How to Tame the Content Monster

content_monster

It’s not your imagination — content is a scary beast. With four or five heads and about a dozen legs moving in all different directions, it can be difficult to wrangle.

Some businesses and organizations find it so difficult that many end up taking the Field of Dreams approach — they write an article, post it to their website, and wait for the page views to roll in. When the site traffic doesn’t materialize, they’re confused as to why their “plan” didn’t work.

But that “if you build it, they will come” plan pretty much only works on ghostly members of the Chicago White Sox. You need a more aggressive plan if you want that content to actually reach people.

Step 1: Identify Your Channels

When you create a piece of content, whether it’s a feature story, an advertisement, a promotional video, an info piece on a new service, or even just a great photo, you should ask yourself, “What are all the ways I could get this content to my audience?”

Think of these channels as all the legs your content monster could have. You probably have a website, so that’s one way. But you should also add (or consider adding):

  • E-newsletters/Email
  • Social Media
  • Print
    • newspaper ads
    • magazine ads
    • billboards
    • postcards
    • flyers
  • Digital
    • signage
    • web advertisements – newspaper, GoogleAds, etc
  • Television
  • Radio
  • Video
    • YouTube
  • Word-of-mouth

content_monster_channels

Step 2: Determine Suitability of Available Channels

Obviously, not all of the channels listed above are going to be right for your content, and this helps a lot when it comes to understanding the number of directions your content monster can go. A print ad isn’t going to need to be translated into video. And a photo can’t be turned into a radio commercial.

But let’s say you’re a small business with an equally small (but growing) client base. You’ve got a new service you’d like to promote to both existing and potential customers. Web, email, digital advertising, social media, and smaller print mediums would be totally appropriate. And don’t forget there’s always the personal interactions you have with existing and potential customers every day.

Whether you use something as big as television or radio, or even a billboard, is going to depend on the size of your business, and whether you’ll see a return on investment.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has a great list of pros and cons for various channels that would apply to B2C content. Melcrum, an internal communications research firm, has a great comparison table for weighing the pros and cons of different types of internal communication channels.

Step 3: Make that Monster Match

So, granted, five different channels seems like a lot. But if you put a little time into creating messaging that matches, it will all start to feel cohesive.

Use similar wording in your tweets and Facebook posts as you use in your emails. Give graphics in web banners and digital ads the same look and feel with matching typography and complimentary color palettes. Use the same family of images across all mediums, whether they’re print, video, or web.

Before you know it, your content monster will start to look pretty put together. Not only that, but the consistency will help reinforce your message no matter where people see it. If they run across it in their email, and then see a similar graphic in a web ad, a little spark of consciousness will likely say, “Hey, I’ve seen that before. What is that about?”

content_monster_matches

Step 4: Keep Content on a Leash with Strategy

Content strategy is THE most important part of delivering your message to your audience, and it’s key to keeping your content monster under control. But be aware that it will take the most mental effort on your part.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of content strategy, it’s basically delivering information that your audience actually wants to see/read/use, right where they’d want or expect to see/read/use it.

This means you’ll need to switch gears from selling a service (where the focus is on you) to solving a customer’s problem or fulfilling a customer’s need (so the focus is on them). It also means you’ll have to put some thought into where you place your message, and when you push it out.

If you’re a florist, an ad for 50% off all May arrangements might not be terribly effective if it just shows up as a flyer in someone’s post office box in mid-April. But an email or social media post in early May about how Mother’s Day is just around the corner could be immensely effective, since most people order flowers online these days…and Mother’s Day seriously does creep up out of nowhere every year.

Northwestern University has a great online course on the topic of content strategy, available on Coursera. It’s free, and if you’re new to putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, it can be a huge help in altering your mindset.

content_monster_gears

Step 5: Measure, Measure, Measure

While the effectiveness of some channels is not easily measured (like direct mail or print advertising), the success of some channels are very quantifiable. Channels like email, website links, social media, and sometimes digital ads can give you great insight into who’s clicking what, and when. Use this data to refine further content strategies in the future.

For instance, try an A/B subject line test for your next email blast or play with different distribution days/times. If you have the level of data needed, try sending separate messages tailored to the recipient’s age group. (Note: It’s probably best to stay away from trying to tailor messages to a person’s gender, as this could offend those who self-identify as the opposite sex.)

Over time, these tweaks to your content strategy will make your efforts more and more effective, and will help your content reach audience members outside your circle of influence.

Do you have additional methods of managing content? Be sure to share in the comments!

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