Formulate Your Content Strategy in 10 Simple Steps
By Steve Sponder, chief digital officer, Lawton Communications Group Ltd.
More and more, brands are recognizing that a
strategic approach to content is becoming important.
Content is moving from being among the final
considerations of a Web-development project, to
being front and center in a digital-marketing
Engage via Conversation
It's easy for brands to get drawn into the hype
around the latest format, platform, or tactic. A
couple of years ago, brands were all asking for a
"viral," whereas, now they all seem to be asking for
But, content is merely a means to an end: Content
drives conversations; conversations are how you
engage with people; and engaging with people is the
only way brands will be able to survive in the
social-media-disrupted world we now live in.
Formulating a content strategy can be a difficult
process, partly because of the many considerations,
and partly because of the number of stakeholders.
So, to help, here's a simple 10-step systematic
process for formulating a content strategy.
Set some principles. Doing so allows the brand to
have a healthy and robust discussion around
authenticity, transparency, and humility, as well as
an opportunity to define the engagement policy.
Also, acknowledge that because brands no longer
control when the conversations end, you need to
commit to making continual investments. Unlike a
campaign, this endeavor is ongoing.
2. Business Objectives
Here we get into the "Why are we doing this?"
question. Clarify your objectives; link them to
appropriate metrics, setting targets if possible;
and define a budget.
3. Brand Purpose
Substance focuses the mind on what subjects and
topics are important to you. What's your position on
things, your point of view? Where's the evidence
that you're serious about content? What's your
story? What's your purpose? Why should people care?
For example, Dove believes that the world would be a
better place if women were allowed to feel good
about themselves. Fanta believes the world would be
a better place if we grew up less and played more.
Scrabble believes the world would be a better place
if we loved words more. And, Coca-Cola believes the
world would be a better place if we saw the glass as
half full, not half empty.
Identifying your brand ideal is a great way to
uncover your purpose and gives you something to
anchor your content to. Remember, you need to
support your brand ideal with evidence. Just paying
lip service is playing with fire.
4. Content Value (Social Currency)
What value does your content deliver directly to
people? What value does it deliver indirectly (i.e.,
the payback you get for telling someone else about
it)? The direct value is the content's social
currency, and there are five types of value:
• Entertainment value. Advertising campaigns
typically deal in this currency. It's worth asking
whether the idea lends itself to being parodied, as
that can be a potent conversation multiplier;
How can we blend some of those together to make them
more potent? Attempting to blend various values
together is the modern-day equivalent of the
challenges faced in creating an integrated campaign
(i.e., you need a multi-disciplined, experienced,
and talented team to work collaboratively together).
• Personal value. Fame delivers powerful personal
value. The rise of The X Factor-type television
shows and other reality-TV shows over recent years
indicates the value that people place on such
• Knowledge value. B2B thought leadership via white
papers is an example;
• Monetary value. Consumer public relations (PR)
typically deals in this type of currency with
promotions and competitions;
• Utility value. Many iPhone apps fall into this
Who is going to be creating or producing all this
great content for you? You have more choices than
you may realize:
• Employees can be an effective choice;
• Agencies are an obvious route;
• You could use industry peers by simply
sign-posting people to relevant, interesting stuff;
• User-generated content (UGC), crowdsourcing, and
co-creation can also be a viable option for some
Which social and digital channels will the content
be going out through? Or, put another way, what's
the distribution strategy?
• Brand media: Outposts, websites, email, or events;
Another challenging question: Is the brand able to
build a social destination? Not many brands can pull
that off. If you try, and you don't currently have
enough pulling power, you could find yourself
spending a lot of money on generating traffic, which
is pointless. It may be better to get out into the
communities that already exist.
• Earned media: Influencer networks, communities, or
the media (what used to be called the press);
• Paid media.
Formats that are appropriate to use include blog
posts; presentations; videos; pictures; podcasts;
tweets; Facebook; iPhone apps; or live streams.
Repurpose your content into different formats. For
example, a white paper could be repurposed into a
YouTube-video interview with the author, then into a
series of blog posts, and then into an iTunes
Remember, conversations can't be turned off like
campaigns, so plan for a rolling three-month content
schedule. Consider what will be preplanned, and what
will be left as ad hoc and reactive. How will you
ensure a constant stream of content? How are you
going to create peaks of interest?
9. Social Agents
Who will be manning your brand outposts? Who will be
managing the conversations? Who will be building the
relationships? Who will be redirecting questions or
suggestions to the appropriate internal function?
Who will be looking for early signs of an online
Ultimately, who will be responsible for your social
Will your social agents be a central team, a
distributed team, all employees, an agency?
10. Active Listening
To find out what the reaction to your content has
been, you need to ensure you have set up your
What conversations have you started? What
conversations do you want to join? How are you
tracking against your objectives, targets, and
---Source: MarkingProfs newsletter
Aug. 31, 2010 (www.marketingprofs.com). Steve
Sponder is the chief digital officer for Lawton
Communications Group Ltd. (www.lawtoncommsgroup.com).
Reach him via email at email@example.com.