Five ways to organise for content

Andrew Charlesworth

4 minute read

You’ve won the argument — and the budget — for adding a content stream to your marketing effort. Now how do you set up to give yourself the best chance of success?

  1. Research what your audience wants

    This seems obvious, but judging by many corporate web estates, few companies bother to find out what their audience actually wants.

    Instead, it looks like someone read a blog about story-telling, or saw a competitor rising up the Google rankings, and decided unilaterally that customers need hosing down with thought me-to articles.

    How do you avoid that mistake? Research your users based on desired as well as current behaviour. Don’t just look at stats that show what they do now. Ask them what they’d like to do if they could.

    Ask fundamental questions. Maybe they don’t want to read your articles or watch your videos, whatever the topic. Maybe they want to talk to you, or to each other. In which case you’ll have to switch from broadcast to listening or facilitating.

    This is the basis of your content strategy: content that fulfils customer need and is measurable against business requirement.

    Above all, don’t over-publish. It’s better to produce one pin-sharp relevant piece that your audience shares than a swathe of mediocre verbiage.

    Don’t just look at statistics that show what users do now and give them more of that. Ask them what they’d like to do if you let them.

  2. Be realistic about your resources

    Given you know what your audience wants, how many full-time people can you devote to delivering it?

    Writing a regular blog, monitoring social media 24 x 7, or moderating a forum are not jobs that can be resourced by stealing a few hours from existing activities. Not if you want them done well, nor if you ever want to see your home in daylight again.

    And those three product managers who agreed to blog once a week… two of them will never write a word because your requirement isn’t among their formal objectives. The third will run out of ideas after week four.

    Better to start with a modest programme, succeed and expand, than to scale back because you can’t sustain the effort.

  3. Be realistic about your capabilities

    Maybe what the audience wants is not what you have the skills to deliver.

    In my experience, a marketing manager may excel at segmenting audiences, planning and executing campaigns, and getting the most out of agency relationships — all valuable skills. But rarely do they possess the skills to sustain a quality editorial programme, comprising, for example, daily news augmented by weekly feature articles and videos, unless they have experience gained from a professional media environment. Nor can they moderate a forum — unless they have the experience.

    All marketing managers can write — a thorough campaign brief, a product description, an inspiring marketing deck. But not all can strike the right balance between information and entertainment to enthral a given audience segment over 1,000 words of narrative.

    And why should they? Most people can shoot video. But unless you’re deliberately aiming for amateur shaky-cam style, you hire a professional videographer.

    Follow that rule for all content disciplines — writing, editing, curation, photography, infographics etc.

    Hire — or rent — the appropriate skills to deliver what the audience wants.

  4. Organise for content lifecycle

    When planning for content, the inexperienced think only of creation and publishing. But that is less than half the job.

    Content has a lifecycle from requirement to retirement. The detail of your content strategy is the answer to dozens of business requirement and process questions along this arc.

    For example: who decides what type of content you will use on your site? (I hope your users will have a big say on this — see point 1). What messages do you want to deliver to which audience segments? What are the KPIs for content? How is your existing site performing against those KPIs? Who will produce new content and where will it come from? Who has approval authority? How do the KPIs feed back into requirements? What is the lifespan of any given item of content?

    Make every item of content justify its existence. What job does it do? If you hesitate over the answer, consider deleting it. Be ruthless. Retire content when its purpose is spent or it isn’t performing.

  5. Keep stakeholder involvement to a minimum

    Every stakeholder in your process will slow its progress. If you work in a big organisation that values consensus over results, stakeholders will be numerous; progress will be slow.

    In the physics of the content universe stakeholders are mass: they create inertia.

    So keep their numbers to a minimum; aim for ‘stakeholder-lite’.

    When setting up your content operation, spend the time to distinguish between people who need to take action and those who merely need to be kept informed. Agree with the latter group that ‘no news is good news’: their explicit approval is not required for normal operations; you’ll hear from them only by exception.

    Obviously, there is more to successful content than these five things. But would you have read an article entitled “85 ways to organise for content”?

    Of course not. You have to deliver what your audience wants, even when you have more to say.

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Andrew Charlesworth

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