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I’m at the Social Media Strategies Summit in Dallas today, delivering a two-hour workshop on developing a branded content marketing strategy. The key is finding the right balance between employing outside-in topics and outside-in timing while still making sure your brand personality and messages come through clearly.

We recently conducted a dedicated content marketing strategy workshop for a client on this very topic. We worked with nearly thirty of its business and communication leaders to explore topics four different audience personas would find valuable and that the organization, a healthcare non-profit, could credibly address.

The client is a non-profit focused on healthcare. It entered the workshop with five profiles of target audience members that The Brainzooming Group helped them develop. These profiles, called personas, are three-to-five paragraph descriptions it developed describing specific individuals it serves, seeks to hire, or collaborates with in serving clients.  Small groups prepared the personas in advance by brainstorming answers to ten questions on each audience member.

The personas provided the basis for other workshop activities imagining topics audience members would be interested in and willing to read, watch, or listen to if the non-profit were to address them.

Here’s an overview of each of the strategic thinking exercises:

5 Content Marketing Strategy Exercises to Generate Audience-Oriented Topics

content-marketing-strategy-topics

What questions do audience members ask during the buying journey?

The initial exercise explored three phases of an audience member’s journey. The first phase (Awareness) encompassed their initial exploration as they became aware of an opportunity or issue an outside party might address. The second phase (Consideration) involved the audience member describing the relevant opportunity or issue and looking at organizations to help satisfy needs. The final phase (Decision) involved the audience member selecting, engaging, and evaluating the relationship with the outside party they chose.

Within each phase, the small groups identified questions audience members might ask. The comprehensive list of questions each group identified became the basis for the second content marketing exercise.

What topics address important audience questions?

The second exercise used questions from the first one to generate content topic ideas. For each audience question, participants suggested one or more topics or working titles. The topics they generated were not intended to communicate an overtly promotional brand message. Instead, the content would help audience members be smarter in their exploration, evaluation, decision-making, engagement, and post-purchase experiences. As the brand addresses topics of interest to audience members, it has the opportunity to subtly convey its helpfulness, expertise, and audience-focus through sharing beneficial content throughout has the audience journey.

Why do audience members select the brand?

Another exercise focused participants on the relationship stage where audience members either choose or do not choose the brand. Workshop participants identified five primary reasons audience members select the brand. They then identified five reasons audience members do not pick the brand. For each positive reason, they generated multiple topic ideas (of interest to audience members) that would back up the brand’s attractive characteristics. For reasons the brand was not selected, they brainstormed possible topics to help counter or refute misperceptions about the brand.

What do audience members say about the brand relationship?

One exercise focused on interactions audience members have with the brand further into the relationship using a 4-box grid. One axis listed “questions” and “statements.” The other listed “negative” or “positive” interactions.  Each of the four cells named a relevant situation and several questions to trigger potential topics. For instance, positive questions present “Education opportunities,” and negative questions signal “pain points.” Positive statements suggest highlighting ” brand value.” Negative comments indicate “objections to anticipate.” Questions associated with each of these four areas suggested jumping off points for additional topic ideas.

What do we think, know, and do that is relevant for audience members?

Audience members’ interests primarily extend beyond the brand’s traditional focus areas. That is why brands focusing only on content about themselves miss so many rich areas in which to share content. To counter this, one exercise explored areas in which audience members exhibit interests, seek information, and focus priorities. For each of the areas identified, participants generated audience-oriented topics. They made the brand connection to the audience based on what the brand thinks about audience interest areas, knows about the information they seek, and does relative to their priorities.

Coming Away with Plenty of Audience-Oriented Topic Ideas

During the Brainzooming content marketing strategy workshop, participants generated hundreds of potential content topics. Before adjourning, each person walked the room to review the topics and select those they thought had particular potential to interest audience members.

The next step is documenting all the topics on a content calendar. This enables the brand to address topics in an organized fashion across the year when, as they can best determine, audience members are most interested in the information.

If you want to learn more about specific details of this approach, contact us. Let’s collaborate to develop richer content that matters to your audiences. – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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On Friday, June 17th, I was in Curaçao, located just north of Venezuela, to present a ¾ day workshop on social media and content marketing strategy for the Curaçao Tourist Board. Angelo Harms, the CTB’s digital marketing manager, was a great host and arranged the content marketing strategy workshop for eighty social media professionals in the island’s travel and hospitality industry.

Curacao Workshop Pic 2

For everyone that attended the workshop (and for those of you that weren’t there), here are links to much of the content I presented, plus a number of bonus topics I would have included given another day of teaching time!

The workshop and the entire trip generated a lot of questions, learnings, and lessons. Look for a variety of blogged posts planned for the near future to share more about content marketing, branding, and customer service learned going to and from this wonderful island.

If you’re looking for a new, warm, colorful, photogenic place to vacation, you owe it to yourself to visit Curaçao!

43 Resources for Strategic Branding and Engagement with Social Media and Content Marketing

Linking Business Objectives to Social and Content Marketing

Curacao Cover

Creating Fantastic Branded Content

Boosting Productivity as a Small Solo Social Media Department

Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

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When something has to give, what strategic priorities will you give up?

When it is crunch time, what will emerge as your real strategic priorities? And are the priorities you pick the same strategic priorities you said you’d emphasize when it was time earlier in the year for strategic thinking?

Those questions are front and center for me.

Nearing last year’s close, I thought we knew specific changes in the make-up of The Brainzooming Group. Looking ahead, I planned to shift my activities toward organizing our content (and increasing its value) and to streamline our internal processes to boost capacity.

Then things changed.

A key person planning to join The Brainzooming Group delayed the decision. Marianne Carr took another role. In a complete surprise, Barb Murphy returned as part of the team. A speculative business opportunity occupying a good portion of my time went away. A new referral client materialized, leading to multiple opportunities. All the while, demand for Brainzooming workshops on innovation, strategic thinking, and content marketing increased.

It would have been easy to decide the best thing to do was sticking with what we’ve been doing. That would suggest pushing off changes we’d been considering until some future date.

Crunch-Time

The best option, however, was ramping up marketing and business development activities, building out our own content marketing strategy to work harder, and migrating more of the doing to core and extended team members of Brainzooming.

That’s what we’ve done, with both successes and sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the sacrifices involve important personal priorities for me – prayer and spiritual time, being with family, fitness, and time to explore new creative ideas. Sleep has also been a victim during this change.

That’s not a sustainable combination.

And even more recently, I actually blew up over a business situation; that’s something that hasn’t happened for a LOOOOOOOOOONG time.

Suffice it to say, it feels like crunch time.

Another victim during this crunch time is regularly publishing this blog.

I’ve been a proponent for regular, if not daily, blogging as vital for successful content marketing. We’re off our schedule, however. While I’m creating a tremendous amount of new content (workshops and presentations, eBooks, and client deliverables), it’s not transferring to blog content as readily as it has in the past. As a result, my strategic priority of maintaining an aggressive publishing schedule isn’t happening. When you finish working on that day’s workshop at 1:30 in the morning, sleep wins out over staying up another hour to write a blog post to publish at 4:50 the next morning. That’s especially true when you know the alarm is set for 5 a. m., no matter WHEN you go to bed. The night after that, however, I did stay up until 3 a.m. to get a second blog post published that week.  It was not easy rolling out of bed at 5:25 a.m., however, to make it to mass before diving in again to get ready for multiple trips that week.

All in all, for those that notice when there isn’t a Brainzooming blog published each day, I wanted to let you know what is happening.

I’m still here.

I’m still trying to create valuable content for you.

But it’s crunch time, and right now, that’s getting in the way. – Mike Brown

 

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This afternoon, I’m leading a three-hour Brainzooming workshop on creating branded content marketing at the Social Media Strategy Summit in Chicago. While it’s nice to be able to stretch with more time (typically these content marketing workshops are two hours at the Social Media Strategy Summit), I still feel as if there will be a lot of material that we won’t have time to fully cover.

Chicago-Image

In the branded content marketing workshop, we’ll look at generating appropriately branded content from multiple directions.

As a resource if this area is something you are struggling with in your organization, here are links to some of the topics on branded content marketing we’ll cover . . . and some that we won’t:

Taking an Audience-First Perspective

Staying True to Your Brand without Overdoing It

Experience and Interaction-Based Content for Your Brand

Expanding Brand-Related Content Options

Coming at your branded content marketing from these four different directions will open up all kinds of new possibilities.

Here’s the intriguing thing: having rearranged the content into these four groups (which don’t sync with the seven lessons in the workshop as it stands right now), I’m thinking (as I write this over the preceding weekend) that I’m going to rearrange the entire branded content marketing workshop. That’s how much I like this approach!  – Mike Brown

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What a strong first day at the Brand Strategy Conference in New York. There were lots of great ideas and very little free time!

The kickoff presentation on the first day was from Kodi Foster, Vice President – Data Strategy at Viacom. Kodi’s presentation focused on fusing creativity and data innovation to drive brand growth.  His discussion on the need to integrate science and art was on the money.

Five Things Your Content Marketing Strategy Should Deliver

While Kodi Foster presented lots of great ideas, that whole very little free time necessitates focusing on one item: this photo which details five things Kodi says audiences expect a brand’s online content marketing strategy to deliver for them.

  1. Education – Delivers systematic instructions or provides an enlightening experience
  2. Information – Delivers facts or knowledge about something or someone
  3. Inspiration – Stimulates the audience to do or feel something
  4. Entertainment – Provides amusement or enjoyment
  5. Utility – Provides a useful or beneficial function or capability

Content-Marketing-Strategy

His five-points form a strong checklist with which to assess your content marketing strategy. How many of these areas does your content touch? And what are you doing to tackle content that doesn’t address ANY of these five areas? – Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I presented a solo social media presentation at the February 2016 Social Media Strategies Summit in Las Vegas. For folks in and around (or willing to head to) Chicago, I’ll be presenting a workshop on creating fantastic content at the April 2016 Social Media Strategies Summit in the Windy City.

SMSS_Graphic

These events are always treasure troves of great learning and networking with such varied and smart marketers from around the country. Coming out of the Las Vegas event, I have several articles in queue.

14 Top Content Marketing Quotes from the Social Media Strategies Summit

Here is the first of the articles from the Social Media Strategies Summit, with fourteen quotes on content marketing, social media platforms, and standing out from the event’s great speakers.

Content Marketing and Community Engagement

“Credibility silences noise.” @BevJack MGM

“We time lapse everything around here because things are always moving.” @BevJack MGM

“Many brands miss the opportunity to create stories around the role they play in their users’ lives.” @mdeziel

“In the end, storytelling comes down to two things: connection and engagement.” – Ryan Mathews as shared by @RMMAGEDDON

“There are B2B opportunities in viral video because so few B2B companies have tried to do it.” @JereMarketer

Being Distinctive with Content Marketing

“A good piece of content shouldn’t need music. The visual scroll should be enough to get people to stop. “ @BevJack MGM

“There is a lot of crap and average people out there on social media. It’s much harder to stand out when everyone can start doing things and claim to be an expert.” @PhilPallen

Making the Most of Social Platforms

“You should be able to perform at a B+ or better level on any platform or kill your time spent on it.” @JereMarketer

“It’s two thousand sixteen; I don’t want to see pixels or eggs (on Twitter).” @PhilPallen

“Pinterest is a catalog of ideas” not a social network. “If Facebook is selling the past & Twitter the present, Pinterest is offering the future” @ChristineCassis @Pinterest

“The Bellagio Fountains are the nineteenth most Instagrammed place in the world.” @BevJack

Bellagio-Fountains

“Rather than be mediocre on 10 social platforms, be a rock star on 3.” @PhilPallen

Let Me Tell You about Myself

“I like to go on tangents. And I f’n like to curse a lot.” @RMMAGEDDON

“I’m opinionated, but I’m honest and I’m sweet.” @PhilPallen

Mike Brown

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Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When should a brand create content itself versus outsourcing content creation to an outside agency?

That was one content marketing strategy question attendees asked in the solo social media workshop I presented at the Social Media Strategies Summit.

SMSS_Graphic

We have a significant bias toward handling content creation inside a company as part of its integrated content marketing strategy. Unlike typical marketing communications, press releases, brochures, direct mail, etc., content creation for social media platforms necessitates an authentic sense of the brand personality, IF it’s going to be successful. Being so intimate with the brand personality and what it represents in every dimension isn’t something an outside communicator can easily do. Additionally, an outside communicator often isn’t present to capture the video, images, and interviews in the moment as robust content sources.

Having said this, there are instances where outsourcing content creation can make sense. This can also extend to outsourcing curating and sharing content in some situations as part of a brand’s content marketing strategy.

7 Situations for Outsourcing Content Creation

Here are seven situations where we think outsourcing content creation and other related functions is viable:

  1. Adapting internally-generated content so it fits with targeted social media platforms.
  2. The brand is willing to invest resources in an outside communicator to become immersed in the brand both initially and on an on-going basis.
  3. Individuals inside the company are the face and/or voice of the content an outside communicator edits or rewrites, videos/photographs, or translates into social media-appropriate formats.
  4. Designing the strategy and platform for a brand to communicate content via social media networks.
  5. Curating content that fits the brand’s strategy.
  6. Scheduling the brand’s content across channels, in effect becoming the DJ for internally created content.
  7. Conducting social media listening for the brand.

One outsourced social media situation you don’t see listed is a brand farming out 100% of its content creation.

There may be other situations that make sense, but this is where we stand on this content marketing strategy question.  – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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