Pillars of Content Strategy

Strategic Writing; strategic communication

What Is Strategic Content?

Strategic content requires planning your message to accomplish specific goals and objectives.  Problems arise when communicators ignore the pillars of strategic content strategy.  But by including these pillars of strategic content strategy, you ensure a clear purpose, audience orientation, credible content, strategic argument, engagement, critiquing and audience buy-in.  Notice that these items relate to the planning and thinking aspect of communication, not to the actual technical component.  Once you start incorporating these pillars of content strategy into your design strategy, you adopt the thought and discipline of creating quality content that leads to success.  The outcome will more likely be favorable and generate positive responses.

As an international business manager, you need to translate your messages and communicate it to your customers to determine what they think about your products and services.  For your messages to change perceptions about your business, improve customer service or increase sales, you need to develop a content strategy.  To do this, first you should identify the key influencers, advocates, and market forces and entice them to buy in and ultimately preach your message to others.   As an individual, if you need to expand your professional network and be strategic in your networking objectives, you can reach more people more quickly and efficiently with a content strategy.

Strategic content is planned so that it achieves an established goal and maximizes odds of a desirable result. Problems arise when communicators lack adequate understanding of the pillars of strategic content strategy, each one ensuring a clear purpose, audience orientation, credible content, strategic argument, engagement, critiquing and audience buy-in. Notice that these items relate to the planning and thinking aspect of communication, as opposed to the actual technical component. When you grasp the thought and discipline of creating quality content, you are approaching success. Take the time to plan your communication, determine the best message to present, and choose the best means to present it for maximum results. By focusing on the pillars of strategic content strategy, you can develop messages that will be received more favorably and, ultimately, generate more positive responses.

7 Pillars of Strategic Content

What is needed to produce strategic content?  Regardless of your objective, for your content to be strategic, you must communicate a clear purpose, orient your message to your audience, present content that is credible, make your argument persuasive and worthy, and deliver your message so as to engage the audience and keep them attentive.  Prior to transmitting your message, you should take time to have your message tested, critiqued and professionally translated by a trusted Certified Translation Services company.  Finally, you should implement a system for measuring audience buy-in.

These 7 pillars of strategic content are outlined below.

1.   Purpose – When we communicate, we have a purpose: to inform, to persuade or to collaborate with the audience.  The purpose shapes the strategy used to collect, organize and present information.  As a part of our strategy, we should clearly define the general purpose by describing what we seek to accomplish and how we want the audience to respond.

2.   Audience – While planning your strategy, learn about the audience’s needs, wants and desires.  Then use this information to shape and focus your message. What information does your audience expect and need from you?  What information does the audience already have?  How will the audience use your information?

3.    Credibility – Audiences expect you to substantiate your claims with solid data from reputable sources.  To prevent damaging your reputation and reliability, take time to identify quality sources.  Be leery of content from social media, personal blogs and unfamiliar sites that may not have adequate editorial review boards and fact checkers.

4.  Argument – Include rational claims and solutions that the audience will accept as realistic, believable, affordable and achievable.  Support your claims with practical reasons and specific support that the audience will see as benefits, but also point out hazards.

5.   Engagement – Seldom can communicators capture an audience’s full attention.  Factors such as your own perceived credibility, interest level among audience members, clarity of the message and quality of support material can  influence the likelihood of the audience turning off or tuning in to your message.

6.  Critiquing – Have members of your audience or people who understand your intended audience critique and evaluate your written or spoken communication. Invest time to go through the entire presentation without skipping sections and overlooking key components.

7.   Buy-in – Measure success through audience response.  Use a call to action and capture contact details by including a sign-up form in exchange for something free that carries a perceived value.

Citing Good Sources

You can improve the chances that an audience will believe your message by ensuring your message contains timely and recent findings, is based on reliable studies, was produced by authoritative sources with transparent and unbiased objectives, and are recognized by the audience.  These 6 criteria for selecting a good source are explained below.

Recognized – Is the source widely considered a reputable provider of accurate information by similarly recognized sources?  Is it a recognized expert in the field?  If it is unknown, new or obscure, seek a better source or expert to validate your claims.

Unbiased – Identify whether the author or publisher may have ulterior motives.  Information published by sources relying on opinion isn’t always bad, but recognizing that the source may promote alternative or extrinsic reasons for conclusions is useful in deeming how to use the information.

Transparent – Is the information intended as marketing collateral, promotion of a political cause or solicitation for funding a project?  Distinguish among marketing, political advocacy and non-biased reporting.  Do not be tricked by misleading organizational names that may be fronts for unreliable organizations.

Authoritative – Does the information you plan to use come from a source with the knowledge, background and credentials to speak credibly about the subject and provide an opinion that will be respected by other experts in the field?

Reliable – Determine how the data used to produce the findings were collected.  Did the researchers use scientific methods to capture the information, ensure reliability and eliminate error?  Was a recognized expert used to interpret the data and draw conclusions?  Can the results be verified by independent sources?

Timely – Trends, preferences, situations and conditions change over time and thus may invalidate old research findings.  Even research findings produced just a few months earlier may no longer be relevant.  Evaluate your source information carefully.

Attracting Attention

Capturing and retaining the attention of an audience is always challenging.  Here are four recommendations to maximize your success.

Outlook – Your audience wants to see what the future offers.  Describe how the future will be better.  Keep the outlook realistic.

Visuals – Use attractive charts, graphs, pictures, illustrations and videos that support your purpose.  In written messages, use headlines, subheads, bullets, typeface variations, white space, and call-outs or side bars.

Examples – Provide examples of specific applications and solutions that were achieved because of what you are recommending.  Provide credible case studies with testimonials.  Give clear step-by-step instructions and descriptions of what was done, how it was done and what benefits resulted.

Stories – Telling stories can be very effective in capturing audience attention.  Good stories support the purpose or the values of the organization.   Finding the right story and telling it convincingly takes creative thinking and brainstorming with others.

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