Sometimes, the industry gets so wrapped up in the latest “craze” that something gets lost in translation. “Content is King” was one of those crazes.
It was a nice little phrase that almost all of the Digital Marketing industry picked up on, and parroted like it was going out of fashion. Further to this, many went on to expand the idea and throw in queens, thrones and all other manner of clever puns in order to push the envelope further and push their viewpoints.
However, I’d like to revisit the phrase and try and add a little definition, where I think that the meaning of the phrase has become a little fuzzy. Far too often I’ve heard people say “content is king” and fail to give any actionable advice on how, and more importantly, when, to create content.
I’m deliberately not going into the technical implementation side of content generation, because that would be a blog post in itself.
I’ve split this post into 8 sections. Each is a part of the process of creating new content, and hopefully will make your content generation start to give you some measurable results. Sometimes these constituent parts don’t run in order, but almost universally your first step should be to understand your objective…
Objective – what is your overall goal?
Before you even begin you must keep a clear focus on your client’s overall objective. If you’re about to tell me that your objective is “to rank highly” I want you to stop reading now and take a look at one of my earlier blog posts before continuing.
Consider what you want to achieve overall – your objectives must justify the creation of more content, or embarking on the activity is pointless.
For example; you are working on a website that sells umbrellas. Your objective is to increase sales. You’ve decided that you can achieve this by creating compelling content to encourage your customers to buy.
For this to happen, you will need to know the following (here come the other 7 steps):
- Call to Action
Audience – who are you talking to?
First, when looking to create content for a client, you must understand the audience you’re targeting. This will dictate everything about the content you create, and if you’re diving in to writing a post about “The importance of yellow umbrellas for city commuters” without considering who you actually sell to, then you’re off to a bad start.
I’m not saying that city commuters aren’t your target audience, but if you don’t know who’s buying your products for sure, then researching your market, and your existing customer base is essential.
Tone – how do you want to talk to your audience?
Once you know the audience you’re talking to, you should now think about the tone of the piece. Tone is the attitude of the piece and is separate from the raw meaning. Two pieces can have the same meaning, but have two completely different tones.
Different people respond to different tones in different ways. If you’re writing a piece on yellow umbrellas for city commuters, then are these people going to respond to a chatty friendly tone, a corporate tone, a formal tone, an overtly promotional tone, etc? Perhaps if your tone is covertly promotional, they will respond with hostility.
Again, research and testing can all help you understand the tone you should be using.
Person – who is speaking to your audience?
Decide who is talking to your audience. This might be partially dictated by your tone, but on the whole you have a choice who addresses your potential customers. This could be first person, second person or third person.
- First person (I, me)
- Second person (you)
- Third person (he, she, they, it)
Again, your audience will respond differently to each different grammatical person. The person you chose should remain consistent to avoid confusion and maintain coherence.
Meaning – what are you saying?
Meaning can refer to a number of things, and to go into the differences between pragmatics (broadly speaking, contextual meaning) and Semantics (raw meaning with connotations and denotations) would overcomplicate the issue and detract from the overall post.
In context of this post, I am referring to meaning as the message you want to send.
Consider carefully the literal meaning of what you are saying. Do not say things that aren’t true. Lying on the internet is no different from lying anywhere else and usually this catches up with you.
Consider implied meaning, or any possible inferred meanings that your audience might come away with. Confusion ultimately reflects badly on you or your client and will damage your progress towards your objective. Keep your messages clear and transparent.
Use descriptive and emotive language when it fits in with the tone of the piece, without damaging the meaning. An informative and technical piece can be ruined through overuse of adjectives. When used excessively, these can bury the original message under the flowery language, making it inaccessible to your audience.
Form – what does the message look like?
Once you know who you’re talking to, what you want to say, and how you want to say it – it’s time to consider what form the content will take. Within each audience there is going to be different subsections that learn and engage in different ways.
Some people respond well to video, some to text, some to images, some to audio, and some to interactive material. Other times an entire demographic respond better to one type of content, even if it isn’t normally their learning type.
Testing different forms can be time consuming, but starting small and working up to bigger things can help ease the strain.
Call to Action – how will your audience know to act?
OK, so now you’ve settled on the form that the content will take. After you’ve delivered your message, you want to make sure your audience are going to act. Implementing a call to action isn’t about persuading people to do something, it’s about making the desired outcome of the process as easy as possible for the audience, so that they persuade themselves into acting.
A call to action could be any number of things, but generally you want it to follow on from the meaning you’ve conveyed, and you only want one call to action so as to make it less easy for your audience to click away.
For instance, if you’re talking about yellow umbrellas for commuters, then the one call to action you want might be a “buy now” button. You can easily set this up as a “quick buy” or “express checkout” option to push the visitor into the funnel closer to the goal completion.
Channel – how will your message be delivered?
Lastly, we can look at channels. By channel, I am referring to any path to which your audience will see (and sometimes interact) with your content. Channels could be:
- Social Media
- Paper literature
- Video hosting sites
- Television & other broadcasting
- Paid & Free Advertising
- Search Engines
Research which channels will lead to your audience, and which channels your audience best engage with you on and get your content in front of them. This might be an easy task, or it might be an extremely difficult task requiring you draw on your other skillsets. Again, testing and measuring results on a small scale will allow you to build up to bigger and better things and continuously refine your content.
To summarise this post into takeaway points:
1. Consider your audience and the types of content they respond to
2. Carefully construct the message in a clear and understandable way
3. Consider the form of the content that your audience act upon
4. Make the message as easy to act upon as possible
5. Consider the channels you’ll use to reach that audience
Don’t just make content for the sake of it