Archive for September, 2014

Don’t Eff-up Your Content Strategy: #1 Know Yourself

Monday, September 29th, 2014


There’s one single most-important piece of information you must communicate. No matter the media. No matter the audience. It has to come through implicitly and explicitly.

That’s your market position.

And it has to shine through every single headline, every word of copy.


It’s about who you are in the market: what needs you fill, what services you provide and what that means to your prospects and whoever may influence them. It guides your company on how to communicate everything from the brand to the product, and how to address both general and specific audiences.

Note this is not about the product, it’s about the company—although sometimes the two merge.


That comes later. A tagline is a more-creative use of language based on your position. It helps articulate it, but it is not a position unilaterally.

According to The Strategic Planning Kit for Dummies:

The positioning statement is the core message you want to deliver in every medium and everything you do.

You can turn your positioning statement into a marketing message in the future. If you need some inspiration, read through these positioning statements:

Wharton Business School: The only business school that trains managers who are global, cross-functional, good leaders, and leveraged by technology

BMW: We make the world’s best-designed vehicles

Southwest Airlines: The short-haul, no-frills, and low-priced airline

Avis: Being the second-ranked vehicle rental agency drives us to deliver better deals and service

Miller Lite: The only beer with superior taste and low caloric content


How you position yourself depends on what you do, but also where you are in your company history or product cycle. Then, to some degree, where you want to be.

A newly-formed company gets to choose who they are (or want to be) in the market based on their products, goals and aspirations. The 100 year-old juggernaut corporation has to recognize their current position and communicate that with integrity.

It can be aspirational. But it must be honest.

It starts by knowing who you are unilaterally and within your market, what you provide and why it’s unique, how it serves your customer and why they should care.


If your position is “We’re the company that’s easy to work with” all your communications have to support it. Ads have to be easy to get. Social media easy to read. Instruction manuals easy to get through.

Want to be easy, be easy. Want to be sophisticated, be that.

Of course, you can course-correct. But not on a daily basis.


Want to be #1? You have to earn it.


Last week, we looked at Oracle OpenWorld, a technology trade show that attracts 50,000 attendees and hundreds of exhibitors, including plenty of partners and competitors.

So positioning the event is more than just focusing on Oracle. Can’t just be about sales or networking. Or about technology at large. Or about a particular user type.

It has to be a place where the net benefit of attending is something that you take back and apply to you own situation, whatever that situation might be:

Oracle OpenWorld is the place where you learn to get greater business value out of your IT.

And you can see how that translated to one (of many) headlines.

Here are a couple more from my files:

Positioning: Working at IBM means you have access to the resources and opportunity for you to fulfill your vision and potential.

Positioning: CAPS leases shipping containers that are high tech, sustainable and reusable.

Positioning: Cambridge Technology Partners hires only the most intellectually capable people.

Positioning: Powersim turns vast amounts of data into meaningful information.

Positioning: TiVo lets you watch what you want, when you want to. (An example of when the company and product position are the same.)


#2: Know your product.

The 10 Essential Building Blocks of Content Strategy

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014


We spent the last few months exploring how and why great creative works. How to break through the clutter. How to recognize—and avoid—clichés and chestnuts. How to speak meaningfully to your audience. How to get them to take action.


Now we’re going to explore how you get there.

And that’s through a single, clear message.


Strategy is a qualitative expression of quantitative understanding.

It starts by knowing who you are unilaterally and within your market, what you provide and why it’s unique, how it serves your customer and why they should care.

Then based on that, crafting a single, clear, unambiguous position.

Strategy is not a headline or copy. It’s not choosing illustration over photography, using Twitter over The Wall St. Journal or doing a video over a banner ad. And  it’s definitely not just restating marketing data.

Strategy informs the creative. It’s the substance behind the headline.


I’m not saying it’s easy. In fact, it can be really scary. But the benefits are manifold.


For years I worked on Oracle OpenWorld, a huge and influential technology trade show. And for years we went into it without strategy. That meant reinventing the wheel with each new wave of communications, with each new opportunity or challenge and every time we needed to course-correct. Different groups made different claims, all expressed differently.

It was maddening, time-consuming and unproductive.

So we started developing a creative/content strategy months before the event—based on exactly the format we’ll explore here—and slowly worked it through the system. It took patience, resilience, tenacity, flexibility and a good bit of humor.

But finally it was approved. Actually signed off by all the major players.

The strategy was: Position Oracle OpenWorld as the place where you learn to get greater business value out of your IT.

And sure enough, the whole communications cycle went more smoothly. It made a huge difference, starting in creative development. During our first major creative review—the first time the design director saw creative—he commented that the work was “more firmly grounded and yet more aspirational” than anything he’d seen at that stage.


Every blog post, banner, ad, poster, email, site sign, conference guide—all of it—was based on a single strategic position. When we had to re-evaluate certain threads, add new channels and include unexpected audiences or programs (which always happens) the work was faster, easier and more consistent. Better still, early registration was up, incentive-based registrations were down and the final number of total attendees exceeded goal.


Building block #1: Know yourself.