insightful!

  • Andy, you can do more in a 3 minute video than most people can do in a 1 hour speech. And it was just about 1500 words…!
    PS I like Orbit’s mission and would love to hear what your Vision is.

    • Glad you go the comments figured out, Danny! I’m now following you on the Twitter, so DM me anytime 🙂

  • You are such a genius, Andy. It’s amazing how you explicate your content strategy in just a matter of 180 seconds with a very clear and brief explanation. I concur with the idea of how you planned, developed and managed your content especially your intelligence in connection with this kind of issue. It signifies your willingness to educate us people in your own unique way and tried to explain your thought in a simple but exactly understandable way.

  • Great resource! Truely helpful. Thank you!

  • Great content. Thank you . Shame the video is not responsive. I couldn’t see it properly on my mobile 🙂

  • This is an awesomely concise guide. The industry spends so much time arguing what “content strategy” means, and it’s refreshing to see it broken down to the most essential elements that actually matter. Love it.

 
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