Content Strategy Not Working? Don’t Be Afraid to Blow it Up
Content strategies are great—except when they’re not.
Even the best laid plans won’t be effective 100% of the time, and that’s especially true with content strategies. At their best, they seamlessly guide quality content that covers a wide aspect of your association and positively impacts your readership. At their worst, they are tangled messes churning out the same old boring stuff that doesn’t move anyone forward.
Whether it’s a strategy you’ve inherited or an established one you made long ago, don’t leave it on life support if it’s not working.
Your Content Strategy is a Mess. Now What?
It’s pretty clear when a content strategy isn’t doing well. It can manifest in many ways: declining page views, volunteers who constantly miss deadlines, the same old content recycling year after year. It’s not always possible to reach this conclusion overnight. But when you realize you need to make a chance, you need to make it.
So what to do? First, isolate and identify the problem by using data. If you’ve seen declining numbers on your content hub, do an audit of your content for at least the last six months. Is there a certain type of content that’s doing well? What do your exit rates look like? How is your time on page?
If you find that people are leaving the homepage right away, it could be an issue with the organization or look of it. If they’re clicking into article but not reading them, the content itself could probably use an overhaul.
Sometimes content strategy issues are not as easily measurable, though. For instance, what do you do about a content calendar that is off schedule because of late volunteers? I had a client with this very issue. The content itself was pretty interesting (and getting clicks) but our contributors had trouble meeting their deadlines. Hey, they’re busy people! I can’t blame them.
Start taking stock of how late things come in. How many deadlines were missed? Do you have repeat offenders? How many pieces of content are you producing versus how many volunteers do you have in your arsenal?
Getting a grasp on what the issue is will help you move forward with fixing it, and it will give you a jumping off point when bringing the change to the higher-ups—especially if you have data to back it up.
A Road Map for Success
Once you’ve discovered what your problem is, you need to break down what is needed for success.
Sometimes it’s an easy fix. Let’s say a content audit reveals you do a variation of the same exact piece every October right before your conference. Your fix might simply be to incorporate more creative ideas for that event. Consider new ways you can cover the conference before it happens and advocate to cover the event live.
Sometimes it’s a not-so-easy fix. Let’s say when you’re looking at your contributors’ lateness, you realize you’re asking a small group of people to produce an exorbitant amount of content on a volunteer basis. That can be a lot on a volunteer, especially if they’re working an already high stress job. You might need to look at diversifying your content sources.
Does staff have time and budget to produce original pieces? Is the content currently being produced meaningful, and does it deliver the metrics it should? Are there other volunteers you can start to tap? Do you need to look at reducing the amount of content overall?
Once you figure out which solutions make the most sense for your content strategy, write it out in a step-by-step guide. Some changes will need to proceed others. Think about it like a map—if this changes, what else will shift? What changes need to follow or proceed it?
Aligning Everyone’s Needs
Once you get an idea of what the problems and solutions are, the next step is getting everyone on board. Minor changes—like increasing the size of your volunteer pool—shouldn’t be too much of an ask (and may require a simple notification to the greater marketing team). But when you’re asking for big change, it often needs to be kicked higher up the food chain.
Asking people to change isn’t easy. And for organizations that have been in stuck in their content ways for some time, upending the “old way of doing things” could be a hard sell. So setting up everyone’s needs early is key.
Start by planting the seeds in your immediate group. Ask your colleagues: “Do you like the way this looks? Do you feel our newsletter/magazine/content hub is interesting?” You’ll be surprised at how many of your colleagues are noticing the same things you are. Take note of their ideas and see where those fall into your solutions.
Get ready to bring this up to the powers at be as well. Figure out who you need to address the issue with—your executive director, a marketing committee, the board, for example—and go to them with your intentions. Tell them you want to spruce up your content strategy and ask them what they would like to see more of at the forefront.
Finally, share your data and roadmap. Having both of those things in your back pocket will be extremely beneficial. You can point to where the problem areas are and then offer direct solutions. Without having a solid plan of action, your ideas might seem amorphous and hold less weight to the decision makers in the room.
Just Do It
Upending your content strategy is a lot of work. But having a content strategy in place that isn’t working is just as bad as not having one at all.
Kate Jacobson is a content coordinator for SmithBucklin.
SmithBucklin Content helps you position your organization as an authoritative source of timely, relevant, comprehensive and engaging industry intelligence. Contact us to learn about partnering with SmithBucklin Content to create a customized content strategy for your organization.