The why, how and what of content: thinking beyond production

content planningEffective content requires strategic planning (the why) and well-designed operations (the how) to support the creative output (the what). There is often confusion around these more complex areas, beginning with the definitions and delineations themselves. The terms real-time, newsrooms and social media marketing are also used to discuss the challenge of providing the right content to the right person at the right time.

Breaking down the challenge of content into strategy, operations and production improves quality and efficiency – whether you are heading up a multi-market global content team or working on a much smaller scale.

The three areas of work you need to focus on in order to run a successful content programme for your brand are:

  1. Content strategy
  2. Content operations
  3. Content production

(Content measurement is also crucial, but I will set that aside for another blog post.)

1. Content strategy

Content strategy is about establishing the ‘why’ that underpins your content programme.

It means finding the common purpose for your content that unites what your brand has to offer with what your users need or care about.
To create a strong strategy, you need to understand who you’re making content for, what they need, where they are when they need it, and how your brand can meet that need.

A good content strategy will provide a framework for providing the right content to the right user at the right time.

2. Content operations

This is ‘how’ you deliver your strategy.
Content operations is the phase where you build and implement the systems, culture and governance you need to execute your content strategy. It’s about how you do things: your principles, processes, platforms and technology. It’s about who does what: your people and partners, and how they are organised for content.

As part of your content operation, you’ll need to consider:

  • Processes for the whole content lifecycle
  • Governance
  • Team and organisation structure (and how to overcome silos)
  • Content modelling/designing for COPE/intelligent/adaptive content.
  • Content templates
  • Content platform selection/integration
  • CMS selection/integration

It’s perhaps the most difficult part of building a successful content programme, as it involves detailed planning and often spills into wider cultural change within the organisation.

As a result, content operations are often left to chance. It’s common to find that the reason a content programme is struggling is because of a lack of operational focus.

When you get it right, content operations can feel like a superpower. A growing number of organisations are realising that strong content operations are a competitive advantage. And we’re working with more and more clients to help them build them.

3. Content production

This is when you look at ‘what’ you’re going to produce and actually produce it.

I would include content marketing as a subset of this area, which might surprise you, given how high-profile content marketing is in the wider marketing landscape. When people think about creating a content programme, it’s often under the label of content marketing, or social media marketing. But I’d argue it’s just the tip of the iceberg: the most visible part of something much bigger. People need content at every stage of their relationship with a brand – content marketing is only the solution for a few of them (as I’ll clarify below).

Content production can be broken down into four main categories:

  • UX copywriting or microcopy: the content that sits within the IA, processes, tools or ecommerce parts of your website e.g. menu labels, help text, form labels etc.
  • Evergreen content: ‘hygiene’ content, which is always relevant to your audience e.g. how tos, customer service, product information.
  • Campaign: ‘hero content, which is published at key moments and has a short life-span, e.g. product launches, ‘tent pole’ events.
  • Always-on: ‘hub’ content which is published on a daily basis to give a fresh, seasonal, or relevant perspective e.g. seasonal promotions, reactive content, curated content.

I’d argue that most content marketing is a hybrid of campaign and always-on. Focusing on content marketing alone ignores UX and evergreen content, which might not always be marketing-focused, but have a huge role to play in your overall customer experience.
To facilitate strong content production you will need to think about:

  • user research
  • planning
  • creation
  • distribution
  • analysis
  • optimisation

Producing consistent, customer-focused content is not easy – but done well it is the difference between a functional brand and one that delights and inspires its customers.

Our next breakfast briefing will focus on ‘How content operations can become your marketing super power’ and will feature our clients adidas and American Express. If you would like to request an invitation contact ruth@brilliantnoise.com.