Content Strategy

Review and Q&A

Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson

Brain Traffic
Content Strategy

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The "Review and Q&A" Lesson is part of the full, Content Strategy course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Kristina discusses Content Strategy's place within Goals, Objectives, and Tactics. Kristina takes questions from students.


Transcript from the "Review and Q&A" Lesson

>> All right, here's where content strategy sits here. So the goal should be shared with the larger organization. Our work has to ladder up to some kind of a common goal. Now whether or not that means the huge company goal, or team goals for the year, whatever you guys have been asked to hit.

The content strategy that we define has got to ladder up to that. It has to make a difference there, okay? Content strategy also needs to provide a constraint. So it will define what direction the content will and will not take. Objectives are the content related outcomes the team has to work to achieve.

And then the tactics are activities and tools that we're gonna undertake to achieve it, okay? Here's why I talk about this, especially with marketing folks. A lot of times people, you guys familiar with this idea of content marketing? Content marketing is where you create a bunch of content and then you promote it in the hopes that people will feel loyalty towards your brand and buy it and recommend it to others.

Okay, there's been a ton of hype around this over the last six or seven years or so. And yes.
>> Can you give an example?
>> Yes, I can, I will give an example of the content marketing that we do at Brain Traffic. So we at Brain Traffic produce blog posts every other week.

We are launching a podcast. We do talks and publish our slides. And we do conferences and all of these, we're creating content to position ourselves as a leader in the content strategy industry. We will work to promote that content. We use Twitter, we use Facebook, we use LinkedIn, we use email newsletters.

So we're promoting that content that we create, so that's content marketing. It's also, it's born out of brand publishing, which is really all it is. But then there was the marketing pundits sort of latched on to it. They were like, everybody should do content marketing. I'm talking toilet paper companies should do content marketing.

Every industry, they were like this is a mandate. This is the only kind of marketing left, everybody needs to do it. And that is, I don't mind the concept of content marketing, especially because we do it. I do mind the idea that it should be a mandate for every organization.

And then that's where it comes back around to this. A lot of people mistook content marketing as a strategy. So they would say, okay, our goal is to increase revenue by 5%. And our strategy is to do content marketing, so that we can help to reach that goal.

When in reality, the idea of doing content marketing is a lot more tactical, right? Where we can say, we're gonna start publishing content on a regular basis as an objective. And the content marketing activities themselves are very tactical, right? And so what happens is that we have toilet paper companies publishing dumb content that doesn't, like five ways to store your toilet paper.

This is real, I just presented on this at South by Southwest, it's really true. So we want to be really, really careful that we are, or for example, A website will say, we want to really lead with our product descriptions. And then that it's going to be our goal is to get as many products descriptions upfront and in as few clicks as possible.

I mean, I'm just making this up, this is kind of dumb. But that's actually a very tactical decision where the strategy has been to start with us and not with user needs, necessarily. Because we haven't asked our users what they want and how they would prefer to kind of navigate through our site.

And what their top tasks are as they get there. We put our own needs first, okay? All right, so we're gonna start digging into some of the tactics within content strategy now. Some of the tactical activities that we undertake in order to achieve strategic objectives. All right, any questions before we start?

Actually, I'd like to open it up for a little bit right now, just to sort of general questions. So I know we had kind of a general question from the team around your own content strategy. I think that we had a question here. So do you want to start with your question?

>> Sure.
>> I mean, this is just open to stuff that you guys have maybe been thinking about about your own projects or organizations. Or let's take five to ten minutes to kind of just take general questions.
>> So my question is that a lot of this feels very geared towards text based content, maybe even image content.

But a lot of what we do on the web now is beyond that, either audio or video or even further, it can be more interactive. And I'm kind of wondering how that would fit into a lot of what you're talking about. Especially because then it feels like the content itself is questionable.

I mean, to write a paragraph about us, that's one thing, but to do an interactive slideshow to tell about us, that feels like then you've got two hurdles to cross. Not only will it meet your objectives, but also, will it work?
>> Yep.
>> So just any thoughts on that?

>> I would love to use interactive timeline of yout organization under About Us as an example. I actually use that a lot almost as a joke, right? Because what happens is we fall in love with the format. We fall in love with, ooh, we can do this now because it's the web, right?

And so the question is, in this instance, we need to be sure that form is following function, okay? So in this instance, if I as the user going to go to the About Us section. Likely, I have, again, I'm just making this up, but I'm kind of one of three personas.

I am somebody who's interested in applying for a job. I am a new customer who just wants to see what is this company all about, or what is this website all about. Or I am potentially an investor who wants to know who is looking for stock information, or whatever.

In all three of those instances those personas have very specific things they want to do. I want to decide whether or not to buy something from this company. I want to decide whether or not to invest in this company. I want to decide whether or not to apply for a job with this company.

And so it's our job as content strategist to ensure that the content that they're looking for is there in a way that they are expecting it. Remember we talked about content designed in a way that they're expecting it and in a way that is easy for them to consume.

So for example, if I think about the number of job searches or research that's done on mobile, right? Is an interactive timeline with something that you can drag that changes, sort of the graphics or the imagery or it launches video or whatever, is that the best thing for us to deliver to help them learn more about us?

If it is a potential shareholder, right, do we need to have 16 videos documenting all of our most recent shareholder updates or meetings that they have to dig through? Or is it appropriate to have one that provides a three minute overview of the company and past share performance and word from the CEO?

I mean that there's all these different functions that we need to identify as being meaningful and useful before we can determine how we're gonna make them usable. So a lot of times I'll get questions like where do you think video should fit into a content strategy? And my question back is always, well what is it that you're trying to do and for whom?

So in my opinion, content strategy is absolutely a function to help us decide when and where to use some of these extraordinary tools and opportunities that we have available to us now in 2018 and beyond. But the technology is almost never the thing.
>> Right, I mean, you gave a lot of good, bad examples but in New York Times I think there's a wonderful example of using it.

>> They do.
>> When there's a an earthquake to show the damage, they have a slider that you can see the scene before and the scene after the earthquake in Japan many years ago. I remember just seeing the shoreline change, that just felt like that told the story so much more than reading about it.

>> Absolutely.
>> And even more than a before and after shot. So to me, I totally agree with you that it's like does it make sense. Because there's that desire to go the bells and whistles because it's brand new. One of my pet peeves is how many companies actually have a commercial from TV on their website.

>> Sure.
>> Who wants to watch a commercial? I don't want to watch it when it's on TV, why would I want to watch it there?
>> Yeah.
>> Some people think it is worthwhile, but.
>> Well in that, I think a lot of times what we see is people like, I have content.

>> Yes.
>> I have content, I'm gonna put it on my site.
>> Which goes into the other thing I asked about, about quantity. That in a way, it's like, well, let's pad this out with, that's something I've encountered a lot of times too.
>> That's right.
>> But if that makes sense, is it useful and does it actually help tell the story?

>> And the two examples that you gave from the New York Times, absolutely. Form followed function, people want to see how bad it was. Well, here's a gorgeous, amazing, shocking way to show how bad it was. What else?
>> Just maybe a general kinda overall, I see this happen a lot.

Where the tech person goes to the designer and says, we need to design this thing. And the designer's like, well, what am I designing? Or the tech person and the CEO or whatever are like, to the designer, what am I designing? And then the conversation needs to go back to the content first.

And so it's like educating the tech side that like, hey, look, it's got to start with the content. It's got to start with the copy first, and then that can be the source of truth. So I'm excited about the artifacts that you're kind of talking about the tools.

Because we can apply that and say okay, well, where's x artifact? Or where's the source? Because then that can be what the designer can actually design something.
>> Yep.
>> In this case.
>> It really is therapeutic actually.
>> [LAUGH]
>> I told you, yeah. [LAUGH]
>> It's content therapy.

But I feel like that I just see that a lot. Where the tech person's like, just make it happen and no, you need to in our case, Christopher is a lot of the source of truth for this. He puts together the content and then that is the source of truth, the material the copy.

And then that the designer can take the intent of the copy and the content and actually design something that carries that through, carries that messaging through verses like the tag icon. Hey, where is the design, I need to build this. It's like well, we kind of need it, walk before you run.

>> I had a variation of that, except what I usually encountered is just make it pretty, which is even worse. Here's the content, it's just text on a screen, just make it pretty, with no concern for anything, just design and-
>> Yeah.
>> That's just infuriating. [LAUGH]
>> Yeah, it's funny is that I still run into that with my designer, where I'm just like, I just want to announce this one thing.

Why can't you just, let's just make it attractive. I mean, after I've been working with him for nine years, he wants to throttle me every time. And so it's an easy thing to slip into. But it is, I think, on the flip side, it's like designers coming to the writer or to the content person and saying, I have some boxes for you to fill.

Can you replace this lorem ipsum? It's the same thing, we're both looking for a shared purpose. And I have some documents in here that we're gonna talk about later that sort of help identify what that purpose of the thing is. Because it is that question, why, that we come back to over and over and over again.

>> I have a question.
>> Sure.
>> I'm not sure if this is the proper time for the question or not, but I was just amazed looking over all the goals that are associated with kind of strategy. How much is this relates to governance in the organization and how much that kind of takes over, it almost takes over an organizations development period, I guess.

And getting things done, those two relate to each other in content strategy hearings?
>> Yeah, sure I mean, and we'll talk about content governance a little bit as well. But again, the idea of content governance is not top down bad content police, you will do this, right? I really talk about governance as sort of a shared framework within which everybody can make smarter decisions.

So a lot of times our artifact for content governance is a content playbook that includes things like that vision mission goals framework. And the different tools that everybody uses to create or plan for content. For example, an audit, worksheets and so on. But that framework really can show, these are the values and the articulated goals and the strategy and so on that we've used to make choices about how we're gonna do content moving forward.

So I think that it really does matter and can matter so that people aren't necessarily like, well, you've made this arbitrary rule for me. And that it seems weird and not like it's respecting my work at all [LAUGH] right? And then that comes back around to the very beginning.

Before we make any decisions to make sure that everybody feels heard so that decisions that are being made are in the context of the constraints and realities of everybody's job. Okay, what other questions? Anything online? No, I've answered everything. Brilliant, okay.

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