This post was also published on Medium.
As I put the proverbial pen to paper on a post loosely entitled “Content Strategy in 2020”, my mind was racing; ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions that needed to be adhered to, the aftermath of a generation-defining U.S. election, and an inability to say for certain whether I actually liked coffee or simply needed it to survive! So far, so good, right?
Moving past this sense of existential dread, I knew that what I really wanted to explore in this post was the importance of space. More specifically, I wanted to look at how taking one step back could help us take two or three steps forward in the evolution and design of our content strategy here at Wrk.
Six months into my job, I am very proud of what we have achieved to date. In terms of depth, diversity and design, I feel that our content strategy has added detail and nuance to the often complex world of automation. From Marketing eBooks and Customer Success white papers to video interviews and an upcoming webinar series (shameless plug!), a lot of goals have been met and targets surpassed. I am particularly pleased that our content is now also garnering growing interest from those deep in the automation space as well as more casual observers. That said, if I was fully happy with where we were at right now then I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, would I?
From Foundational to Fun
Having been a relatively early arrival at Wrk, much of the first couple of months on the job were centred around creating the foundational content building blocks that we as a Marketing team needed to leverage as the company grew and our brand voice evolved. These fundamentals were necessary so that anyone writing under the Wrk banner had a single source of truth that they could reference to ensure all outbound messaging was consistent and our most pressing thematic goals were being hit.
Foundational building blocks are a key component of a successful content strategy. (Photo credit: Susan Holt Simpson)
As anyone who has worked at an ambitious start-up (particularly one in the tech world) knows, things tend to move fast! And content strategy is not exempt from this reality. The foundational blocks that I created in May and June quickly became living documents in July and August—and this was an extremely exciting time for sure.
Seeing our content strategy transition from an aspiring plan into a core part of our team’s marketing efforts filled me with pride akin to what I believe many of my friends must experience with the birth of a child! However, much like starting a new family, the line between being strategic and rigid (hello, helicopter parents) is a fine one that needs to be tread carefully.
"As anyone who has worked at an ambitious start-up (particularly one in the tech world) knows, things tend to move fast! And content strategy is not exempt from this reality."
Despite the best intentions, it can be easy to fall into the trap of maintaining the status quo of scheduling posts, briefing freelancers and developing email nurturing campaigns without giving sufficient time to longer-term goals like content diversification, syndicated content opportunities or the elusive ‘P’ word—podcasts. Not to mention the refinement and evolution of campaigns that you are already running. I say this because I’ve been guilty of such mistakes in the past. So, how do we best avoid these pitfalls moving forward?
When in Doubt, Talk it Out
Top of the list is communication. Taking the time to speak with the Web Dev team to get a clearer understanding of something as simple as the differences between back-end and front-end developers may seem inconsequential to the overall success of a content strategy, but in a remote working environment, this kind of research can prove invaluable. In the absence of organic in-person interactions with my colleagues, I feel that being overly-deliberate in terms of communication is even more important than ever before—thankfully this is a mantra that is a key part of the Wrk ethos and something that is espoused by all team members. However, being communicative isn’t just important for the creation of content, it’s also a vital way of seeing what works, and fixing what doesn’t.
Our platform has gone through a number of iterative twists and turns in the past year, and this has required our messaging to adjust accordingly. Given this reality, I am extremely grateful to work in such an open environment where both successes and challenges are discussed in equal measure—this openness is something I have endeavoured to instill in our content strategy too.
"However, being communicative isn’t just important for the creation of content, it’s also a vital way of seeing what works, and fixing what doesn’t."
In an ideal world, all of us folks huddled under the content umbrella would like to see nothing but unbridled success, right? For our email nurturing campaigns to have unprecedented open and click-through-rates, for our blog posts to receive countless shares, and for our eBooks to garner so many downloads that our Sales team wouldn’t have enough time to follow-up with each new lead. However, the reality is that this is rarely going to be the case, and it is my view that there is as much, if not more, satisfaction to be gleaned from improving a low-performing campaign than hitting home-runs with every single content initiative. (Disclaimer: these thoughts may not be shared by all of my colleagues!) Really though, something as simple as changing a subject line or using the results of an AB test to improve the copy on a landing page may sound like small wins but these victories add up and are a great way of enhancing existing content before starting fresh on new ideas. Which brings me nicely to my final point.
Know Your Content Strategy Goals
Conceptualizing, designing and executing the content that I feel will best serve our collective goals at Wrk is, of course, a crucial part of my brief. And using the relevant resources that exist to best frame this strategy is vital. That said, for me, an optimal content strategy needs to be focused enough to ensure that relevant metrics are being met (hello, SEO) without being so prescriptive that it feels like a straight-jacket that stifles all creativity and removes any pivot-opportunities mid-quarter.
With a new company like ours, it can sometimes feel like every week has to have a new post, webpage, video, infographic or extensive social campaign. And while having a steady supply of engaging content is never a bad thing, it’s important not to smother your content calendar with too many different and misaligned topics.
Having a clear goal and audience in mind can help refine your content strategy. (Photo credit: Markus Winkler)
This goal is easier said than done but one successful method we’ve found to ensure that all the content we create accurately articulates the overall message that we are trying to deliver at Wrk is to ask three simple questions:
- Who is it for?
- Why is this issue important?
- How does it contribute to our content goals?
Again, this may seem like a simple exercise but by ensuring that all our content passes through this prism, we can weed out any ideas that aren’t part of our strategic plan while also ensuring we remain nimble enough to react on-the-fly to any changes that may occur.
Giving your content the room to breathe is an oft-cited goal for aspiring and experienced content creators alike, but in reality, it is rarely a strategy that many of us get the chance to implement—a problem that I feel is exacerbated somewhat by remote working. However, by being communicative, analytical and flexible in our approach to content strategy, I believe that we stand a much better chance of discerning the signal from the noise.