In a space where every brand is driving and contributing to conversations around the web, staying silent can be detrimental. These conversations are going to happen with or without you and the companies participating are the ones who will own a point of view and win over your customers. It’s crucial for organizations to have a content marketing strategy in place as part of their modern brand-building efforts. But we shouldn’t look at this as just another item on our marketing to-do list. These conversations are good for business.
The open flow of communication with our audiences has made it possible to forge connections more deeply than ever before. This means repeat business, upselling opportunities, and more brand advocates. In fact, 71 percent of people say they’re more likely to purchase from a brand they follow on social. And 41 percent of people with a social media account report sharing brand content.
Of course, there are some pitfalls that come along with these opportunities for connection. (We’re taking you on quite the roller coaster ride, aren’t we?) Content marketing has multiplied the number of touchpoints we use to reach our audiences, almost infinitely. The vast and ever-growing expanse of tools, channels, tactics, and strategies available to us can make it difficult to protect our brands.
Before a single word is written, a second of video is recorded, or a data point is added to an infographic, you’ll want to make sure your content creators know your brand inside and out.
Especially when you consider that some of these tactics require you to relinquish control on some level. The agile nature of social media means sometimes you have to move on a post or a reply without running things by your brand team. Video can benefit from a raw, human perspective that doesn’t quite align with rigid brand standards.
This is compounded by the break-neck speed at which content marketing moves. We’re expected to not only stay on top of trends and industry news, but to react to those trends and news items with a meaningful point of view. A POV we distribute across blog posts, social posts, videos, podcasts, ebooks, pillar pages, webinars, and everything in between. So how can you protect your brand in the midst of all of this chaos?
Chances are you’ve already gone through the process of developing brand identity guidelines (if you haven’t, our post about it can help), which means you’ve established a voice and tone and a brand personality that can guide your content. This is a great start, but you need to take it a step further as you dive into your content marketing. These guidelines should cover the purpose of your content, call out the style guide you follow (i.e., AP) or establish a brand-specific style guide, offer formatting tips, provide headline examples, explain length and image direction, and more. One important consideration as you develop these guidelines is the balancing act between SEO and your brand messaging. While SEO best practices are important, following them without question can be detrimental when you allow them to supersede an authentic brand.
Personas are another key tool you can use to protect your brand as you develop and publish content. These will help guide everything from topic development to photo selection. Even if you’ve already developed buyer personas, you may want to revisit them to make sure they align with your content objectives. You might want to create additional categories that cover things like topic of interest or preferred communication tactics. Regardless of whether you’re updating or using them as-is, you’ll want to keep these close as you develop your content marketing strategy.
You don’t necessarily need to hire a brand new individual to be your editorial director. Depending on how much content you plan to produce on a weekly basis, someone on your marketing team may very well be equipped to take on these duties. Whether it’s a full-time job or one aspect of an individual role, there should be one person in charge of overseeing your content creation process. This person should have a firm understanding of your brand guidelines, editorial guidelines, and personas. They will help develop a workflow, guide and train your content contributors, and review all content before it’s published. Above all, it will be their job to assign a persona and purpose to each piece of content and ensure that content delivers accordingly.
The zipping pace of content development can leave a lot of room for brand errors and missteps. To avoid rushing into mistakes, you’ll want to set up a workflow with checkpoints. This workflow should establish a timeline for content creation, review, revisions, and publishing. It should outline all the individuals responsible for the content creation process. The flow might be as simple as:
Writer → Editorial Director → Publish
Or as complex as:
Subject Matter Expert Interview → Writer → Editorial Director Review → Writer Revisions → Editorial Director Review → Subject Matter Expert Review → Final Edits → Designer for Graphic Creation → Final Editorial Director Review → Legal Review → CMS Specialist for Posting
A number of different factors will impact the complexity of your workflow, including the size of your organization, leadership involvement, and industry regulations. It should be tight enough to protect your brand, but not so tight that it bogs down the creation process.
Your editorial calendar is going to be your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your brand as you execute on a content marketing strategy. You want to make sure your topics align with your brand identity guidelines and your editorial guidelines. It’s also an opportunity to assign a persona and purpose to each topic, setting your content creators up for success. Along the same vein, you’ll want to make sure you pair each writer with their strongest subject areas. Some may be able to handle a wide breadth of topics, but some may be better suited to taking a deep dive into the legal aspects of your industry or covering up-and-coming trends. You should also include any specific notes and background research that will help your writers create content that aligns with your brand’s point of view.
Before a single word is written, a second of video is recorded, or a data point is added to an infographic, you’ll want to make sure your content creators know your brand inside and out. Internal writers, editors, designers, developers, external freelancers, vendor partners. Everyone. Walk them through your brand guidelines, your editorial guidelines, your personas, existing content, and anything else that might give them insight into how your brand is positioned in the marketplace.
Your editorial director should review all content before it goes live. It goes without saying that this individual needs to consider all your guidelines and personas as they review your content to ensure you’re delivering on your brand point of view. For some of the more important pieces (e.g., ebooks, major lead-gen campaign elements), you may want to include department heads in the review process.
Once you push your content out into the universe, you’ll want to monitor it. Because the internet is a marketplace for the free exchange of ideas, you do risk audiences misinterpreting your intentions. By staying on top of what they’re saying, you can help guide the conversation back to your content’s intended purpose as quickly as possible. And when the conversation doesn’t go astray, you can continue to add to it by answering questions and lending even more perspective to the topic at hand.
Protecting your brand in the wild west of online content can be challenging, but it gets easier with every piece of content you create. Your writers, designers, developers, etc., will all have a better handle on your brand. You’ll establish a reputation for creating thoughtful, meaningful content that will guard against any misinterpretation. And your audience will come to trust and seek out your point of view as you become a thought leader in your space.