January 08, 2015

The 5 Content Marketing No-no's to Avoid This Time

It's a new year. You're back in the office. You're all caught up on everyone's holiday adventures--even the ones you didn't really care to hear.

Well, top off your coffee, 'cause it's time to get to work! How is your content strategy coming along, anyway? You're still planning it? Don't panic. That means you can get off on the right foot.

Let's check your plans against the following list of no-no's--critical items you want to avoid.

1. No Editorial Board

Unless you are a very small company (a You-and-Your-Future-Former-Friend-Turned-Plaintiff-in-a-Legal-Dispute-Over-the-Idea-in-Your-Mom's-Garage sized company), you had better not be sitting by yourself thinking up a content plan. Not only are you not going to get it right, but every department that needs content in and out of marketing is going to be doing the same silo exercise. And the result will be sub-optimal--duplicated efforts and a lack of coherence.

Look up and down the funnel and across the content creation arms of the company and get at least one rep from each group to make up an Editorial Board. This runs from products to post-sale. Bring pizza or donuts (or both). They'll come. Prepare to get them together quarterly.

2. No Tents

What does the editorial board do? First, they agree on the big Tents you'll have for content over the coming period. This is looking at the state of the industry and the trends, the business' goals, your product road maps and launch plans, the industry events, competitive intelligence, and last, but by no means least, customer needs, requests and complaints.

Balancing all these inputs, the board will determine what themes and story lines to pursue for the year. All content will be created to reinforce these tents. No one should spend time creating content that doesn't fit in one of the tents. Without tents, you risk a lot of disconnected content.

3. No Content Calendar

Your calendar will be adjustable over time, but that doesn't mean you can get by without one. Use Annual planning to map out the major arcs. Some factors, like launches and events, have set dates. Get those on the calendar. Then sketch out your themes and stories in time. Think about when should you talk about what for maximum timing to an event or launch.

On a Quarterly basis, meet to adjust the forward calendar, review what's working and not, and plan the intermediate term content. Any tent of content that will be active in the coming quarter or two will need tent poles in place. The calendar informs everyone what's to be worked on and what's coming for each tent.

4. No Tent Poles

Tent poles are the content asserts that support each of the tents--these are comprehensive pieces on a topic or theme that not only define your major position, but also serve as the source for derivative pieces that complete the content needs of various channels and tactics.

If instead you start at the bottom and create individual pieces for each tactic, you will be recreating a lot of work, even if they are on-theme. Plus, you risk drifting into content that is not on theme as, for example, the social team goes in one direction and the marketing automation team another.

On the other hand, if all you do is create and promote the comprehensive tent pole assets, you'll be under-leveraged and undermining performance in each channel.

So start with the tent poles--usually an ebook, report, white paper, long video, or contest--and convert that into blog posts, infographics, social media updates, drip campaigns, short videos, and so on. Marketing teams should meet monthly to coordinate the upcoming pieces.

5. No Map

Equally important to the content calendar is the engagement map. In and of itself, informative, well-executed content is a great contribution to society. Swell. But you've got a business to grow. And your prospects have their own jobs to do.

Your content is the bridge joining these lofty pursuits.

To do that well, you have to segment your content by persona and by buying stage. Take the extreme case--the all-in-one piece of content. It's got something for everyone from the CEO to the cleaning crew. From the lookie-loo to the buyer with credit card in hand. The all-in-one asset doesn't serve the reader well, because they have to wade through irrelevant material (or more likely, they will just drop it). It doesn't serve you well either, because you haven't learned who they are or where they are in a buying cycle.

Target each piece of content at a persona and stage of their buying process. Promote it so that it's obvious to them that it is what they want, when they want it. Then they will self-identify with their engagement. Now you know what to do next.

To review: Editorial Board, Tents, Calendar, Tent Poles, Engagement Maps--Good. Random, disintegrated, unscheduled, duplicated, unsegmented content--Bad.

Got it? Okay, content marketers, order those pizzas and donuts and start your Editorial Engines.

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