• Mike Mullane

How to produce better, more relevant content

Success and sustainability depend on planning. The US Army puts it best: “Failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

Planning is crucial for setting priorities, managing resources and ensuring that everyone is working towards common goals. In the world of corporate communications, it would be unthinkable not to have a crisis plan in order to deal effectively with emergencies and disasters.

What is very often missing, though, is any serious content strategy for the corporate website and social media channels. Too often, the website or Facebook page is an afterthought, a depository for glossy pictures and PR messages that speak to nobody in particular and attract little attention.

In some cases, the content is only really there to please the CEO or board. It is a huge missed opportunity.

Like a well-designed shop front, it is the job of a website not only to attract new customers, but also to keep existing ones impressed. Designed and used properly, a website is a very powerful marketing tool.

Content producers need to understand how their target audience consumes content to make the right decisions about formats and channels. It is important that content producers are using the right visual tools, as well as writing in a way and at a length that reflect the online habits of their customers.

As a very rough rule of thumb, depending on how they are written and for whom, posts of less than 500 words are more likely to elicit interactivity, including comments. If you want web visitors to share your stories, however, posts should be longer than 1000 words.

According to a survey by Quartz, a majority of executives are more likely to be drawn to articles with a strong visual element. Research further suggests that adding visual content increases the likelihood that readers will remember your message.

The Social Science Research Network says that the best ways to drive a message home is through visual content, such as pictures and video, because 65 per cent of people are visual learners.

On a practical level, in order to understand how target customers think and what they like, communications officers need to work closely with their marketing colleagues. Content can only be genuinely relevant if producers understand both the messages they are communicating and who they are trying to reach.

Formulating a successful strategy always starts with understanding customers and knowing the answers to the basic why, what, when and how questions. Here are five things you need to ask yourself in order to begin developing a content strategy:

1. Why do I want to publish content online?

2. Who are my target audience and what can I offer them that they won’t find somewhere else?

3. What and when should I publish?

4. How can I ensure that customers find my content?

5. Do my content producers have the right skills and access to the right tools?

Don't cut corners. It would be better not produce anything until you can provide satisfactory answers to these five questions. It doesn't stop there. Once published, always monitor and analyze your results. Paraphrasing the Victorian scientist, Lord Kelvin, you can't improve it unless you measure it.

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