Where Do Content Strategies Come From?

by | Sep 1, 2020

In 30 years of broadcast news—and a few years as a children’s book author—one thing I’ve developed is an affinity for simple questions.

Particularly questions that are posed as simple questions—but really aren’t.

Like, “Where do babies come from?” or “Why?”

It’s in that spirit that I’d like you to think about this simple-but-not-simple question:

“Where do content strategies come from?”

Let’s stipulate a few things up-front:

  1. Content strategies should come from somewhere.
  2. “Jimmy” raising his hand and telling you he’ll have one by Friday… is not a good thing.
  3. Content strategies have as much to do with who you’re talking to as with what you want to say.

That last stipulation can be particularly challenging.  Because the pursuit of a content strategy typically comes out of marketing or communications, and falls on the heels of a desire to better tell “the company’s story.”  Worse, there’s an implied notion that it’s somebody’s job to create it. This, inadvertently if not predictably, assumes the strategy is something, that somehow, should come magically from within.

It should not.

Successful content strategy actually comes from a deep understanding of the audience you seek to move.  As soon as you have the bare essence of what you hope to communicate in hand,  get to work on your audiences.  And don’t let just anyone take it on. Find people who are truly expert at this. It’s a ‘thing’.

The primary focus when starting to build a content strategy is external.

  1. Have a clear desired outcome. For example, “We want to move people from Point-A to Point-B to reach this particular, behavioral objective.”
  2. Develop a clear POV regarding which people you seek to move. Are they business leaders? Influencers? Consumers?
  3. Spend the majority of your time – weeks even – really researching each of the audiences at issue.

In our experience at IEN, we’ve seen a billion-dollar company with demonstrable ability to win with a strategy crafted for Audience #1. Then turn and run after Audience #2 as if it were Audience #1. And a year and a half later – they hadn’t sold a thing to Audience #2!

They simply didn’t appreciate the profound difference that a different audience can make—and should make! —in their strategy. Once they stopped to learn about the new audience and recalibrate their approach, they were closing deals within a few months.

The road begins with learning about the audience and it ends with one helluva view. You end up understanding them deeply: The questions they ask. The answers they seek. What they say. Where they say it. And you learn a thing or three about what they think about you. The value of the effort will be clear and measurable, whether you’re tracking content consumed, followers engaged, sales leads or deals closed.

To get there, we deploy experienced journalists (who report to journalists) directly in this pursuit.

Here’s a sampling of what they do.

  • Develop highly-informed source-lists inside and outside our client companies, in the same and related sectors
  • Conduct focused—unbiased—interviews to advance learning
  • Engage with key influencers, Subject Matter Experts, and consumers
  • Distill third-party reporting from a multitude of sources
  • Leverage online research tools to get deeper insights
    • Digital/social conversation volume and topical trends
    • Hierarchy of influencers
    • Sentiment analysis
    • Audience segmentation and affinities
    • Most shared content by platform
    • Data matching across social platforms

Perhaps most importantly, the IEN team is iterating every step of the way with the client… our sources. Finding the data. Leaving no stone unturned.

The excitement for the client lies in knowing what’s knowable. It’s like a light being turned on in the dark.  You see the path forward. You understand how to engage the people you want to engage. You know precisely where, when and in what manner to achieve optimal outcomes. And you see results.

That’s where content strategies come from.

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