All dressed up and nowhere to go. That may be the case for an occasional Saturday night, but it’s certainly not what you want for your content. Yet, many businesses begin creating content without first having a defined strategy, without a clear plan for what they’re going to do with their content.

Combining content strategy and content creation is essential according to Rahel Bailie, author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand and benefits. “It means designing content, not just the copy, but the processes by which you create the content so that everything can be consistent and everything can push out the same message and reach the right people at the right time. It also means having the tools and technologies to be able to do this in a way that’s going to be efficient.”

United Breaks Guitars

Dave Carroll’s band and instruments flew on United Airlines, resulting in one of the guitars being broken in transit. A letter to customer service didn’t resolve the problem, so Dave created a music video, United Breaks Guitars, posted it on YouTube and finally got a response after a million plus views shamed United into taking action. (From United’s standpoint, this is an example of really, really bad user generated content.)

The video was the content marketing part (creating compelling and entertaining content), but the strategy part (maximizing social media capability) is the infrastructure that allows you to distribute the video (content) so that it could become amplified, engaged and ultimately effective. Without the strategic plan for distribution, Dave would still have a broken guitar.

Three Legs of a Comprehensive Strategy

Rahel has developed a three-legged stool analogy that helps brands break down their silos to develop a solid marketing strategy.

  • Leg One – Content and User Experience (knowing your audience needs)
  • Leg Two – People and Processes (in-house management procedures)
  • Leg Three – Tools and Technologies (capabilities)

She explains: “You have to have content and user experience, that’s one leg. You have to have people and processes because a lot of times when you change how content gets produced so that it can be distributed better, it becomes a changed management issue. You may have to redo some of your processes. You need the right people and you need the right processes; that’s the second leg. And then you need the tools and technologies; that’s the third leg. If you don’t have one of those legs, your stool is going to fall over. So if you have all of those legs working together, supporting the goal of a common platform for content, then you’ve got a solid foundation on which to build your marketing strategy.”

This stool rests on a content strategy lifecycle of analysis, collection, management and publication.

Content Strategy Lifecycle

This defines a repeatable process that will keep content flowing, maintaining a consistent brand message across all channels. Potentially different from other strategies/lifecycles, it still holds the elements needed for proper execution. Understanding the processes of the lifecycle and having the infrastructure and technology to support it enables the content creators, distributors, IT and C-suite individuals to work together, from a central plan that everyone has bought into, so the business goals and objectives are accomplished through collaborative efforts.

Marketing does not stop at the acquisition of customers or as soon as the sale happens. The content marketing lifecycle needs to incorporate the customer’s lifecycle. Content should be produced at the acquisition stage, the retention stage, and then the renewal stage. Content must be delivered to audiences at each stage, engaging with them throughout their personal buyer journey.

Content, Strategy and Social Media

“Social business” is the growing realization that social media is an integral part of the two-way conversation that is content marketing. Consumers are definitely talking directly to companies as well as to each other via social media. Martin van der Roest calls social media “the illuminator of the content,” because it generates wider distribution by means of shares, retweets, likes, curation, and so forth.

Content marketing, content strategy and social media are all components of “social business.”

  • Content marketing – compelling content going to the right people at the right time
  • Content strategy – analysis and planning to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content within lifecycle activities
  • Social Media – your content on steroids

Putting It All Together

Content marketing is a lot of work, no doubt about it. It takes planning, deliberation, people and talent.

Rahel gives a quick wrap up for initiating a successful content marketing initiative: “Recognize that as a content marketer, ‘I can’t do it alone, and there are parts that I’ll be good at and there are other parts that people are already being paid to be good at.’ I would find the user-experience person in the organization (Leg One) and the technology person in the organization (Leg Three), and I would talk to the change management person (Leg Two) and strike up a cross-functional committee or team and say, ‘Here’s our goal, let’s all work together to make the magic happen,’ and then you can proceed with everyone focusing in their area of expertise, but all helping prop up the stool so you can get the business done.”

Join the Conversation:

  • What impact does your organization’s current technology capability have on your content strategy planning? Can you accomplish all that you envision?
  • How do you use social media to maximize your content marketing efforts?
  • Can you see ways to develop a more cohesive team by pulling in multiple department contributors to the content strategy/content marketing planning?
This article highlights selected excerpts from CMX’s interview with Rahel Anne Bailie of Intentional Design, and Martin van der Roest of the Examiner on the topic of How Can Content Strategy Drive Value for Content Marketing? – July 25, 2013.