Making content magic happen

Columbus content manager, Rachelle Beaven
By Columbus content manager, Rachelle Beaven | 24 November 2016
Rachelle Beaven

Content sits across every digital touch point - your brand’s online perception is hinged on it. So why do we spend so little time establishing an effective content marketing framework, from understanding our audience, to how we measure success?

With only 28% of Australian marketers vowing that their content marketing strategy is actually effective (CMI 2016), it is no longer viable to just add to the noise. It’s time for brands to hold their teams accountable in driving measurable change and return on investment.

There is no single framework for success. Great content is the product of careful strategy and planning. Nonetheless, there are some simple methods you can apply to make your content work harder for your brand. Whether you’re looking to challenge your existing strategy, or simply benchmark your approach, read on to discover the fundamentals that will drive your content play further.

Understand your people

As marketers, it is our goal to create meaningful connections between people, ideas and brands. In order to do this, we must be tenacious in understanding our audience and the small idiosyncrasies that make them unique.

In the new media landscape, it’s easy to be blindsided by new format and channel trends, but we should always start with (and revisit) our audience to command our overarching approach.

How does your audience think, act and feel? More importantly, what is keeping them awake at night? We can no longer define people by the top-level demographics that bind them. At Columbus, we look beyond these to understand our audience’s triggers, barriers and pain points. We consider their device and channel preferences, what types of content they are creating, consuming and sharing. We analyse their sentiment across social and study their behaviour across search.

People can’t be reduced to numbers or trends, so we strive to understand who they are, rather than how they can be loosely defined.

Leverage intent

Every minute spent online, our most valuable prospect is leaving rich intent markers for us to tap in to, to power up our content marketing efforts. We just need to listen.

Searches, social actions, website interactions, and time spent engaging – they’re all telling actions that we can leverage to ideate and serve meaningful content experiences. In fact, marketing personalisation on a broader scale depends on the ability to segment, mine and action data in this exact way.

This type of content planning forces us to look beyond WHAT content people are consuming, and consider the WHY. Instead of aggregating social trends, it means looking at the cultural triggers that underpin a movement. Instead of reacting to rising online conversations, it means leveraging audience truths to make new waves.

Planning content in this way will ensure you’re not just simply filling content gaps, but that you are leading the charge. Integrating seasonal data in to your content planning process will further ensure relevancy. This is where content magic happens: at the intersection of audience, seasonality, and intent.

Own your territory

One of the most challenging (and exciting) parts of defining a brand’s content marketing strategy is determining where that brand has the right to play. Content territories should always push back to your audience and their relationship to your brand. This is one area where a strategy can become weak – either running a mile wide and an inch deep, or placing too much emphasis on the brand or product, rather than the needs of the audience.

The landscape is fragmented enough, as the amount of content people create continues to increase exponentially. Our two cents: Find your niche. Be clear on your territories. Discover meaningful stories your brand has the right to tell, and truly own them.

Uphold creative integrity

Be determined and particular about the quality of your content. There is absolutely no point producing content for content’s sake. Just as great creative can be transformational for a brand, poorly executed content can be equally as damaging.

Create guidelines and challenge your thinking. Does this content actually offer value or solve a problem? Does this execution stay true to our strategic objectives? Does it align with our tone of voice? Will it genuinely pull our audience closer to our brand?

Just 36% of Australian marketers have an editorial mission statement for their primary audience (CMI 2016). If you haven’t already, it’s time to create production standards to measure your content quality against. Once you’ve found your pattern, the focus is on scaling this standard upward and gaining pace and regularity. The old adage is valid here: quality over quantity.

Test and learn

It is our job to dig deeper when content doesn’t perform. Equally, it is our job to understand exactly why a piece of content did perform, to constantly adjust the process. This sounds simple enough – but test and learn is something that brands and agencies tend to preach rather than action.

An effective content strategy includes a robust measurement plan. It should be clear from the outset what success looks like for a campaign or wider strategy. It is also crucial that test and learn is adopted in real time, not just retrospectively. This is when we have the biggest opportunity to move the dial.

Only 55% of Australian marketers say that their organisation is clear on what successful content marketing looks like (CMI 2016).

If you ask us, we would say that a successful content marketing program is the sum of its parts. From audience understanding, through to strategy, ideation, production and amplification, we need to continue to challenge the process, and remain accountable for making it better.

Whether your brand’s content strategy is just beginning to find form, or you’re looking to strengthen an existing process, constant refinement will be crucial to your success.

By Rachelle Beaven, content manager at performance agency Columbus.

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