Content Marketing is all about creating content that aligns a brand’s interest with end user value. Churning out random content that does not follow any rationale or which cannot be implemented with repeat-ability is simply hoping to get lucky with Search Engines. Such ad-hoc approach may well work at times but it is impossible to use this to build a sophisticated Content Marketing capability that requires generating high quality content, consistently and at scale. Instead, Companies must look to gradually implement all the building blocks of a mature Content Marketing capability that includes Content Panning, Ideation, Production, Promotion/Distribution and Analytics.
The current post focuses on building the Content Ideation capability as part of this transformation journey and in particular, builds an argument for creating a full-time Content Ideation Role in certain business environments.
Content Ideation-What is involved
In order to better appreciate our argument, consider some of the key activities involved in the Ideation phase
- Title Research-A well-researched title narrows down the focus of consideration for you to actually start building an outline. This research involves multiple techniques including (but not limited to) using topic generators, news aggregators, bookmark managers, personal notes, competitors’ content, and analyzing past performance of similar titles (from analytics data). Completing these activities consistently and in a time-bound manner is no mean feat, and certainly not when Editorial Calendars expect delivery of multiple content items per week.
- Outline Development-Coming up with titles is just the start and must be followed with a fairly detailed Content outline/synopsis. Consider the case where a Company outsources Content Writing services. Writers need to know specifically what line of thinking to follow when converting a title into final content. This involves the original Idea developer to build an outline and explicitly specify details including the purpose of article and the kind of value it must provide to audience, tone or writing, theme of writing (use case, best practices guide, framework guide, hands-on demo), suggested length etc. Each of these activities require further due diligence. For example, how do you define content value? A takeaway message from a piece of content with a well-defined persona maybe easy to define. But how do you articulate this for a generic article with a broad target audience? These are all questions that are best answered by a resource already familiar with the business and who can conveniently summarize this for third party writers.
- Idea approval-Not every idea can be approved when it comes to maintaining commercial feasibility. This is a key differentiator between Content Writing and Content Marketing. Careful evaluation needs to be done of multiple factors including delivery schedule, availability of internal subject matter experts, topic under consideration and availability of external resources, availability of substantive qualitative and quantitative information to build a compelling argument, and so on. The idea approval process requires team members to collaborate on this decision making but ultimately, the activity needs to be owned by a single resource for auditability.
- Keyword selection-In most mature Marketing environments, the SEO team owns keywords to target based on analysis of multiple factors including alignment to a brand’s portfolio of offerings, current business focus, ease of ranking, and so on. From a Content perspective, it needs to be ensured that every piece of content targets a unique keyword, that there is no duplication of focus keywords, and that content for higher priority keywords is given priority. Even with proper planning tools, ensuring this alignment can be a major challenge when creating content at scale.
- Editorial Calendar Alignment-Chances are that ideation is being done to fuel a specific content schedule that requires a fixed number of content items of specific formats at specific intervals. A simple such configuration could be three longform blog posts per week for internal sites and a couple of shorter version articles for third party sites for SEO consumption. How do you ensure that the content ideation process is aligned to this schedule? It ends up being a fairly crafty Project Management activity to manage time in order to ensure that ideas are completed to the required stipulation within time and budget constraints.
- Staying in the groove-Content ideation is a largely creative activity and best done as a continuation exercise. The research aspect exposes a resource to significant related information that could be easily re-used for future content articles or for refining the existing pipeline. Shuffling the ideation resource across other non-related activities (e.g. actual content writing, production management, analytics etc.) may well end up diluting the final content quality in terms of its depth and end-user appeal.
Isn’t this the same as a Content Marketing Strategist Role?
The discussion above may naturally lead readers to question as to how the activities outlined above differ from developing a Content Marketing Strategy and for which, there is already a Content Marketing Strategist role? The answer lies in appreciating that Content Marketing involves not just ideation but also other activities including Planning, Operations, Content Promotion, and Analytics. A Strategist’s role of influence extends far beyond Ideation while the purpose of the Content Ideation role is to focus solely on conceptualizing and developing content ideas in line with the Editorial Calendar Schedule.
For Brands looking to adopt Content Marketing as a long-term Marketing Strategy tactic, allocating dedicated resources to creating compelling ideas will soon become an imperative. With the sheer volume of content requirements, Content Ideation and Content Writing roles would develop much clearer demarcation with the Ideation part largely remaining in-house and the Writing part outsourced where applicable. Further, as the benefits of streamlining Content Ideation processes sets-in, a dedicated Content Ideation role will emerge as the centerpiece of quality conscious, commercially focused Content Marketing Teams.