Thought leadership and content marketing can help you to build your brand whatever your size or industry. In addition to improving your reputation and strengthening your brand positioning, great content can also initiate new client conversations, improve your customer engagement and reinforce purchase decisions.
Key to success is crystallising your message.
Just this week Cambridge professor, Dr Victoria Bateman exposed herself on the BBC Today programme in order to ‘condense all her words down to a one powerful message’.
It caught my attention because of the lengths she went to get her message across. But, striping off should not be necessary to have impact. In the less politically charged (only slightly!) environment of business communications, I think there are 5 easy steps to developing strong content with a clear message.
Step 1 – Strategy
Make your business strategy your starting point.
Working out what you need to say is easier if you have a clear business strategy and well-established and fully aligned communications objectives. You may also have the support and commitment from senior stakeholders who are able to bring ideas and help ensure you are supporting their vision for the business. If these aren’t in place already, essentially, you should establish what you want to stand for and your current positioning in the market. Taking a look at what your competitors are saying will be helpful input to this. However you get there, having a clear strategy will help you to work through who your audiences are and what they might want to hear from you.
Step 2 – Creation
Jump in and start to develop some content.
You may just need to develop a messaging framework to guide all of your future communication. If you need more distinctive content or thought leadership, your starting point should be to develop a hypothesis which will drive your point of view as well as any research you might want to commission to support it. Now you can start to write, edit and then review your content. Don’t leave it too late to think about the outputs you might use to bring it to life which will likely include web pages, blogs, press statements, but might also include video, podcasts, print outputs, sales enablement and launch communications.
Step 3 – Dissemination
Get your content out there
As with the other steps, your approach for communicating your message will be more effective if it’s well aligned with your business strategy. Online presence, including your website, search and social media, is critically important, but not exclusively. Don’t forget about your people as brand ambassadors for your ideas. Critically, encourage the CEO and his leadership team to ‘own’ aspects of your messaging or campaign angles. Your content and thought leadership will take flight if it can be crisply articulated by you, your people and particularly your leadership team. As you package things up, it might be helpful to think about developing a content toolkit which you can create to deploy your key messages, visuals, social media posts, event scripts, video, audio podcasts, elevator pitch amongst other bits and pieces.
Step 4 – Curation
Select, organise and profile your content library.
Content curation is a step often missing by many and easily deployed by those working in financial and professional services marketing. Don’t be scared to dust off your old research. You can find interesting ways to revisit your back catalogue and make it relevant to today. You might be approaching an important anniversary which creates an an opportunity to update your research. Also, events are happening constantly, so think about hooking into what’s happening in the world. Or perhaps you can mine a theme (i.e. technology disruption) and explore implications through a sector view. Don’t forget to harness potential social media engagement around your curated content.
Step 5 – Measuring your impact
So, how did you do?
Many times I’ve been part of teams so exhausted after a campaign launch that they’re off on holiday. Actually, your work to build a successful campaign around your content has only just begun. Checking some basic metrics in the first week can enable you to tweak your message and customise for different audiences as required. At a later point, when you’re reviewing the overall campaign success, if some clear objectives have been in place upfront, you will be well-positioned to measure how well it’s gone. No two projects are the same, so the key thing is to measure each project against its specific objectives. For example, you may have been seeking strong PR impact in one campaign and sales engagement in another.
The tips in this post are a good starting point, but the challenge is always in the execution. We would be delighted to hear from anyone worried about any of the steps in their journey to creating great content.