Consistency is the lifeblood of a sound content strategy
In my days as a full-time PR professional, one of the tasks I enjoyed most was the public relations ‘message house’. For one, it meant taking a wholesome view of the client’s business and industry, digging deep into unique themes and impact. But it also meant that all parties were on the same page, from agency teams to the marketing and communication professionals on the client’s side.
Cut to today, applying the same discipline to content marketing has met with reasonable degrees of distrust and judgment. The requirement usually is for some blog posts, some video scripts, and some social media content. Do we really spend time or money, often both, on a strategy deck when we can just get some blog posts from you? The answer, almost always, is a resounding ‘yes’. That is when I realized that as a public relations professional, consistent messaging, tonality, and style are a matter of habit for me. Because inconsistency could result in soul-killing headlines, working weekends, late nights and unnecessary heartburn. But what can possibly go wrong as far as own content is concerned? A lot, as it turns out.
Why consistency is important for your content strategy
The answer is simply – without consistency, you are not leveraging all the opportunities to connect with your audience - for your messages to resonate, or even for them to look forward to what you have to say. Creating one-off content might help your audience understand some issues and themes better. But that does not mean that they will be able to relate these issues and themes back to your brand.
Think of it in terms of cinema. Consider an actor who delivers amazing performances in relatable movies year after year. Naturally, as a fan you will look forward to his or her movies. This connection is powerful. It takes conscious strategy, thoughtfulness, and effort in signing single-mindedly good projects. More importantly, a few wrong choices can make the connection go away overnight.
With engaging visuals and consistent messaging, brands are able to reach audience through their online journeys, build sound connections. Eventually, they are able to position themselves to be top-of-mind as not just a consumable but also a trusted resource of information and ideas.
With consumers engaging with brands like they do with their peers, the touch points are for the taking! Content has never been more important in the context of forging relationships. It is no longer as much about selling your product and services to consumers as it is about forging deep connections and turning them into friends and advocates.
Despite all of this, only 37 % businesses have a documented content strategy at the core of their efforts. This is a gap waiting to be filled.
What goes in the making of an effective content strategy?
The most crucial components include:
- Well-defined goals: By goals, I don’t just mean the number of downloads, clicks, or purchases you are looking for from each piece of content. That is tactical and comes much later. From a larger perspective, you need business and reputation goals for your content strategy.
- Audience: An in-depth understanding of who your customers are, what they need to hear and the language they speak forms the foundation of a content strategy. Without it, you are just casting the net wide and hoping to get lucky. Defining your audience will also give you a clearer picture of which platforms you must be on. On social media alone, there are far too many channels to choose from. Do you really need to be on all of them? Not always. Aligning each piece of content with the right audience on the right platform is crucial in order to pursue content marketing effectively.
- Core messages: Once you have your bigger business and reputation goals at hand, think about the messages you want most to resonate with your audience. Often, I have observed marketing teams confuse taglines with core messages. But in terms of content strategy, it is the laundry list of maximum three messages you want your audience to retain. These messages form the heart of every single piece of content you generate – from your Instagram posts and stories to your whitepapers and blog posts.
- Proof points: Once you have your core messages in place, you need to find supporting data from within the organization that supports your messages. For example, if your message is that you are an artificial intelligence or IoT thought leader, proof points will include factors like the projects you have done in the domain, customers you have worked with, numbers that prove your claim as an expert and the in-house expertise you bring to the table. For large, established organizations, such data points are easy to find. For smaller organizations or start-ups, the founders’ voices, expertise, and experience play a big role in establishing trust in your messages and positioning.
- Personality: In my opinion, in our cluttered social media feeds and industry landscapes, personality differentiates the leaders from the pseudo. The persona you are trying to develop needs to be aligned with your own brand and product/service in order to come across as authentic. At the same time, it needs to take into account the personas of your audience segments too. I have observed many start-ups adopt the ‘cool and irreverent’ persona simply because it is expected of a startup to be all of that. But if your end user is from the conservative banking and finance sector, you will find it hard to resonate or build trust among people who matter most to your business.
You have a consistent strategy in place. What next?
Effective content marketing means consistency not only in your messages but also in your frequency and distribution. If you post five blog posts or podcasts in one month and none in the next, your viewership too will fluctuate accordingly. An editorial calendar solves this issue by bringing teams on the same page in terms of how much and how frequently your brand needs to produce content. It will give you some idea about the number of resources and specific skills you need on-board. For example, if you are going to be posting one video a month, do you need an in-house video producer or will a freelance professional do?
Content calendars also help brands outline how each piece of content performs and which days of the week or times of the day garner most engagement. This information ensures that you invest time and money in the effective content formats and platforms, which in return reduce wastage. Further, it promises to maximise the impact of each piece of content and campaign.
As more and more platforms and formats come into play, content promises to become one of the most crucial marketing investments that brands will have to make. Over time, the pace of content production will increase and it will become cumbersome to create, distribute, and measure such huge volumes. It is safe to say that starting small and starting right is going to be crucial for your content effort to be effective. How far along are you in this journey?