How to create an editorial strategy

Invest time in a thoughtful and documented process. This will show a difference in your content impact and forge lasting relationships with an audience.

Content marketing grows but lacks process

Given you are twice as likely to be an effective content marketer if you have a documented editorial strategy, it is well worth investing the time to create and record your strategy today. These findings are taken from North America; however, a similar pattern follows in the UK.

Raconteur hosted an event where CEO Freddie Ossberg asked 60 marketers whether they had an editorial strategy. A few hands went up. However, when he asked whether it was documented, there may not have been one remaining in the air. If you rely on content as a key part of your marketing mix, then now is the time to create a robust and documented strategy.

The process of creating an editorial strategy

Publishing mission The first and most important step of creating an editorial strategy is to define your publishing mission statement. If you don’t have something to say – something of value to share with your target market – then there is absolutely no point in creating content. There should be guidelines against which all your brand publishing should be created, and ultimately the standard against which it should then be evaluated.

To give examples of publishing statements from leading media companies: Life magazine’s mission statement was to show the American public the world via photography that told a story. Mumsnet wanted to create a value exchange between parents. HBO was set up as a new type of TV channel passionate about original long-form television series. These are all one sentence statements that are easy to understand and aspire to. What is your mission statement?

Mapping your audience

One of the tenets of content marketing is that you need to understand — and write specifically — for your audience. Once you understand where you can offer value, the next step is to map your audience. It may be that you create different types of content for different audiences, but it is vital to understand exactly who your primary audience is, and then develop reader personas for your content.

Once identified, you must understand what content is already being directed towards them, the platforms on which they engage with content, and how best to distribute the content. A key point here is to look at all the types of media that your target market may be absorbing. This is unlikely to come just from what you may think of as your direct competitors. You are competing with media outlets such as the Financial Times, Wired, Dave, Sky Sports, Radio 6 etc. You must identify what you like about these platforms and how you can replicate it in your own work.

By this point, you should have a fairly good idea of what is already in the market place and be able to identify “content gaps” not currently served by your competitors or other content source. This will allow you to make astute decisions as to what you should be focusing on for your brand’s strategy.

From ideas to execution

The next steps all concern operations – what are the best procedures for implementing your publishing mission statement and engaging your audience? Here you can analyse the content that the whole organisation is producing, whether from marketing, investor relations, sales, senior executives or even the finance or HR departments. Are these pieces of content adhering to your newly documented mission statement? How easily can you use current resources to adhere to the new way of thinking?

Then you can seriously think about the quality of your writing – although the executive board may be the most senior personnel, do they really understand how to write for their target market? What is the difference between the way The Economist explains a disruptive way of thinking, and the way you are currently doing it? Chances are that a journalist can do it better. And how are you using design? Are the publications you’re producing designed like brochure or to replicate the leading publishers in your field? Are you being careful about which stock images you use or is it worthwhile commissioning bespoke images for certain publications? To be clear, it may be that the most expensive way is not the best path for your brand.

We believe that brands overcomplicate messaging – focusing in-depth about two areas is better than covering seven less comprehensively. Often a headline figure can do the same job as a complicated graph. Nevertheless, it is best to have fully thought out the advantages and disadvantages of why each part of the content strategy is to be created in a particular way, otherwise there is no way of knowing if the final product is the one that best meets the publishing mission statement and in the most costeffective way.

Distribution

Content is useless unless it is seen. As a result, it simply isn’t a strategy to just create content and expect your target audience to become aware of it. That’s why a combination of owned, paid and earned media is the only distribution strategy that counts.

Owned – This includes everything from your email database to microsites and blogs. For SEO purposes, it is important that brands develop strong platforms from which content can be shared.

Paid – Content is very much the new “artwork”. Just like artwork however, unless you pay to have it seen by your target audience, chances are it won’t.

Earned – Commission best-in-class content, preferably research based or something which provides unique insight or perspective. Then get your PR team to go out and sell it!

Measurement

Finally – measurement. This is key to the whole process because without showing the success of your content, you are unlikely to get internal buy-in for another content campaign, and what’s more, you won’t understand how to improve.

The first step of measurement is to monitor the reactions of your target audience and engage them in further conversation. It is at your discretion to decide who is responsible for the follow up. It is worthwhile to have a conversation with the sales team or perhaps the business development department could reach out to a prospect about a webinar. From a marketing perspective your goal is to learn from what they think. There should be some qualitative and quantitative measurements agreed in advance.

We’ve hopefully laboured the point that in order to claim if a content campaign or project was a success or not depends on whether it excelled against the publishing mission statement. If it didn’t, then figure out exactly where in your operations this went wrong and iron it out for next time.

Other metrics depend on the priorities of your business, whether that is customer evangelism, brand awareness or prospect engagement.

In summary…

Publishing mission

+ Figure out what you have to offer the world. + What value can you provide to your audience?

+ Create a publishing mission linked to the brand’s mission. Then document it.

+ All content must be created and evaluated with this publishing mission statement in mind.

Map audience

+ List core and secondary target groups and rank by importance.

+ Develop Personas and define concerns, drivers and role.

+ Understand what content sources being used by your target audiences already.

+ Identify the “content gaps”.

Diagnose goals

+ What is the end purpose of creating more and better content?

+ What content do you already have that is working? Can it be improved?

+ What are the best metrics and KPI’s to measure progress?

Plan & create

+ How should the content best present itself?

+ Is the format print, online or a mix?

+ What design will elevate the content?

+ How should case studies support the output?

+ Is it necessary to bring in external experts/ contributors?

Distribute

+ Set a strategy for owned, paid and earned distribution.

+ How can you optimise your content for various channels?

+ Which channel achieves the highest impact for your target market?

+ When is the best time to release the content?

+ Are the sales team familiar with the purpose and impact of the content?

Monitor

+ Observe how your target market responds.

+ Engage in conversation via social.

+ Audit what content performs and which doesn’t.

Measure

+ Always against the publishing mission statement and defined KPI’s in mind.

+ Never measure just against the obvious metrics.

+ Understand what should be produced next for improved results.

To break this information down even further, you can look at the following three steps:

-> Identify the ‘why’
-> Specify the ‘how’
-> Measure the outcome

Going through these steps would help you clarify why you are creating the content in the first place. Why should your target market care? Why is this publishing mission statement the one that encapsulates what the business stands for (which doesn’t necessarily correlate with what you sell or provide).

Why is content the best method to grow the business? This step could also be called a value based strategy.

What is the best way of implementing the value-based statements? Does a marketing executive’s online blog have the same impact as a journalist’s article on printed paper? What can be done to distribute the content? Which are the correct channels and platforms for this and how should the content be adapted to the task? This could also be thought of as your operational or implementation strategy.

Finally, with measurement, you have to understand the impact of the campaign in order to understand what could be done better or differently. This is always a question of value, and with content just as much emphasis should be placed on anecdotal responses to the campaign, as well as quantitative metrics.