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02/19/14

How to Align Your Content Strategy with Your Brand

Content strategy and content marketing are two related but ultimately independent methods for creating awareness for your business. Content marketing is specifically designed to drive profitable customer action, while content strategy builds a relationship between your brand and a segment of the market that you’d like to sell to in the future. With content strategy, your audience can be much broader than your customers and prospects–and may not include them at all.

For content strategy to be effective, it needs to align with your brand as well as the goals of your organization.  And if you want your target audience to pay attention, then you need to stop creating content that doesn’t reinforce your brand’s message, which can undermine your company’s reputation. Here are three key areas to consider when developing your content strategy:

Know Your Brand

If you can’t define and articulate your company’s brand clearly, then you will have a hard time supporting its identity in your content.  Being able to communicate your brand promise clearly is essential if you want to create materials that are in line with it.  Without a clear knowledge of what your brand stands for, how else will you know what your content needs to say?

Free People targets the smart, casual bohemian woman.

Free People targets the smart, casual bohemian woman.

The best way to articulate your brand concept is with a positioning statement, a description of your company’s target market, and a breakdown of how you want this market to perceive your brand.  Write these three things down, and make sure to revisit them regularly as you continue to develop your content to make sure your materials stay on brand. Remember, while content marketing is about driving leads and sales, content strategy is about delivering value that empowers your readers, and distributing that message where, when, and how they want to consume it.

Consider the Content Experience

Every piece of content you produce creates a user experience.  The perceptions and feelings someone has while consuming your content is what defines this experience.  Was your site cleanly designed and easy to read, or was the reader bombarded with pop-up windows and banner ads covering all of the margins?  User experience can matter almost as much as the message of the content itself, so you need to think about how you want people to feel while reading, and after reading, your material.

Some of the most powerful experiences for in tapping into consumer responses are the following:

  • Make people feel smarter
  • The social experience – give people something to talk about with their friends
  • Convenience – the content is easy to access
  • Trust – makes the audience feel like the content looks out for their best interests
J. Crew offers advice on how to dress for interviews and work trips

J. Crew’s style guide for men

Of course, you shouldn’t restrict your organization’s content to these four experiences just because they’re popular.  First, the fact that they are popular means that there is inherently more competition for the attention of the audiences that are seeking to have these experiences.  Second, you need your experience to be in line with both your brand’s identity and your audience’s desires.  If you only have one, either your audience won’t be interested, or it won’t help your brand because it will be sending a conflicting message compared to the rest of your content.

Ultimately, engagement and brand loyalty will come from how your target audience interprets your brand and the experiences they’ve had with your content. Positive experiences and interpretations means you will start building rapport with this market segment, which is the ultimate goal of your content strategy.

Fill a Need the Audience Has

For both content strategy and content marketing to effectively support each other, your material needs to fill a gap that your target audience currently has in their lives — even if they’re not aware of it yet.  When deciding what brands to interact with and what content to consume, the market first considers its own needs and resources (in this case time and attention).  The only way to get this time and attention for your brand is by giving your audience something that they want and are currently missing in their lives.

living-room-couch-l

Southern Living decorating ideas

Your audience’s first priority is always what matters to them. Unfortunately what matters most to your company is almost never what matters most to your audience.  Sometimes they are even at odds with each other! So the trick to an effective content strategy is to balance the goals of your organization with providing content that fills a need the audience has.  If you can do this successfully, you will reinforce your brand’s message with your target audience and over time build a rapport with them that moves them along your sales funnel to become prospects and ultimately customers for your business.

How do you want your target audience to describe their experiences with your content? Continue the conversation in the comments below!

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