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Content strategy basics


When you think about it, ‘content’ means just about everything for an organisation. Sales discussions, social media posts, blog articles, advertising, whitepapers, networking events, newsletters – any interaction you have with people when representing your organisation is ‘content’ in some form and should reflect your content strategy.


Consider the iceberg of questions you have to answer every day when it comes to how you speak about yourself, from your social media strategy to automated marketing and even your UX copy.


Thankfully, content strategy helps separate these questions into different, manageable, and testable areas.


In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some basic content strategy concepts to get you thinking about a content plan for your brand.


We’ve broken things down into two areas.



From these jumping-off points, your entire content strategy can propel you to new heights, but do so without you ever feeling overwhelmed.


Brand planning


Regardless of whether or not your organisation is a startup or twenty years old, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of who you are as a brand and how you communicate this.


The results of brand planning become your source-of-truth for every decision you make – from every single word, image and touchpoint that represents you through to the business decisions you make.


Brand planning is multifaceted, but you don’t have to tackle challenges all at once. The best place to start is at the beginning: what’s your story?


Clarifying your story and writing it down has many benefits. It helps you:


  • build your business

  • create clarity for customers

  • improve employee retention

  • create a unified and clear understanding of who you are and where you’re going.


Beginning the process of telling your story helps you shape your brand planning – from your brand ‘voice’ through to your visual branding. Below are some areas to consider when planning out your brand.


Brand personality


Fundamental to your brand planning is establishing your personality.


To narrow this down, consider using the 12 archetypes popularised by Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw.


This is a simple and efficient way a brand can explore identities it feels it most strongly aligns with. Sitting in a brand voice workshop, you might be surprised how many differing opinions there are across different stakeholders for well-established brands. Marketers, product owners, CEOs, sales teams – they all approach the brand and their customers differently, and so often identify with different archetypes.


It’s important (and also fun) to get everyone together to narrow down these archetypes and decide on one or more that you can use as a basis for your brand personality.


For instance, stakeholders at a health provider might associate with the archetype of The Caregiver, with the single drive of helping others. But a product owner in that workshop might also point out all the innovative digital solutions they provide customers, such as a mobile app. That product owner might align with The Magician archetype, one which is driven by the desire to transform the status quo.


At Avion, we merge two archetypes for any given brand, as it allows us to reflect the reality of most brands out there, where seemingly unrelated character traits complement each other. By merging the two archetypes, a stronger brand personality begins to appear.


Tone of voice


Crafting engaging copy is one thing – creating content that performs optimally across your media platforms is another ballgame.

For example, your home page web copy will feel different to how you represent your brand on Instagram. This is because web copy can explore service offerings in detail, where the same space isn’t available on a primarily visual platform such as Instagram. In that scenario, you need to find quick and effective ways to communicate your identity and value as a brand.


This process involves switching your ‘tone of voice’. It uses the brand personality we discussed above as a source-of-truth. Knowing who you are as a brand and what your core value is within your market, you can then build out different approaches to your tone of voice depending on who you’re speaking to and where you’re speaking. A sales representative attending a networking event may have a very different tone of voice when representing your brand than you do in your whitepapers or your social media posts. But they understand the nature of your brand so feel empowered to apply a specific tone that reflects the nuances of that environment.


Key messaging


As part of building out your brand personality, you can look at your key messaging. We work closely with brands, both new and established, to distill key messaging across three areas:


1. Elevator pitch


Your elevator pitch takes you less than 30 seconds. It’s what you say at a barbeque and it has a single hook in there to reel your listener in and peak their interest.


2. Outline


Now you have their attention, how do you spend the next two minutes? Your outline begins to tell the story. It has a narrative arch – a beginning, middle and end. It’s the synopsis that makes your listener say, “I want to see that movie.”


3. Deep-dive


Asking some key questions can often help provide some enlightening answers.

  • What’s the context of your brand?

  • What problem are you solving?

  • Who are your customers/audience?

  • What sets you apart and how do you achieve your aims?


Your deep-dive doesn’t leave anything unanswered, it concisely communicates everything the listeners need to know to go out and be your champion.


Establishing your key messaging as a brand goes a long way in shaping your brand personality. It gives your teams a shared understanding of your value as a brand and the best way to represent it. How they communicate that personality (the ‘tone of voice’) is up to them and their situation.


Audience segmentation


Creating personas is one way to clarify who you’re talking to, and what they want to hear. A detailed persona can clearly identify your target markets’ pain points, underlying motivations and expectations of your brand.


Establishing your personas is different depending on whether you’re a new or existing brand.


  • New brands may need to do market research to get an idea of who is interested in their offering. And even then, they should keep in mind that their personas will likely shift with time.

  • Existing brands can draw on data to establish their personas – such as website data and sales data. Building out new offerings may require you to look beyond your current audience personas, however.

Knowing your audience and what they want is a must when communicating your value. You may have a brand personality, but how you communicate it depends on who you're talking to.


Brand goals


Ideally, your business goals shouldn’t be broad. Rather, all your business, brand and marketing goals should be specific, manageable and time dependent.


Let’s take one example: “By the end of the next calendar year, we’ll have increased open rates for our email newsletter by 10%”.


Establishing your goals is like sketching out the dimensions of a portrait. They’re your guidelines within which you can shape specific strategies for achieving each goal. Take the example above. Knowing you want to increase newsletter engagement may mean you take resources from somewhere else and dedicate them to this goal (a possible financial decision), while it will start you on your journey towards creating specific content/marketing strategies to increase engagement (e.g. long-form content, A/B testing, prizes for new subscribers, refer & earn programs).


Having clear and simple goals will create opportunities and help you make decisions. For instance, if you aim to increase click-through rates for newsletters, will you invest in the ability to track how many of these end up as paying customers? A goal like this will help you make decisions across not just your content but across your business.


Content planning


Content planning is where you set up the systems, processes and plans to perfectly execute your content strategy. Let’s tackle this with another analogy: The diver on the diving board (can you tell we like analogies?).


The diving board is built out during your brand planning. Done right, it sets you up for that seamless execution and entry into the pool.


Just like brand planning, content planning is an area with many moving parts. It can be easy to take on too many things at once and get stuck in the weeds. Below are some examples of areas you can dedicate time towards to make some headway with your content plan.


Content auditing


Content auditing can be one of the most valuable investments an established brand can make.


Doing it correctly can be the problem. This is because content auditing often relies on context. For instance, a major financial institution may be weighed down by the legacy of 10+ years of internal PDFs, loaded up into an intranet, which nobody seems responsible for. This will require a particular approach that is different to, say, a tech company wanting its online rewards program audited to improve UX and uptake. The first one involves thousands of documents to review and many stakeholders to manage. The second one is an easier content flow to audit, but has its own nuances.


This is why content auditing goals need to be clear. That financial institution with 5000+ PDFs needs to establish clear and achievable goals, balancing the investment it can make into an audit alongside other goals. So, that financial institution might set the goal to audit 1000 pdfs within 12 months, and have a long-term goal of completing an entire audit within 5 years. This helps decision-makers budget resources alongside other business needs.


There are different evaluation systems agencies like ours use in a content audit, but they all stem from the one idea: keep, update, or delete?


A spring clean of your content can have wide ranging impacts, from your website traffic through to your employee morale. We all know how we feel when our homes need a spring clean. It’s the same for employees who can feel weighed down by the barnacles of outdated content.


Finally, for some institutions, content auditing is a matter of regulation. Regulators are increasingly eagle-eyed, and content auditing is often a vital part of remaining compliant and avoiding significant fines.


Content calendars


One of the most fun parts of a content strategy is creating your content calendar. Your calendar covers all sorts of outputs – from blogs, newsletters, social media, events, speeches and more – for all of your communications channels.


But there’s a key to successfully creating your first few content calendars: start small.


A simple spreadsheet is all you need to get started.


Start by mapping out what you want to say on your channels (such as your blog or social media) and when you want to say it. Aim to plan for the next six months, with the goal to revisit and analyse your content at the end. From there, you can start to get smart with everything, integrating analytics and third-party tools to give you a bird’s-eye-view of your content.


You might dive into your analytics and identify key content areas you want to focus on in the next 12 months. You’ll also see traffic data for existing content. This can inform what topics you put into your content calendar.


Channels


Ever had the unfortunate experience of watching a brand bite off more than they can chew?


Maybe they:


  • have regular newsletters that get very little engagement

  • exist on every social media platform but lack a social media strategy

  • get subject matter experts to pump out blogs but don’t make them easily discoverable.


This is why it pays to start simple when choosing your channels. Your first step should always be brand planning, and once your plan is looking slick, you can dig into content planning and channels.


Whether you’re new or established as a brand, here are some questions to get you started.


  1. Are your customers on that channel?

  2. What’s your individual strategy for each channel?

  3. How will you measure success and what processes will you have to make iterative improvements to that channel?

  4. What kind of resource can you dedicate to each channel? In other words, what kind of investment are you willing to make?


Hot tip: if your answer is “next to nothing” for the last question, it might be useful to reconsider how each available channel helps you achieve your goals. Then, consider your resourcing capabilities and available expertise.


These deep dives help paint a picture that highlights which channels look best for you. From there, you can dedicate time to building out a solid strategy. For instance, you may simply give newsletters the boot and sink your resources into social media instead.


Automated processes


Automating processes can provide more time to revisit a content strategy and measure its success.


Here are some automated processes you can consider to help free up your teams.


  1. Pulling your website analytics into a live spreadsheet lets users flick between what’s been executed, what’s coming up, and your current metrics. This can help you make iterative tweaks and improvements to your content plan on the fly. There are also live dashboards you can create that are updated live, distilling the info you want from a large pool of data.

  2. Automating emails and prompts can free up time and show that you’re communicating with customers/users at key decision-making moments.

  3. Creating set times of the year for auditing, rather than leaving it all to one push. Auditing existing content, like landing pages or blogs, can prevent your systems becoming bloated with duplicated content and help pinpoint problems that can lead to thornier issues, like cyberattacks.

Where next?


Reach out if you need help with establishing the basics of your content strategy, such as your brand voice or content planning systems. We can help set you up with the foundations that’ll get your content working for you and not against you.







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