The content-marketing strategy checklist

Six things to consider before embarking on a content-marketing project.

Some months ago I was commissioned to put together a guide to digital content-marketing. New to the subject, I picked the brains of some leading public relations and marketing practitioners, and spoke to several people who were putting the theory into practice.

As part of the piece, I put together a checklist for those about to embark on a content-marketing project. Here’s an edited extract:

1. Secure buy-in
Siloed thinking and siloed action is the quickest path to failure. Instead, you need to do everything in your power to lobby for support within the organisation, explaining goals and objectives and gaining approval. Marketing department, meet PR department. PR department, meet sales team. All three, meet the management team.

2. Establish success measures first
What does success look like? If you don’t know before you start, you won’t know when you’ve finished. So embark on a cost-benefit analysis, decide how much you are prepared to invest and define a suitable target for return on investment (ROI).

In reality, measurement is not always straightforward. For example, your objective might be to warm up an audience as part of the sales process but the gap between content consumption and the sale is likely to be a long one. At a more basic level, your measure of success might mean increasing the traffic that passes through your site.

3. Define workable timelines
Agree the timescale for a proof of concept, a pilot or a full-blown launch across which you will assess the merits or otherwise of the project. Bear in mind that these timelines may be longer than is traditional within sales and marketing. An editorial effort will take longer, not least to build up a loyal following. Allow for this in your plans.

4. Integrate
Use each communications channel within the organisation to amplify the message, increase your social media footprint and search engine authority. The big social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ should play a key part in disseminating content and amplifying your message. However, don’t forget smaller – and often more powerful – consumer forums that operate around your subject area.

5. Read
Consume as much digital journalism as you can to see what is working. Pore over the editorial and execution of brands such as American Express (Open Forum), First Round Capital (First Round Review) and Intel (iQ by Intel). Learn, adapt and execute.

6. Listen
Monitor what others are saying about your brand on social networks, blogs, forums and other social media. Establish how often your brand is talked about, the sentiment expressed, the nature of the praise and the nature of the criticism. Understand the language of social media so when you are ready to tell your own stories through brand newsrooms or other content-marketing vehicles you will have developed a tone of voice that reflects your brand and talks to your audience(s).

This is an edited extract from The Rise of the Brand Newsroom, a MyNewsdesk white paper.

Jon Bernstein is an independent digital media consultant and writer, formerly deputy editor then digital director of New Statesman and multimedia editor at Channel 4 News

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