How to ensure that your content is king

This month's Masterclass focuses on developing an effective content-marketing strategy in the age of paid, owned and earned media, writes Mhairi McEwan.

The world of media planning and buying has become an extremely complex, increasingly automated one. Faced with the reality of being able to aim personalised communications at the right person at the right time, client marketers need help to effectively exploit the full potential of a technology and data-driven paid-media approach.

Many brands have a presence across a multitude of platforms simultaneously. To engage customers, brands are evolving new skills as 24/7 publishers, so their owned and earned-media strategies are more effective and integrated across channels.

Everybody is struggling to adapt to a landscape where the lines between so many aspects of content marketing are blurring. Content is being used and repurposed across different platforms; agencies originate content ("paid"), that goes on a company website ("owned") and is shared via social medial ("earned"). Enlightened companies are overhauling their legacy structures and traditional silos and embarking on a content-marketing strategy where the peaks and troughs of paid-for media campaigns are underpinned by an "always-on" stream of relevant, engaging, content.

Here are some tips on how to develop a content-marketing strategy that can be run by a co-ordinated and well-structured publishing team; one that can manage the "always-on" stream of shareable content to inspire and influence consumers.

1. Develop a brand idea - or "editorial positioning". This is a "promise or belief; a bold statement of intent" that ties in to the core consumer insights at the heart of the brand and acts as a powerful communication focus to cut through and connect with target customers. Sainsbury's "What's Cooking" and the brand idea behind Guinness' "Made of More" campaigns are great examples.

2. Goals and measures - decide who the target customer is and what attitudes or behaviours the brand needs to influence or drive. Are you aiming to change awareness, consideration, attract sales, exhibit thought-leadership or build advocacy and deeper relationships? Today everything is in a constant state of beta, so track what you are doing and adjust in line with learnings.

3. Content platforms or themes - what are the handful of big themes around which content can be curated, repurposed or originated? Creative sessions with cross-functional teams are a tried and trusted way of developing these. Guinness created a big theme based on "Arthur's Day", which it used to create major music events worldwide.

4. Channel guidelines - which media channels do you want to prioritise for your target audience? For example, primetime TV, YouTube, Facebook or even owned channels that you create. Once content is created, it can be "pushed", "pulled" and "shared" through a wide range of communication channels. Again, look at the Guinness "Arthur's Day" music events.

5. Executional guidelines - these help to ensure a powerful and clear brand identity is presented across all channels and include brand identity guidelines, mandatories and a governance process.

6. Sign-off and communication - the final due diligence to ensure that all key business decision-makers and the rest of the organisation are aligned is vital. This is one of the most powerful channels of all and means the advocacy of employees, suppliers and other key stakeholders can also be used.

Mhairi McEwan is chief executive and co-founder of Brand Learning.

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