Most people are better at talking than they are at listening. Even for the most empathetic, actively listening to what someone else is saying can feel like hard work.
This reality has parallels in the world of content. Nearly all organizations are talking—according to Demand Metric, 90% of all organizations are using content marketing—but fewer are working to understand how content can improve the lives of those who consume it. Instead, many organizations are still using content employing old-school “me-marketing” tactics (focused on your organization and its products and services) and getting frustrated by lackluster engagement metrics.
Leading several content campaigns with varied audiences in different industries, I’ve seen one big difference between winning campaigns and those that fall flat. Successful content campaigns use an audience-first approach and follow the below three-step process to create content that reaches audiences, is engaged with and even anticipated (yes, really!)
The great thing about this approach is that it’s proven and repeatable, no matter your industry or audience. Let’s examine these three steps and how you can apply this approach to your program.
Step one: get to know your audience
This might seem obvious but many don’t do the work (at the onset of a campaign and throughout the campaign) to get to know the audience. To get started, ask yourself these questions about your content’s intended audience(s):
- What are the demographics of your audience(s)?
- What excites them?
- What struggles do they have?
- What is your intention in communicating with them?
- What problem(s) can your organization solve for your audience?
- What channels do they prefer (specific social channels, podcasts, email, etc.)?
- What do you know about your audience’s current content consumption?
Knowing the answers to these questions can be a key differentiator between creating content that generates excitement and content that languishes. You can garner these insights in several ways, including: surveys, consumer data, web analytics, and more.
Here’s an example of how you can use this intel to inform your content approach. I have family members that don’t communicate effectively through text. I know that if I want to reach them, I need to call them. The more you know about your audience, the greater likelihood you’ll succeed at creating content that achieves its goals.
Step two: hold yourself accountable
This is where organizations can get tripped up. Imagine this scenario: the team agrees on a content strategy that’s rooted in research, analysis and measurement and the content team sets out to execute. Soon after, it’s as if the team experiences a shared amnesia and reverts back to a “me-marketing” content approach.
Successful content campaigns aren’t built overnight. Holding yourself accountable to your audience-centered content strategy is essential. For greater accountability, organizations could consider partnering with an agency like The Harbinger Group to right the ship when it gets off course. Setting recurring strategy meetings can also be effective to ensure content is aligned with the campaign strategy.
Step three: use insights to optimize results
Just as people are ever-changing, the channels we use to consume content are too. Using content insights and engagement metrics to track progress and—if needed—to adjust the strategy on an ongoing basis is key.
Keeping a steady eye on these metrics will help to keep your content program nimble and adjust for changing audience preferences, evolving social media algorithms and more. The Harbinger Group recommends reviewing metrics on an ongoing basis, with a deeper-dive every month to ensure the program is optimized.
By getting to know your audience, holding your team accountable to its content strategy and using insights to continuously improve, your content campaign will see results.