It’s a recipe for failure (and burnout) if you keep pushing out content without a purpose or promotion plan.
Everything that content creators make must have a clear goal, address a specific persona, and have a distribution strategy to ensure it helps the most people possible. This is a lot to manage and things can easily slip through the cracks—which is why a content strategy framework is key for keeping you focused and improving your content marketing results.
In this #ContentChat recap, Erika joins Laurie Kretchmar, a communications strategist, former business journalist, and founder of Laurie Kretchmar Associates, to discuss how to create and activate a content strategy framework for better content marketing. Laurie tells us about her CAB framework, and she and Erika share other tips for building your network and tapping into it to help share your content.
Watch the full conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below:
Q1: What is a content strategy framework, and how can it benefit content marketing teams?
A content strategy explains how a piece of content will support your content marketing and business goals.
“A content strategy is the big picture. If you want to use fancier words, it’s the philosophy or framework.” – Laurie Kretchmar
“Put into words what might be obvious to you, especially for people in sales, or that other department down the hall, or the C-suite. Put into words the bigger picture that you’re looking at. I would get real excited talking about Twitter, but what I wasn’t saying is it’s a way to communicate, reach people you haven’t met before, find evangelists, and find new trends. Actually spell out that bigger framework.” – Laurie Kretchmar
Julie advocates for CAB: Create, Amplify, Build. Check out her short video on the CAB framework!
“I call it CAB, like a yellow cab. Create, Amplify, Build. Whether you’re creating a PowerPoint presentation or a keynote speech or a series of articles, that content is going to be a lot of work. We’re trying to appeal to that target audience and their hopes, fears, desires, and all of that, so the content is going to take a lot of your attention. But you can’t just put [content] out there. You also want to amplify it. Amplification is huge because of that old saying: you can build a better mouse trap and nobody might ever know about it, but they might really need it.” – Laurie Kretchmar
“I see it as a continuous cycle: You’re creating the content, you’re amplifying it, you’re building your network. I meet people who are focused on one part, especially the content, but you must think about the whole thing. Otherwise, you’re not going to find your audience and they’re not going to find you.” – Laurie Kretchmar
A content strategy is helpful for pushing back on new content requests that don’t align with your team’s goals (or previously agreed upon strategy).
“My motto is ‘No More Random Acts of Content,’ and having a documented content strategy is absolutely the best way to make that a reality.” – Erika Heald
Q2: What elements should a content strategy framework include to boost your content marketing success?
When planning any content, you need to focus on your audience and their needs:
“When someone who does not have a content or marketing background asks a question about content, nearly all the time you can say ‘you know what, it’s about the audience.’ A great way to cut through the clutter and try to refocus things is: Let’s talk about the audience. Who are we trying to reach?” – Laurie Kretchmar
“You have to have an idea of the audience, and a budget, and then you can really think about the different elements, which I call creating, amplifying, and building. It’s such a basic thing that non-content people don’t realize.” – Laurie Kretchmar
Marketers need to understand their audience and the competitive content landscape to plan an effective content strategy.
“It is always really… interesting… when you go into an organization that has been spending money on marketing and has been investing in hiring staff to do their marketing, but they haven’t spent the time or money to really understand their audience. To ask them ‘Who are your ideal clients? What are they like? What are they interested in?’ Frequently you’ll hear things like ‘we sell to’ and they’ll name a job title [CTO, CIO]. And it’s like, OK, and what are they interested in? And how are you doing something different than all your competitors?” – Erika Heald
Erika recommends using tools like Sparktoro to identify who follows the brand on social media and the people who are talking about brand-relevant topics to see where they are getting their information and what type of content they share.
“People frequently are looking only at their direct sales competitors as being their competition. But when you’re talking about content, your competition is big media players, small niche content creators, they’re all of these other people. It’s not necessarily your competitors, because your competitors might be putting out content that’s just about themselves. And if you’re looking at that to inform your content strategy, that’s not good.” – Erika Heald
Q3: How do you generate new content ideas and prioritize your content pipeline?
When possible, align your content with notable events or trending topics (if you have a brand-relevant fit). Laurie creates her own calendar for clients to keep track of key dates.
“There are certain moments when things are more relevant. There’s an ebb and flow. Personally, I hate all those resolution stories, but if you were ever going to write that stuff, January is the month.” – Laurie Kretchmar
“You want to keep an eye on what’s going on in the news. Sometimes it’s not just random, but it could actually be helpful for you to know. I’m a big believer in keeping an eye on what’s going on. There’s these little things called news pegs, and it’s a reason to write about something.” – Laurie Ketchmar
Commission proprietary research and center your content strategy around it.
“I love proprietary research. It’s such an easy way to start building those relationships with the media, as well as if you’re able to commit to doing it on a quarterly basis. We had one client who did a CFO index every quarter, and it builds that thought leadership and brand awareness for you in front of those people that you want to be selling to in a way that nothing else can. [When] you’re giving them data to make better decisions, people love you for that.”- Erika Heald
Q4: How can marketing teams tap into their internal and external networks to help amplify their content?
Laurie recommends you find your true evangelists:
“Find your true evangelist. You want to find the people where something resonates. If my neighbor opens up a steak restaurant, but I’m a vegan, I’m not going to be the biggest evangelist. Even if we’re related. Not everyone is going to be your biggest fan, but you want to find the people who do care about your thing.” – Laurie Kretchmar
“You want to identify who out there cares about these issues in particular. And you can activate them. You’re looking for hotbeds of interest. ” – Laurie Kretchmar
Do not force employees to share company content. There may be no person within their network that is relevant to your brand.
“Frequently I feel like we end up in situations where employers try to get employees to become brand ambassadors and over-index on scolding people if they don’t share company news and company posts to their personal networks—completely missing the point that many of their employees have zero people in their target audience or part of their brand community who are part of their networks.” – Erika Heald
Q6: How can marketers continue to build their network to drive ongoing engagement without coming across as spammy?
Consistently let your network know the type of people you are interested in connecting with.
“I like the idea of asking your network. Putting it out there that you are working to build an audience in a specific area or looking to connect with people who are passionate around a specific topic. You may not get thousands of replies, but you will get really good replies from people who are exactly what you’re looking for.” – Erika Heald
Look out for local meetups and national conferences that you can attend. Any networking opportunity could help you find your ideal community.
“When I hear of cool things now, I’m hopping on it. In the past, I might of evaluated or thought ‘maybe next year.” – Laurie Kretchmar
Laurie leaves us with two stories from a conference session led by Dr. Delatorro McNeal:
“We’re sitting in this conference room. And he says ‘raise your hands as high as you can.’ [So we did.] And he said ‘higher!’ And then he repeated himself, and said ‘I said, raise your hands as high as you can.’ So then, of course, we stood up. His point was: Why didn’t you do that at the beginning? Because we never do anything best the first time.” – Laurie Kretchmar
“A man was fishing, and a little boy was watching. All day long, mysteriously, the fisher threw back the big fish, and kept the little ones. So the little kid runs up and asks ‘why.’ [Dr. Delatorro McNeal] held up a small frying pan. It turns out, the man only has a small frying pan. Don’t limit yourself, get a bigger frying pan.” – Laurie Kretchmar