The ultimate needle we care about moving is impact: the amount of influence we can exert to alter others’ trajectories in an intended direction. And so it is easy to poke fun at the assembly line process of traditional content marketing status quo. Their business KPIs have been deconstructed and handed down to them as “you do this traffic part and sales will do that sales part.”
And so they must be overly focused on driving search traffic at the expense of relevance, ultimately at the expense of meaning and business value.
And yet as experts with content we have a different battle, one with our own status quo.
Content as thinking where your ideas and key points ultimately end up in that warehouse of a website archive you have. You (we) are the hoarder with the garage door stuck in the open position, except that, unlike you, the hoarder is not trying to use their piles to communicate their value.
When we do seek to make an impact with writing we are simply trying to change the way someone sees things to a point where they now have a stake in altering their own trajectory by looking up and out to a vision you have helped them put edges on, one that is clarifying.
My last email ended with something like the idea that driving decisions with data means giving yourself a fighting chance at reducing bias in a decision making process.
What I really meant is that as people, we are driven by habit. Improvement, or at least most advice about improvement, typically looks like simplifying as much as possible so that we can spend more time on the work that matters to us.
But as a result we end up gliding on autopilot. This is not a bad thing, I think it’s unavoidable, but it also means that expert content strategies must happen in reverse.
Instead of the creating editorial calendars months in advance to be plugged into a content factory like enterprises, we must turn to the past and explore the artifacts of our own expertise to gain insight into how we’re actually doing at the thing we’re trying to do.
I have a good process for this.
We define content quality together. Content quality is tricky. We must identify the available features and metrics associated with your content and come up with some criteria with which to evaluate your past thinking.
You likely cannot evaluate the quality of your own efforts and so we have to look at performance, engagement, and indicators of potential. The potential value of your content is what helps us decide what to do with it.
That and context. We map your common users’ problems and journeys as well as your current ontologies, the topics and how they fit together (taxonomies). My background in SEO probably has me relying too heavily on keyword research to make sense of the patterns in what users think, need, and care about at what approximate ratios in ranges that have not been overly supported by competing content, but it helps us move from 100% gut decisions to implementing some external data not dependent upon your existing audience’s interactions with your archives of content.
We then label your content so we can determine the gaps between your current repository of content and what users need to make progress on their journeys. Where are the gaping holes in your thinking? Often we think about some things so much that we don’t even bother to write about them. We assume we have covered it, or that it was too obvious. But to our audience, it is like a great divide we never thought to build a bridge across.
In that way we must design an improved information architecture with the understanding that you now have a lot of important content yet to be created. So simultaneously we have identified the key problem areas in your ability to make an impact, mapped clear paths for users seeking to be influenced by your thinking, and created a list that you can use to inform your editorial calendar, you know, for when you decide to stop cruising on autopilot.