With macro-level changes in the world of public relations must come shifts in the way we approach marketing and communications. One of the most important implications is the role brands serve as content creators. Though organizations and agencies are increasingly embracing inbound and content marketing strategy, only a relatively small percentage are executing effectively. This can be attributed, at least in part, to jumping into content creation without a documented strategy to guide their efforts.

Only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers report having a documented content marketing strategy.Click To Tweet

Planning for an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Believe it or not, it is possible to create a content strategy that’s both measurable and drives growth – it just takes some upfront strategic planning. The following steps will help lay the foundation for a content marketing machine designed to deliver website visitors and qualified leads that ultimately convert into business.

Clarify Your Goals

The first question to ask is: Why are we doing this? With attention at a premium and relationships becoming more important than ever, creating content for the sake of it doesn’t cut it anymore. When you consider what you’d like to get out of a content marketing strategy, ask your team as many questions as necessary to define success (including specific outcomes) and determine key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help track your effectiveness along the way. The goal is to create a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely) framework that’s agreed upon by all stakeholders as early in the process as possible.

For example, think “increase website visits by 50%” rather than “increase awareness in the market”; or “increase new leads by 75%” rather than “differentiate ourselves from our competitors.”

Define Your Audience

Once your team and any internal or external stakeholders have a shared understanding of goals and KPIs, it’s time to begin researching who you’re trying to reach. Start by thinking about the audience groups you’d like to attract and start creating simple buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer(s) based on real data and some educated speculations about demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Use a combination of one-to-one interviews, surveys and third-party research as needed to better understand your personas. Identifying the most significant challenges your buyer is facing allows you to put yourself in their shoes and create content that’s genuinely helpful and speaks their language – drastically increasing the likelihood it will be found and engaged with.

Brainstorm Ideas for Content

With a firm understanding of your business goals and your buyers’ intent, you can now identify themes at the intersection of your expertise and your buyers’ needs. Begin by identifying your core topics – themes you would like to develop thought leadership around. Make sure to focus on topics relevant to your products/services so that your content directly translates into a solution your business provides. Leverage the insight you’ve gained from your buyer personas and consider what questions your buyers are asking. Lastly, be sure to document your content strategy so you can be sure any content (blogs, e-books, etc.) tie back to core topics later on.

Select Your Keywords

Content marketing is ultimately about getting found, therefore it’s critical that your content is optimized for organic search findability. Begin by conducting research, based on your buyer personas, to identify keywords related to your core topics and sub-topics. Leverage freely available tools such as Google Search and Google Trends to home in on the most popular searches. Take a look at the search suggestions that come up when you type in a keyword, as those are good indicators of search popularity. Just be sure the keywords you choose are relevant to both the searcher’s intent and your offerings. Ask yourself: Does my piece of content answer the question that’s being asked? This way, searchers are more likely to find value in your content and take the next step.

Begin Creating Content

Content planning eventually turns into content creation, and it’s important to get started as soon as you can since results typically compound over time. It can take 6+ months before you will see progress within organic search rankings for your content.

“Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic and 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts.” (HubSpot)

Be sure to include calls-to-action (CTAs) within your content in order to drive conversion and keep new visitors in your ecosystem. This can be accomplished through selectively gated content (i.e., landing pages) or other conversion mechanisms within your website.

Lastly, don’t forget to document your content calendar somewhere that’s accessible by all who will need access (strategists, writers, editors and publishers) so that everyone can clearly see what’s in the pipeline and corresponding due dates.

Measure Outcomes

As you begin to create and publish blog content, increase your organic search rankings, grow website traffic and convert leads, don’t forget to take the time to measure your progress against the goals you set out to achieve when you first began. While those might shift over time (and that’s okay), it’s important to look at KPIs throughout your entire marketing and sales funnel and determine where adjustments may need to be made.

While there are bound to be some mistakes and shifts in strategy along the way, following these steps will help ensure your content marketing strategy is aligned with your organization’s overall mission and goals, turning your website into a magnet and using content as a way to attract, qualify and convert more opportunities.

Listen: PRSA NJ Brand Storytelling & Content Marketing Seminar [Podcast]

This post was adapted from a presentation given by Justin Gianninoto at the PRSA NJ Brand Storytelling & Content Marketing Seminar in October 2017. The podcast of the presentation can be heard here.

How to Launch a Content Marketing Strategy in Eight Easy Steps [Guide]
Justin is responsible for leading overall direction on all digital programs and projects as well as overseeing and advancing the agency's digital competency and teams. He works alongside our senior management team to provide strategic and tactical client counsel; help set client expectations; and collaborate with account teams on project implementation and competency training. Justin holds a Masters in Business Administration with a dual concentration in Marketing and Management Information Systems, and a Bachelor of Arts in English, General Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University.