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Getting clear on content: Aligning outreach tactics under your communication strategy

Getting clear on content: Aligning outreach tactics under your communication strategy

By Jessica Gabriel

The purpose of a content strategy is to advance your organization’s priorities by clearly communicating its value to stakeholders. Establishing a content strategy enables your organization to identify criteria for the information it delivers to one or more target audiences — if content doesn’t satisfy those criteria, it’s not contributing to your strategy. For example, SBA.gov’s content strategy specifies that the site should help small business owners start up, succeed and grow, or it must provide performance information about the agency. All content should satisfy one of those two goals to make the cut.

The overarching theme for all content strategies is consistency. This approach provides your organization a message that can be sustained during an extended period of time, and it ensures all content communicates similar themes and does not conflict. A content strategy guides what information is displayed on your website and all other communications associated with your brand, such as print marketing material and speeches.

Successfully implementing a content strategy consists of three main phases:

  • Plan — The objective of the planning phase is to define your organization’s overall strategic goals and sketch out a roadmap that will guide your future content development activities. Identify your target audience’s needs through a variety of qualitative and quantitative research such as focus group studies, web metrics, usability testing and customer surveys. Next determine how your organization can meet these needs through web, print and other forms of content. Create core high-level messaging that aligns with what you’ve learned your audience needs. Validate you are on the right track by testing your ideas and designs with your target audience before moving forward. Create a checklist that all content must adhere to in order to be truly strategic.
  • Create — The second phase involves putting your plans into action by developing content. This could include digital products such as online tools, websites, blogs, podcasts and videos or print materials including brochures and fact sheets. Your research will inform what tactics and tone are best for your audience. Create a detailed schedule and work plan to chart out who will work on each content development project, when it will be completed and how much it will cost. Then, most important, get started and never stop producing strategy-aligned content (pull out that checklist)!
  • Deploy — Now that your content is ready for deployment, it’s time to raise awareness through outreach programs that will build awareness about your organization’s value. Monitor and track relevant metrics such as page views, click-through rates, comments and more to see if your outreach efforts are effective. Pre- and post-testing regarding attitudes about your organization before and after your content squarely aligned to a strategy could also provide valuable insight.

If your content is consistent with your strategy and follows the steps above, the effects will be cumulative instead of random. Your organization will achieve a greater level of engagement from your target audience, increase efficiency and cut costs by spending less time explaining what you do and more time doing it. For federal agencies, this means connecting more citizens to key services and information that will improve their lives. A content strategy helps you consistently resonate with your audience on different platforms, as well as build and maintain credibility with them.

A content strategy should be focused on engagement more than promotion. It should help determine what types of content would appeal to your target audience and ultimately result in a desired action or behavior. It’s important that content is always customer- or user-centric so you produce content your audience actually needs or wants. For example, listing 10 steps to starting a business is more helpful to the SBA’s audience than robust content on energy efficiency, which is probably covered in another agency’s content strategy.

Internally, stakeholders need to be engaged and understand the content strategy and messaging so the entire organization is on board with what you are trying to communicate. This also provides an opportunity for them to be heard, making them feel empowered to spread the word about you.

Perhaps most important, creating a content strategy will help you decide what you’re not going to waste time on so you can maximize the results of your communication efforts and achieve organizational goals.

Image courtesy Flickr user FutUndBeidl

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