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Content Strategy: Understanding The Buzzword In 2016

It has been around for a long time, but what does it mean this year?

2Jun

Of all the buzzwords of the last five years, perhaps the most important has been content strategy. The proliferation of brand sponsored content and an emphasis on the conversational tone of social media has companies desperately searching for a ‘voice’ among the din. With good reason, too; a strong content strategy has the power to completely alter public perception of a product, or at least engage customers in a way traditional marketing techniques can’t.

Take Innocent, for example. The company’s genesis is as organic as you like, with three would-be entrepreneurs selling their handmade smoothies at a music festival before deciding to quit their jobs and work on them full-time. Through setbacks, investment, more setbacks and then success, the company has certainly found its voice. Its candid, playful tone is befitting - and, to be fair, its name does half the work - but it is now 90% owned by Coca Cola, and its product actually contains considerably more sugar than the famous fizz. I’m not having a go at Coca Cola, but maintaining the tone of an independent, health-conscious drinks manufacturer is an inspired marketing move on Innocent’s part.

The most important thing to understand is that content marketing isn’t limited to press releases or articles, far from it. Everything you put out as a company that surrounds your product is content. Videos, photos, tweets, articles, tag-lines, emails - all of this matters and should be part of a developed strategy. Simply making adverts and putting out press releases is a dated take on content, and when the benefits of an effective strategy are considered, the initial planning process is a small price to pay. Rather than a ’10-point plan to revolutionizing the world of content,’ we’ve put together the core fundamentals for your company to consider when setting out a strategy.

Although not limited to 2016, something companies are increasingly anxious to get across in their content is both humility and humanity. With consumer opinion of corporations not exactly at an all time high, finding a playful or self-aware tone in one’s content can help build a relationship with customers. It reminds customers that there are actual people behind a brand, rather than a cold corporate entity. What it essentially comes down to is knowing your audience - can you make jokes? Would it devalue your product to do so? A lawyer wouldn’t, for example, but a soft drinks maker would. Find a tone, hone it, and employ the right people to produce content that uses it; there’s nothing more off-putting than a forced style.

Whatever tone you choose to employ, make sure it's consistent across all of your output. From articles and press releases to frequently asked questions pages and customer service tweets, make sure your content strategy is known company-wide - consumers expect a consistent identity, and a mishmash of tones is confusing. Lifestyle magazine UrbanDaddy is a good example of a particularly strong content strategy that’s felt from its tweets to its marketing emails. The company knows its audience, and knows the level of humor and candor it can get away with, exploiting them well thanks to a team of good copywriters. In a world of oversaturated inboxes and ad blockers, sharp wit can be one of the best ways to engage consumers - if you can, use it.

The Onion’s take on content is particularly interesting. The satirical news outlet allows sponsored posts on their site but insists on both the posts being written by its own editorial staff and fitting its house style. The result is consistent, quality content that just happens to be sponsored by a brand - both the brand and the Onion benefit. Its commitment to quality sponsored content makes sense, following its incredibly sarcastic and quite brilliant lash out at sponsored content as a marketing strategy in a piece entitled ‘Sponsored Content Pretty F***ing Awesome’ - read it, it’s hilarious. Brands can learn from this; the Onion’s sponsored content is content done right, and its ardent commitment to consistency of tone is admirable. ‘Don’t make a commercial’ is the advice from its CCO Rick Hamann, rather create content that promotes your brand through its connection with a well-honed tone. If content is king, the least we could do as creators is avoid it being dull. 

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