What do all successful membership communication programmes have in common? You guessed it – a well-developed content strategy!
But surprisingly, while many membership organisations have well-defined strategic objectives and a five-year vision, many don’t spend the time developing a content strategy to ensure their communications programme is fit for purpose. In fact, our recent Re:member research revealed that a whopping 17% of professional and 15% of consumer organisations don’t have a strategy in place that coordinates all of their communications channels.
If you want to build deep and meaningful relationships with your audiences, now’s the time to start thinking about a content strategy. Here, Executive Director, Jackie Scully, explains what it is and what it can do to transform the way you communicate.
What is a content strategy?
A great place to start. Content strategy is the bit that sits between the business strategy of an organisation and the communications they send out. Jackie defines a content strategy as ‘a direction of travel for your content that ensures it’s in alignment with your business and strategic objectives’. Sounds simple, right?
But, ask yourself: How often do you get so wrapped up in the ‘business as usual’ of communicating that you find yourself stuck in the cycle of producing more and more stuff? You have your series of outputs (such as magazines, email newsletters, video, social media…), but these are often created in isolation of each other and therefore deliver an inconsistent message to your audiences.
Content strategy is the glue that sticks everything together.
Why do I need a content strategy?
The short answer? To join the dots between your communication outputs and give them purpose.
It’s very easy to take a ‘multi-channel comms’ approach, where your organisation shares different content across numerous channels while hoping people are reading and liking it. But how do you get your team and all the content they’re creating to be more effective? How do you make your organisation’s comms feel more connected while delivering on key objectives like driving growth or retaining and engaging members? By having a brilliant content strategy, of course!
A strategy will give you the confidence to put your time and energy in the right place. It will help you work out your ‘why?’, then act as a constant reminder as you plan your content. It challenges you to think ‘what do we have to say better than anyone else?’ and ‘why should our audiences listen?’.
Instead of having a comms programme centred around box-ticking or quota-filling, a content strategy will encourage your whole organisation to take an ‘audience- and ideas-first’ approach, drilling down into who you should be talking to, what you should be saying, where you should be saying it – and how.
Content strategy helps you take an omnichannel approach to content, where all channels talk to each other and, as a result, talk to your audience with a consistent and credible voice. And who doesn’t want that?
How long will a content strategy take to create?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to content strategy. It all depends on what you already know (not just what you think you know!), what you need to find out, how many stakeholders are involved, and the level of detail you’re prepared to wade through.
Jackie recommends a thorough, multiple-phased approach to really dig down into the details. As an example, her phase one would be the ‘discovery phase’ – this is where you’d interrogate and define your direction, asking lots of questions as you delve deep into your archives and magazine back-issues. This would be the time to ask yourself the hard questions. How much of your content programme is based around ‘this is what we’ve always done’? How much do all content generators really understand the direction of travel of the organisation? And are they creating content that supports those wider objectives?
Developing a content strategy is a non-trivial task, so do make sure you carve out the time to give it the attention it deserves. This is a critical step. Skip it at your peril. It’s also a great way to light a creative fire within people and get them really invested in the project.
As you move through developing your content strategy, you’ll define your audience, your tone of voice, and your guiding editorial principles, too. Sound overwhelming? Never fear; Think can help you! Get in touch to see how we can help you define and create your organisation’s content strategy.
How do I sell the idea of content strategy to my organisation?
A well-thought out content strategy will help your organisation in a number of ways:
- It will help you define success and work effectively towards it. Are you really chasing likes and reads, or do you want to increase engagement among members (e.g. attending events, advocating for the organisation)?
- It will ensure you put your time, energy and budget into the right projects and communications outputs. Every organisation is stretched, so content strategy will make sure you aren’t stretched too far. Plus, your FD will like the approach – and the reasoned justification behind why you do what you do.
- It will put your USP front and centre. If you are great at something, a content strategy will serve to amplify your greatness to all who need to listen.
- It reminds you of what’s important to you – and your members and target audiences. No more designing at the whiteboard and hoping your ideas stick. Different members within your organisation want to hear different things. For example, a new student isn’t going to want to hear the same things as someone who’s been in their career for 20 years. By pinning your messages to your people you will deliver the right content at the right time and in the right time. Your audiences will have no choice but to listen.
- It will help you find the confidence to say no. When the direction of travel is clear, the priorities get clearer. You’ll do less, but you’ll do it better.
- It will bring your organisation together. Content strategy shouldn’t be a document that gathers dust. It should be a living project that can be adapted over time as your needs change. It’s great to see what happens when everyone pulls together around an agreed direction and purpose.
I’m sold. How do I get started with my content strategy?
Though we’ve covered the basics, getting started with creating a content strategy can definitely feel a bit overwhelming – there’s a lot to do, and a lot of opinions and ideas to manage!
But, if you follow the right steps – understand your business and content objectives, use them to evaluate your existing programme, write your content marketing mission statement and nail your tone of voice – you won’t go far wrong.