How to Conquer Content Chaos
In the chaotic, always-on world of content marketing, sometimes a little strategy is all it takes to slow things down and reassess.
I’ve spoken at Content Marketing World (CMW) several times since its debut in 2011. Each time, I struggle with the way speakers talk about “content strategy” for a few specific reasons.
First, in CMW speak, “content” is for marketing, and “strategy” means editorial calendar plus promotional tactics. These are both narrow viewpoints that ultimately do a disservice to marketers, as it fails to acknowledge how content marketing is intricately connected to other kinds of content organization-wide.
This means content marketing happens in a vacuum, even though to online audiences, it’s just one quick stop on their journey toward purchasing decisions, taking action, and then deciding whether to remain a customer over time … all of which is fueled in part by intricately interconnected content.
Second, although one of the primary themes of this year’s conference was “audience-centricity,” there were only two sessions (out of hundreds) on how to gather information about your audience—one on surveys and another on AI-driven research. And yet as any researcher worth their salt will tell you, the very best way to connect deeply with audiences is to talk to them, which is a practice unto itself. Where were the sessions on that?
But back to my talk. As I stepped onstage, hundreds of people stared at me expectantly. I had exactly 30 minutes to tell them how to solve the content chaos that was a result of a decade of prolific content marketing production and promotion.
I started by saying that what I’ve learned over the past many years of doing this work is that a content audit will not bring about meaningful change, nor will revising your documented content marketing strategy for the eightieth time. My advice was to start with a content strategy situation analysis, which essentially boils down to two parts: Figure out what’s going on right now, then prioritize the conversations and activities that will help improve outcomes.
This approach sounds so simple … but it’s not. It’s tough to carve out time to simply think and talk about where things are when there’s so much to do. It can take months of research and analysis to diagnose what’s causing problems. Trying to tease apart complex problems and align on a way forward can be daunting (and even sometimes depressing). And admitting that we’ve been doing things in a less-than-ideal way requires a certain amount of vulnerability.
In my talk, I offer up four steps to get started on this journey toward clarity:
- First: Assess your team’s principles. Why are you really doing content marketing? Who is your content for? What outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
- Second: Map your content ecosystem. If you don’t know where you are now, you can’t chart a course to where you want to be. Even the process of identifying all the parts and pieces (and people!) of your content world can be incredibly useful and help bring teams together.
- Third: Prioritize critical issues. You can’t fix or change everything at once, and you can’t very well stop doing everything you’re already committed to. What are the most important initiatives you can undertake to advance your content marketing maturity? (Freebie: Talk to your audiences. The number one thing most clients are missing at the start of Brain Traffic engagements is meaningful audience research. This will put you way ahead of your competitors. Promise.)
- Fourth: Engage the business. Change means getting people on board. What larger, internal pain points can you sell to? How can you state your case for more resources for research and analysis?
These are first steps toward bringing order to your content chaos. They’re also steps that bear repeating basically forever. Set goals, analyze your situation, make a plan, implement, measure. Review goals, analyze … and on and on.
My hope is that folks were able to momentarily take a step back from all the tactical advice about how to create and promote content and consider the world in which that content lives. Because, ultimately, no blog is an island.
View and download my CMW talk, “How to Conquer Content Chaos” … and let me know what you think.
Brain Traffic helps organizations conquer their content chaos every day. Get in touch if you need content consulting (or therapy) in your organization.
Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy and UX. She is the owner of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy; the author of Content Strategy for the Web; the host of The Content Strategy Podcast; and the founder of the popular Confab and Button conferences. Kristina speaks worldwide about the importance of content strategy, educating and inspiring audiences across every industry. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her two fantastic teens.