How to create a brand-driven content strategy

A lot of brands know they need a content strategy and some even already hired a content strategist. Unfortunately, a lot of them don’t even know what content strategy really means. In this blog post, I will show some concepts, according to different experts in the area, and explain how to create a brand-driven content strategy according to Margot Bloomstein in her book “Content Strategy at Work: Real-world Stories to Strengthen Every Interactive Project“.

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Source: Pexels

First things first: what is a content strategy?

According to Rahel Bailie, author of „Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits“ a content strategy is a “repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire lifecycle“. Margot Bloomstein says that a content strategy is “planning for the creation, aggregation, and governance of content that’s useful, usable, and appropriate in an experience.“ Kristina Halvorson founder/CEO of Brain Traffic, states that “content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” What all these smart women mean is that content strategy refers to the management of pretty much any tangible media that you create and own: written, visual, downloadable, online, offline… It is the piece of your communication plan that regularly expresses who you are and the expertise you bring to your industry.

Why is a content strategy important?

Content brings a lot of benefits for your brand. Here are just some of them:

  • Content generates traffic for the website
  • Content nurtures leads by providing relevant information to clients/prospects clients
  • Content can strengthen one’s brand by positioning it as the leader in the industry
  • Content can increase customer retention
  • Content can increase word-of-mouth marketing
  • Content can increase willingness to pay
  • Consistent brand communications point to a greater differentiation from competition

Just to name a few. Now that you know what a content strategy is and how important it is to put a content strategy into practice in your organization, here are the steps of performing a brand-driven content strategy.

Step 1: Develop a value-based message architecture

Step 2: Create buyer personas

Step 3: Perform a content audit

Step 4: Develop content models

Step 5: Establish editorial style guidelines and calendar

Step 1: Develop a value-based message architecture

A message architecture guarantees a company-wide consistent communication in terms of voice   and tone and goes along with the brand’s value architecture. It affects nomenclature, calls to actions, content types and sentence structure.

To create a message architecture an exercise with the marketing and communications team called cardsorting, developed by Margot Bloomstein, is recommended. The exercise encourages engagement with brand attributes. A set of cards with different adjectives will be prepared. These adjectives reflect certain brand attributes. In a workshop, the team assigns the different cards into three categories in order to create a hierarchy of communication goals, which reflects a common vocabulary:

– Who we are

– Who we’d like to be

– Who we’re not

In the next step, the team filters the results and check if there are qualities in the future that will trump or subsume present qualities. Then move the relevant cards from the “we are” column to the “we’d like to be” column. In the last round, the focus will be on the “who we’d like to be” category. At this point, it’s important that the team members have an opened eye regarding the brand’s architecture and decide whether a chosen term fits the corporate values, or not. After executing the selection process, the team forms groups and prioritizes communication messages. The result is a clear message architecture, which is consistent with the brand’s core values.

Step 2: Create buyer personas

One crucial factor for every content strategic project is to get to know users needs as good as possible. Only by combining the company’s view (workshop, message architecture) with the user’s view, it’s possible to publish relevant content on a regular basis. To develop personas, interviews with the target group should be guided. The purpose of the interviews is to better understand what are their needs, pain points and how the product (or brand) and its content will help them. The result of the interviews should be analyzed and buyer personas will be developed. These buyer personas are not only relevant concerning the content creation process, but also when it comes to distributing the right content to the right people at the right time.

Step 3: Perform a content audit

In order to implement the developed message architecture, an analysis of the status quo of the content is necessary. This should be done with the help of a content audit, where all content is evaluated. A quantitative content audit helps to identify the most important and best-performing content and pages on the website. Then a qualitative content audit should be performed. The criteria for the second audit depend on the message architecture, the defined communication goals as well as the target group. In this stage, content gets a score, which is based on whether a certain piece of content fulfills defined communication goals, or not.

Step 4: Develop content types and models

Based on the content audit and the buyer personas, content types/models will be specified. This provides a clear framework for decision makers as well as content creators when it comes to sticking to the content strategy. Moreover, content models help in terms of SEO, because metadata plays an increasingly important role for search engine algorithms. Structured content performs significantly better and therefore leads to more organic traffic on the website.

Step 5: Establish editorial style guidelines and calendar

A content creation guideline for content creators such as authors, designers, photographers and video makers will be developed to transform the brand-driven content strategy into relevant, highly qualitative content to ensure the implementation of the new content strategy.

Conclusion

I know this is a lot of information, but the work has just begun. It takes time, organization, planning and creativity to grow a successful content strategy. Tell me your thoughts about it and if this post was helpful to you in the comments session.

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