The need to communicate and tell a story online is here to stay. Algorithms happen and our approach to distribution changes, but we still have a need to bring brands to life. That’s why a content strategy is the foundation of a strong social presence.
Too often in social we throw things at the wall. We test and we try, without understanding the why. But this fly-by approach makes it hard to map the work back to meaningful goals.
It’s hard to stop, pause and think in social. It takes a lot of work to put things to paper. But, I’m a big believer in it, especially when it comes to a content strategy. Here’s why.
First, a content strategy gives the work purpose. It starts with an understanding of your organizational goals and cascades off of that. We’re in the business of making fun things; but more importantly, we’re in the business of driving results (whatever that is for the org).
Second, it helps get buy in. When you work as a team to put things to paper, people understand the vision and rally around it. A good content strategy gets everyone from leadership to the team executing aligned. It helps you push back when things don’t make sense because you have a reason for being.
Third, it gives people a box to play in. The best creative happens when you define lanes.
So, what is a content strategy composed of? Every project and need is different for teams, but here are the critical components I like to put to paper when mapping out a plan.
Chapter 1 – The Foundation
The foundation outlines what the plan is set out to do, keeping the broader organization in mind. This is where you give a sense of purpose to the work. Normally when I’m working through a strategy deck, the foundation includes:
This is as simple as it sounds. What are the goals of the content strategy? Are you trying to tell a more robust brand story? Do you want to build a deeper connection with fans? Typically, the goals outlined are more broad based and long term.
This is the hard-hitting statement of what you want to accomplish — and it is measurable. So, for example, at the end of the day you want to increase engagement with your fan base. Make this statement to the point and measurable.
A plan without key performance indictors is an aimless plan. It’s imperative to put to paper what success looks like. Period.
You can’t build a plan without understanding who you’re talking to. As part of the foundation, it’s important to put to paper your target consumer. And remember, this isn’t demographics alone. It’s also psychographic. Define their attitude, lifestyle and interests – beyond sport.
Current State & Challenges
The current state is a reflection of the current status of the work, both the good and the work in progress. Celebrate, but also be real. After the current state, go into the challenges. What is keeping you from doing the best work possible? Identify where you need help or where you need to pivot. Be ready to address solutions too.
Chapter 2 – Content Approach
The next chapter in this journey is where you start digging into your content approach. It’s not your actual ideas, but more about your philosophy to content to guide the ideas.
Guiding principles set the approach to your content. They aren’t hard fast rules per say, but they help define your brand and team’s philosophy to content. For example, a guiding principle could be to “lead with emotion”.
Your visual language is important. Studies have shown that color, shape, etc. help convey emotion. This is the place in your strategy where you pull swipes of inspiration to set the mood for the look and feel. It’s an important piece that can impact the entire tone of the work, campaign, your brand.
Content pillars are the topic buckets for your content. It’s your thematics. They’re the heart of the matter, really, and should ladder back to organization goals. Every content pillar should convey a message that is important for your team, league or brand. Examples of this might include “fan content, legacy, brand values”.
A platform approach is a high-level look at how you’ll mold your content ideas for each platform. Essentially, it’s nuances of what works and what doesn’t. Social media content shouldn’t be an all-out blanketed approach. Instead, it’s imperative as marketers that we play to each platform’s strength. There should be synergy to your channels, yes, but the way the content comes to life might be a bit different.
Chapter 3 – The Ideas
Now that the foundation is laid, it’s time to get into the fun stuff. The ideas! This next chapter lays out all the franchises or content pieces (at a high level) that you want to produce. Here is what’s included with this.
Map Back to the Pillars
Here you ideate around each content pillar. What unique content can you create to convey the message that’s important to your brand? The ideas can stem from everything to a photo series a podcast to a video series. The sky is the limit really as long as it maps back to what you’re trying to accomplish. As you flush out each content series, be sure to denote the platform and any creative nuances.
What’s Needed To Get It Done
Remember the challenges you addressed earlier? Now you need to tackle those and outline a solution (from a resource and process perspective) on how you can get this done.
Chapter 4 – The Distribution
You can’t have a content strategy without a distribution strategy. The last chapter should outline at a high level look at how the content will be distributed. This can be an organic approach and a paid approach.
This is just a high level framework of what a content strategy can entail. Every project has different needs, but putting thoughts to paper is critical. It helps define the work, the purpose and the mission. Now the sky is the limit for telling your brand, team or product story. Start strategizing and ideating!
What have you learned from working through a content strategy? I would love to hear your thoughts below!