To steal from an old joke, everyone talks about content, but no one does anything about it. More accurately, everyone frets about content for their brand, but no one really builds a strategy.
Content is being built every day by you, me, our bosses, our employees and that guy over there. It just… happens. We need a newsletter, we write a few paragraphs. We need our boss to listen to us, we write a quick email. We thought of something funny, so we tell a joke.
We are entering the age where attracting traffic and eyeballs requires more than SEO tricks. It requires good content (enhanced with SEO tricks). And since few of us are trained writers (and even fewer of us are trained content strategists), we know we need a plan to build great content, but we don’t know where to start.
Content strategy has a “the chicken or the egg” problem– you could start with content or you could start with the channel. Neither answer is exactly right, so we start at a different point and build to answering those questions in building a content strategy.
Q: What is content strategy?
Boiled down to its essence, content strategy means building and delivering content that drives behavior change.
Q: What behavior do I want to change?
If I have a company that sells car seat covers, the behavior I’d want to change would be to make you more interested in the power of car seat covers. Or even buy some. In your case, as a talent acquisition professional, I’d wager that the behavior you want to change is to get someone uniquely qualified to apply for a job at your company.
Q: What content will change someone’s behavior?
Great question. But don’t try to jump ahead. Maybe the question you should be asking is:
Q: Whose behavior do I want to change?
Are you hiring mechanics, paralegals, salespeople, server architects or division managers? Each one of those people will have a different path to behaviorial change. Using the content strategy you designed for paralegals won’t work to attract branch managers and vice versa.
Understanding your audience is crucial to building a successful content strategy, though it is usually the step people try to skip over. Knowing your audience isn’t necessarily understanding the needs of your selected audience. It’s about having a broader understanding of the company and where it wants to go so that you can provide the talent that gets it there.
Q: What will motivate someone to change?
The better you know your audiences, the more you will understand what drives and motivates them. What will drive a great bank teller to apply? What will encourage a great Director of Business Development to apply?
If you’re not sure where to start, go to your employees and ask them what motivated them to apply. Ask them to share their stories and why they think your company is such a great fit. (Spoiler alert: you just accidentally created great content! Save it for later.)
Once you can answer those questions, you’ve really just answered this:
Q: What content will change someone’s behavior?
Changing behavior is a complex process. Think how many articles you’ve read on the dangers of sitting at a desk all day, and yet most of us still sit at a desk. You can’t just write a blog post or make a video about how great your company is and expect people to show up. You will need to think about what motivates your audiences and build content around each step of the process.
For example, let’s assume you were trying to get technical people to move to your business, but your business isn’t exactly near a tech hub like San Francisco, New York City or Austin. You want to get people to consider moving to central Michigan or eastern Washington or the panhandle of Florida. Grabbing a brochure from the local chamber of commerce isn’t going to really help. You need to build stories of people who moved to these places from other large cities and had amazing experiences. Talk about the lower housing prices and cost of living, the local schools and the better work/life balance. Just like that, I came up with five or six content pieces for you. Building them all won’t guarantee an influx of applicants, but it will start and facilitate conversations about moving to your area. It helps change behavior.
Q: What channels do I need to use?
Most marketers default to the answer, “all of them.” But like an artist, being an expert sculptor doesn’t mean you are also an amazing painter. It is better to be an expert at something than to be mediocre at everything, so the question is about your internal resources first. Got a Twitter expert on staff? Start there. Know someone into blogging? That’s an excellent place to start as well.
As you get better at building content to suit these audiences, you’ll naturally expand your channel list. Firstly, you’ll be able to repurpose content across multiple channels, like when you use the words your blogger wrote and put them into Facebook posts. Secondly, you start to see what audiences respond to that channel and which ones don’t. Then you’ll bring in more support to match the need.
Q: What do I need to write?
If you’ve answered all the questions above properly, you already know the answer to this question.
Q: How much do I have to write?
This is the question that most people get stuck on. I remember having discussions with people who wanted to start a blog for their business and having to explain that building a blog takes minutes, but it was the care and feeding of that blog that would take the lion’s share of the work. That was a job that never really stopped.
People seem to have figured that part out and are now on the opposite side of the spectrum: they fear the care and feeding of the content monster so much that they never really start. But this is one of those things that benefits from a little planning.
A smart content strategy involves the development of a content playbook and editorial calendar. An editorial calendar lets you plan for the weeks ahead of you, surrounding major dates (holidays, hiring events, corporate launches, etc.) with the right content to enhance eyeballs and action.
And, where the calendar does it’s best to take a long-tail view, a playbook lets you anticipate potential circumstances that may pop up and how to respond to them. It gives you some idea how to respond when there’s a negative news item about your company, or if your company decides to change leadership. These items can happen at any time, so the playbook lets you be more proactive in a very reactive situation.
Between the two, you’ll quickly see how much content you’ll need to create this week, next month and next quarter.
Remember, it’s not about “doing social” or “getting online,” it’s about building a plan that encourages people to change their behavior so that they apply for your jobs.
Asking these questions will lead you to a content strategy you can feel confident in. Once you’ve gone beyond SEO, content is the next frontier. If you’ve got questions, leave a comment and we’ll try to answer them in future posts.