Erin Christman, Content Specialist and Writer at Nelson Schmidt, explains how flexibility and insight are the keys to making great content that connects with your audience.
Content is the bridge between you and your audience. How do you anticipate and then integrate the right topics for your audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice?
If you’re struggling to align content with brand voice, it’s probably the wrong content. When it comes to “must have” content — covering the basics to rank for keywords, for example — brand voice is even more important, since it’s the only thing distinguishing your content from your competitors. The best content is going to come out of those ideas that jump out at you because of the natural bridge they build between brand and audience.
How you use different platforms can also help the client keep a specific brand voice. We don’t talk about “social media” strategy — we tailor strategies for each platform. For one client, an insurance company, we share risk control tips with their client audience, which because of the nature of the organizations they insure, is mainly on Facebook. LinkedIn is reserved for industry news and job opportunities within the company, and Instagram is used for general brand awareness (holidays, etc.). The brand voice doesn’t change across platforms, but the content does.
What role does branding play in content marketing?
The brand is what your content is ultimately marketing. If your audience remembers your ad but not the product it was advertising, that ad is a failure. It’s the same with content. If audience reaction is “this content is useful/informative/entertaining,” you’ve got good content. If audience reaction is “this brand is useful/informative/entertaining,” you’ve got great content.
That’s especially true for many of the considered purchase brands we work with, where product from company to company is largely the same. In the end, a washing machine washes clothes, and a bulldozer moves dirt. We’re not selling the machines; we’re selling the manufacturing expertise, product value, dependable service, etc., our clients can provide alongside the machines they sell.
Not everything can be advertised the same way, which can require a different approach across clients. How does content affect the way something is marketed and how do you pivot to treat this?
Content shouldn’t affect the way a product is marketed; the product should dictate the appropriate marketing and content approach. Like any marketing, the content has to match both the product and its audience. If you can’t market content where your target audience is, then that’s not the right content. For example, if your audience is always on the road and not in front of a monitor, a blog probably won’t work well. But can you provide that information in a different format? A podcast or Tiktok? The creativity comes in how you adapt the information to the medium.
Without giving away your secrets, what are some things that are integral to your internal checklist when creating content?
Focus on the goal, not the tool you’re going to use to achieve it; the latter may change and evolve, but always (and only) in service of the former.
Have a robust editorial process that involves all the stakeholders—don’t assume you can just “run it past” sales/engineering/legal for a final stamp of approval. They need to be involved from the beginning (with clear roles/responsibilities) to catch issues before they become problems.
How do you strategize for the way audiences will want to interact with content in virtual realities, Web 3.0, and the metaverse? To what extent do you involve influencers and consumers in creating the brand narrative?
Our agency has made the conscious decision not to be trend-chasers. For us that means not looking at VR, Web 3.0, etc. and saying, “how can we use these tools?” but looking at what our clients goals are and saying “what tools will help us reach that goal?” For example, we’re taking the metaverse seriously enough to establish a virtual footprint for our agency there, so we know what’s out there and how to best use it. But for those of us who remember Second Life, we’re not going to go “all in” until we can see real traction.
The right connections and technologies will reveal themselves—like working with an influencer on one platform who also has a foothold in another, giving you a natural opportunity to branch out. That’s an example of where influencers can help you expand the brand narrative and reach new audiences.