The 10 Essential Building Blocks of Content Strategy

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

FIRST AND FOREMOST:

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.

THAT SAID:

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

And that’s through a single, clear message.

IT’S ABOUT STRATEGY:

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.

STRATEGY DEMANDS PICKING A LANE:

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

FOR EXAMPLE:

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.

Sweet.

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.

NEXT WEEK:

Building block #1: Know yourself.

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