We were treated to a special Google Hangout with Facebook Content Strategist Jon Colman. This special Meetup, organized by Andrea Goulet Ford, was both informative and useful to a wide audience of communicators, from bloggers and social media strategists to email marketers and public relations professionals such as ourselves.
What is a content strategy? Colman says the term can most clearly be defined as the planning process for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
Colman’s presentation was fun and informative–not to mention filled with great quotes. As someone who’s worked as a journalist, social media marketer and now PR pro, I got a lot out of it. Here are some highlights:
1. Content is the whole experience
Content isn’t just the words you’re writing for your brand, it’s the entire experience–from the fonts and design to the user interface and coding that makes it all tick. Part of that experience is understanding how your end-users or customers are interacting with your content.
Many content creators don’t think about how end users will connect with their content. Colman demonstrated this by showing a photo of a typical vending machine keypad and explaining that the order of the keys, with letters going down one side and numbers down the other, is laid out counter-intuitively to the typical user’s eye motion.
2. Content strategy defines how you portray your brand to the world
Your content strategy should be much more centered around your brand’s values than just ‘what Google tells you to do’ in an SEO sense. Colman showed a great example of how email marketing service Mailchimp put together a comprehensive style and tone guide that gives their support team examples of how to respond to customers using the voice of Freddie, the company’s fun and playful monkey mascot, but adapt it to any situation depending on the context and seriousness of the situation. By doing this, Mailchimp increased customer loyalty and built brand affinity, and scaled the strategy from a small startup to one of the largest and most successful email marketing companies in the world today.
3. Putting processes in place and using them consistently lessens your strategy’s technical debt
By putting systems into place that allow you do things like publish your content once and have it pushed to multiple platforms at once, plus having content you can reuse and readapt for multiple uses, you’ll lessen your technical debt (the time it takes you to post and repost content and change/adapt it).
Colman wrapped up his presentation by dispelling a common myth about content strategists. “Content strategists don’t make things like blog posts, press releases, etcetera, they make systems that drive the performance of those things and make the brand make sense,” Colman said. “We make systems that make things. Things for people.”
Ford says the main problem content producers are facing today is outdated business processes that can’t keep up with the high volume of information businesses need to publish to their social media channels these days.
“There are antiquated business processes that get in the way of good content. It’s not a talent or expertise problem. It’s a leadership and organizational one.”
Ford says by building bridges between your company’s creative and leadership teams, you can take ownership of your brand’s voice. “Sit down with someone and get their vision for the company, and make sure your content matches your values.”