Develop an Online Content Strategy: “Quality is Key”
Think of your content as fresh produce – make sure it’s not rotting!
When you put together an online communication strategy in an ad hoc way it can become a stinky mess over time – unless of course you make a plan. Technology is racing along and we grasp and try out: new apps that seem to be relevant; analytic tools that might give us insights or an upper hand; or, new social media channels just because they promise to reach out to potential clients. We also add huge quantities of content to our websites including: white papers, newsletters, conference videos, etc.; all interesting but maybe not applicable to your current plan. Your business mission and goals can become obscured by too much information in the wrong places. Have no fear, breathe in and out consciously. And, focus on creating a clear and comprehensive strategic content plan. These six steps will help to get you started:
1. Review: First you will need to create a detailed content review/audit of “all” your online media assets. This means documenting everything on your internet presence: website/s (intranet and extranet), social media sites, and all the media elements that you use for your business or organization. These elements include: text, PDF documents, photo stills, animations, audio, video, apps, et cetera. Scrutinize your content for: accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, coverage and interactivity (accessibility), design and layout. These are all valuable aspects of your communication assets. If you have a bilingual/multilingual site, ensure that all content language holdings are consistent.
Identify who is responsible for updating and keeping content fresh, accurate and relevant. For example: If a piece of information is “dated” it could have significant negative impact (contaminate) your marketing campaign or corporate reputation. Think of your content as fresh produce – keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not rotting. Quality content is key. Rate it and due date it. Develop content policy guidelines as you do the review; general and department specific.
2. Gather & Analyse: This is a research phase. Gather the data for your content review. Determine which content channels best suit your business goals. Use analytic tools or a Content Management System (CMS). Some of these analytic tools are supplied by social media sites, others handle numerous social sources including your website/s. For example: Hootsuite provides a tiered management/analytics system based on the general size of your enterprise and allows you to manage multiple online sites. Content management systems and tools change routinely. Keep abreast of those changes.
If you use Google+ to track metrics remember to set up your goals before you start. Make sure your searches are consistent across channels; ask the same questions when you gather metrics. This will help you determine which channels are best suited to your industry, business departments, target audience/s and marketing campaigns. Also, think about which content curation tools you should use. ZEEF produces graded lists of some useful curation tools. There are many curation tools that are useful for managing and adding informational content to your sites. Keep your content output focused and consistent.
3. Sort: Organize your content according to its usefulness. Collate the content that is generic and timeless enough for reuse. File it according to subject matter or however it best suits your needs. Archive historical content chronologically. If the content is poorly produced, or totally useless/rotten, dispose of it. This should be done by a committee. A committee of one does not usually have a well-rounded perspective. Don’t leave out junior employees in this process; they will be able to contribute to your strategic content planning process. If you have the financial resources, hire an outside communication/media consultant to interview and gather information about staff concerns and suggestions about work processes, et cetera. Hiring a neutral person in this position will help you gather invaluable information about everyday concerns from employees who may feel self-conscious about giving honest feedback. For example: perhaps the CEO writes an ineffective blog; a staff-person will not want to comment about their superior’s work. This situation can be mediated tactfully by a 3rd party/consultant. Someone who is not totally dependent on “pleasing” the employer.
4. Plan: Organize your resources with a committee. Determine what the basic infrastructure of the new media plan will be. Remember your website is traditionally the centre of your communication hub with your social media sites radiating to and from it. Your social media sites, etc. are channels. Decide how you want to situate your business in the big picture. You will want your informational and marketing collateral to stimulate a conversation with your potential and existing clients. Decide who will be in charge of ensuring the “voice” and message of your business or organization is consistent and on target? Who will oversee the technical flow of information or marketing content, etc. Keep work descriptions up-to-date to reflect job responsibilities. In conjunction with the stakeholders build a daily/weekly/monthly content plan/schedule. Make this as detailed as necessary to realistically reflect your human resource capabilities. If someone is overwhelmed by the amount of work that is expected, the content plan will fall apart. Ensure that all content producers from your web designer to your editor/s, writer/s are well informed about company/organization mission and goals. Make sure that everyone is kept up-to-date with corporate changes and special events. An internal newsletter is a good way of ensuring everyone is on the same page – even if you have remote employees.
5. Design: Now you can go ahead and either update or redesign your website/s and other online assets. Decide which online assets are necessary and which don’t add value to your corporate message. Depending on the size of your business each online site within your business infrastructure may serve different departmental goals. They must be linked to the mother ship. Set-up new or close redundant social media channels based on your plan. There is nothing worse than a dead (inactive) social site. Your brand should be consistent across its channels. Produce, acquire, or curate content that reflects the mission and goals of your business or organization. Define what you need on your intranet vs. extranet. Use approximately 65% -80% unique content to keep your sites stoked. Keep it clean and uncluttered. Too much information is confusing. Design for mobile and accessibility. Think of your content design as a well-organized spice drawer; information must be easy to access and add delicious taste to your public product/service showcase. Remember old spices lose their taste.
6. Maintain: Build into your content production system a maintenance plan. This must be monitored regularly, based on the size of your business or organization. This will ensure that all the jobs get done to standard. Reviews should be done by someone other than content producers to retain a clear perspective on the end goals. In this climate of accelerating change it is of extreme importance to keep tabs on internal and external changes that will affect your communications strategy. Remember to make your website accessible. Either delegate someone in-house or hire a media consultant to review your complete communications media assets on a regular basis. This will ensure that you budget for time and work that needs to be done to update your assets and bring them in line with internal and external trends and requirements. Keeping your strategic content plan focused, clean and well-organized is a major part of maintenance. Organic development is good for a while but then it needs a grounded plan of action. Update your plan regularly and make sure that everyone involved in the content production process is on the same page. Keep it up!
A detailed online strategic content plan, which includes a complete audit/review, will help you focus and streamline your website/s, social media channels, and other online marketing and promotional tools/elements.
Make a plan before you build anything new!
Contact MPalko Media Consulting if you would like to create a comprehensive, practical online content plan!