Ever do something so out of character in high school it was embarrassing? Be honest. We’ve all been there. For me it was attempting to become a rapper. It was the early 80’s when rap music was just coming to prominence, and I thought it all pretty “fly.”
Problem was, however, as a kid growing up in a rural farm community I looked a bit out of place standing next to the Future Farmers of America while wearing a purple bandana, my hat cocked to the side, and a chunky gold necklace I stole from my mom’s jewelry box. I might have gotten away with such a look, were it not for my lack of rhythm and a long curly mullet.
Thankfully this was just a phase. What I soon realized was that the homeboy I had hoped to be didn’t quite align with the country boy I actually was, and this was why people didn’t take me seriously.
In the world of marketing, companies can be like this when their content marketing strategy doesn’t align with their brand’s messaging. To prospective clients looking for solutions, this can be as confusing as a farm kid with no rhyming skills trying to be the next Grandmaster Flash. If companies recognized the missed opportunities incurred by this they would probably cringe as much as I am in sharing my story.
This can be avoided, though, by taking into account 8 fundamental considerations.
1. Know your brand’s message. This may sound like very basic advice, but can you clearly articulate your brand’s message? Do you know what your company’s core story actually is? Few companies have a better sense of who they are than Coca-Cola. Their Content 2020 Project is the standard for developing a content strategy and it starts with understanding their brand’s identity, something they communicate with infectious passion.
2. Know your audience intimately. Your audience ideally would be clients—past, present, and future. This is your starting point for building buyer personas that will help to form the backbone of your content’s subject matter. As you do this, consider how you want buyers to respond to your brand’s message and write from their perspective as they move through the buying process. Remember, it’s not about your brand’s wants; it’s about your client’s needs.
3. Make your content unique and memorable. This point is preached over and over, but it’s a must if you want your brand to stand out in the crowd. Unique, memorable content requires investment and creativity, but the payoff can huge. Readers will engage with and share your content, and soon word will spread. Better still, if your content stands out then your brand will too.
4. Be useful with useful content. Another point that seems like common sense, yet it’s surprising how many companies churn out bland, useless content. Creating content for content’s sake will get you nowhere. Leverage your own expertise through helpful content and draw on the expertise of others using curated content in order to transform your brand’s reputation into being the go-to resource for information and solutions.
5. Be transparent and open. Wikipedia defines branding as “the process of creating a relationship or a connection between a company’s product and emotional perception of the customer for the purpose of… building loyalty among customers.” Note the phrase “creating a relationship.” And what’s the foundation for any good relationship? Trust. This means being transparent and open. Don’t be afraid to take on difficult issues either. Your content must be something your readers trust if you want your brand to be trusted.
6. Optimize your content. Over the past year search engines have come to favor good content over the old optimization tactics. This is a good thing, but don’t completely discard optimizing your content. Increase your brand’s effectiveness in search results by using keyword phrases that associate particular problems with your company and its solutions.
7. Don’t forget mechanics. It should go without saying, but make sure your content uses correct mechanics like proper spelling and grammar. This happens more often than one would think and all it takes is a few small errors for readers to doubt your expertise and associate your brand with mistakes.
8. Align with traditional marketing. Your online content marketing should be aligned with your traditional marketing efforts — by which I mean visual elements such as design, graphics, and typography. I would say your overall brand message should be consistent too, but keep in mind your tone and voice might vary, for example, between a formal direct mail piece and a more casual blog post. Whatever the case, your brand should be represented in a consistent fashion across all channels, both traditional and digital.
Remember, content marketing is an extension of your brand. In one sense it’s your brand’s message in action. Keep these 8 considerations in mind as you develop a content strategy that supports your brand, and you will be taken more seriously than I was in my short-lived rap career.
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