The biggest reason? Lack of strategy and reliance on guesswork.
Working as a Content Strategist for startups and enterprises, we’ve seen first hand the types of problems that bad content creates. We’ll spare you the horror stories, but the takeaway is that tons of money and talent is wasted—and big opportunities are missed.
The good news is that creating better content doesn’t require a big budget or timeline. All you need is one person on your team to approach content like a strategist.
The first step to better content is ditching the myth that more = better.
Creating content just for the sake of having content is where most people go wrong. Yet, it happens all the time.
The problem often starts when businesses launch social media profiles, then panic when they feel like they don’t have enough content to post consistently. Then, the race to feed the social media beast sparks a furious content creation cycle—but completely ignores research, strategy, and testing.
The result it that businesses end up with tons of content, and not a whole lot of ROI.
Break the habit of creating more, and focus on creating better. If your content isn’t getting plenty of positive engagement from your audience and supporting a specific business goal, it’s not working. In fact, it’s probably costing you more money than it’s worth to produce.
Brainstorming content ideas isn’t creative, it’s gambling your time and effort.
How many times have you seen (or written) this in a content job description: “This role will brainstorm content ideas for our blog, social media, etc…”
Sound familiar? It should. Personally, I see this all the time for a big variety of content related roles. What’s worse, I know the phrase “brainstorm content ideas” isn’t said in jest; businesses actually investing time and money into content just because someone arbitrarily had an idea.
Failing to research audience needs, what content already exists on the subject, and what the gaps are is a surefire way to create useless content.
The overall result of this approach is a lot of wasted resources for the businesses. If they’re smart, they’ll keep testing ideas until something works then keep repeating it—but there was still a much faster way to find the content that worked.
Stop thinking in terms of, “What content should we create?” and instead think about “What content do people want, need, and how does it support our business?”
A Guide to Strategic Content in 4 Steps
Instead of racing to generate tons of content based on creative brainstorming, take a strategic approach. You’ll likely still need to test and iterate, but you’ll get to your high-value content much faster. It all starts with research.
1. Research and validate your audience
Who is your content actually for? Until you’re crystal clear on this part, you can’t create great content for them.
Start by coming up with a hypothesis of who your ideal audience member is. There are plenty of templates online you can use (just search “persona template”) or you can craft your own.
In your hypothesized persona, sure you know the basics like:
- How much does your audience know about your industry/subject/etc?
- What are their pain points (as it relates to your business)?
- What are their current solutions to that pain point? What questions do they need answered about it?
- What content do they regularly consume (as it relates to your business/industry?)
- What channels do they most use to find that content?
- What types of content do they like the best? Videos? Blogs? Emails? What kinds do they dislike?
Document those things and you’ve got your hypothetical persona. No need to create a fancy, well-designed powerpoint slide. Just document your thoughts somewhere you can easily access and update. I did a simple version in Canva:
The most important part comes next: you’ve got to confirm this person actually exists. Getting validation is easier than you think, can be done in a few days, and ensures that you’re creating content based on real people and not assumptions.
A few ways to validate your persona
A quick note: when you’re doing either of these options, just make sure that your first question qualifies them. Do they have the problem that your product solves? No? Move on.
- Post in Facebook groups and find people to interview. Offer something free that would be valuable to your target customer in exchange for a 15 minute interview, ideally over a video-conference platform like Zoom. Ask open ended questions that will help validate whether or not the assumptions you made were true. Do a few interviews, then revise your persona.
- Guerrilla interviews. Leave the office. Go out in the world. Find a place your theorized content consumer probably hangs out, then ask random people if they have a few minutes to chat. Interview a few people who qualify, then revise your persona.
2. Research content from your competition
Let’s say you researched your audience, and found that they really need and want content about XYZ.
You know they love articles and videos from YourCompetitor.com and OtherCompetitor on YouTube. Now it’s your job to dig into the content on both of those places and make notes about what they do well, what you could do better, and kind of content about [your topic] is totally missing from the internet.
The goal is to compare:
- What information your audience wants
- Whether or not that information already exists
- Figure out how you can fill a gap in information, or create the same information in a new and insightful way.
3. Create Core Strategy Statements
Woohoo! You did it. You’ve got plenty of information now to figure out the best type of content to create for your business. You know who your content is for, what they need, and what content you can create to give them what they need in a unique way.
Use the information you now have to fill in the template below that begins with a core strategy statement at the top, with specific content types, topics, and channels below.
If you have a few different business goals or products, you might create a few of these statements. That’s great. In fact, you can then use those different statements to come up with content categories and strategically group that content together. For example, if you’re creating a blog, you might end up with three different main blog categories.
Here’s a sample strategy statement for a fictional dog trainer:
Our content helps new puppy owners with bad puppy behavior by providing information so they can train their dog at home, understand the benefits of training, and ultimately sign up for puppy training class.
An example for each column:
Content types: Videos
Topics: Puppy training basics
This will help guide your content efforts so that everything you create is purposeful, useful and valuable to a specific audience, and directly supports business growth.
4. Plan for the most efficient workflow possible
Lots of people have opinions about content. Maybe your CEO, product team, and PR person would all like to give input on content. That’s nonsense.
When there are too many opinions involved in content, you get nothing but confusion and wasted time.
Instead, come up with a workflow that is as simple as possible and ongoing, to bake in measurement and learning into the process. Each step requires no more than one person. Some steps can even be the same person.
It’s also smart to decide how much time each part should take. You’ll probably learn as you go, but having a workflow that’s as specific as possible helps you keep things moving smoothly (again, it’s all about saving time and money).
With a more strategic approach, you’ll create content that supports business growth and engages your audience.
Instead of brainstorming, guessing, and crossing your fingers until something works, create content that’s driven by research and strategy. It’s worth noting that this process could be down within a few weeks, with just a few people, and zero budget. Strategic content is for anyone who wants to put in the work and reap the benefits.
Original Post -UX Planet