Google the word “context” and here’s the definition: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
Context is essential in communication. A comment, idea, or opinion that’s delivered without context often feels socially awkward, as in “where did that come from?” If you’re on the receiving end you’ve got to stop, pause, and consider the meaning. That takes time – and there’s always a chance you won’t get it right.
The same principle applies in content marketing. Producing any type of digital content, such as videos, infographics, white papers, and blog posts, in a silo, without context, runs the risk of delivering content that won’t resonate. And that’s no good for business.
I’ve developed a list of questions that I ask before we create any content, for any client, that can help establish context. Here, in no particular order, are the questions that help establish context for your content marketing.
Who is the intended audience for this content? Is it the decision-maker, such as CIOs and IT directors, or the IT professionals in the trenches evaluating solutions? Is it a technical audience, or is it intended for managers and directors in the line of business? What do we know, if anything about their knowledge of the subject at hand—is it new for them, or very familiar? These questions help determine the tone and level of detail, among other things.
What channel and/or format are you using? We all know tweets and Facebook posts should promote the same idea/messaging as what’s found in the blog post or white paper. But it’s important to know if I need to boil down what could fit in a 500-word post to a 150-word mini motion video script.
A comprehensive marketing campaign covers a lot of real estate, from PR efforts to paid media, trade show presence, and so on. It’s important to know where your content fits in the overall campaign. Is this the first deliverable in trying to reach small business owners? Or are you trying to highlight revealing statistics that make a great PR pitch?
The sales funnel can be broken into 3 sections: one for us—the marketers—and one to describe the actions of the potential customer. It goes like this: Marketers attract, build, and engage. Customers learn, evaluate, and decide. It’s critical to know where your content fits. A thought-leadership blog can “attract” customers and help them “learn” about your company’s expertise. A white paper that outlines best practices for choosing a cloud service provider, on the other hand, helps “build” your case—and helps the customer “evaluate” your solution.
I left the best for last, even though strategy should come at the very beginning, before you even start asking the other questions. What is your overall content strategy, and how does each piece of content you’re developing tie back to and execute on this strategy? As I said in the very beginning, any kind of communication without context holds potential for misunderstanding. And any content developed without an over-arching strategy that spells out the end goal may keep you in the world of silo’d one-off pieces of content. And that, frankly, can be a waste of time and resources.