When Brain Traffic founder and CEO Kristina Halvorson talks content strategy, she means strategy. She’s seen too many companies put together what they think is a strategy when it’s simply a list of ideas for blog posts or an editorial calendar. “Content strategy is not an editorial plan,” she says, and that’s an error companies often make.
Brain Traffic works with clients to develop content strategies and Halvorson also founded Confab, a series of conferences dedicated to content strategy. I caught up with Kristina recently in advance of her Sept. 9 keynote address at Content Marketing World to learn more about how she talks content strategy with her clients.
Don’t Confuse ‘Content Strategy’ With ‘Content Marketing’
Too many companies develop what they think is a content strategy in a vacuum, Halvorson says. But the custom publishing brands do needs to be tied into their other marketing efforts and overall business strategy — not something that takes them in an entirely different direction.
“Your content strategy is informed by your marketing strategy, but also your brand strategy, your plans for technology and current organizational structure, the internal political climate, audience perception and so on,” she says. “The challenge is that the ‘strategy’ is not tied back into a larger marketing strategy, which is ‘here’s the market we’re focusing on and here’s the behavior we want to change.’”
Effective Content Marketing Takes More than Mandates
Halvorson says 9 out of 10 times when she meets with a company, there’s an executive mandate to produce content fueled by the idea is that publishing more is better. But leaders often don’t think about where they should be focusing the company’s resources — time, money and effort — to develop that content.
Company executives or marketing leaders should ask themselves why they want to get into content marketing in the first place, and then carefully examine their goals and the tactics they want to use to achieve them. Tying all that into the company’s overall business strategy can help, but many companies haven’t even articulated that to their employees in a way that makes sense to them, Halvorson says.
Don’t Do It for the ‘Likes’
Another pitfall of simply creating an editorial plan is that these tend to focus on metrics such as “production” or “engagement,” Halvorson says. If you don’t have goals that fit into your overarching marketing strategy, it will be hard to come up with meaningful metrics.
“Without a content strategy, your content marketing plan is established outside of the context or a larger strategy that’s driven by business goals.” Keeping content marketing within the overall marketing strategy helps integrate it with your larger business goals.
Be Realistic About Content Marketing
Putting together a content strategy can make leaders face some tough questions, Halvorson says. After a deep dive into the company’s overall marketing strategy and tactics, she has a candid conversation with leaders to identify the company’s pain points. Knowing their own shortcomings and needs is key to helping an organization scale a strategy to something manageable.
“People love to talk about opportunities but don’t talk about what exists now — they feel like if they move fast enough they can leave mistakes behind. But that doesn’t happen,” Halvorson says. “It’s much better to start with a candid conversation about what needs to happen.”
For example, if your editorial plan calls for daily blogging, that may put a serious strain on the people you’re calling on to write all those blog posts. To mitigate that problem, you’ll need to either scale back your production goals, hire more people, or bring on freelancers or consultants to help with writing.
But first, leaders have to align on the content strategy to make the hard decisions, she says. Only then can they focus on the tactics of assembling publishing tools, developing production processes, identifying publishing platforms and taking the other steps necessary to execute an effective content marketing effort.
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