Content Arcs Structuring a brand-led content strategy

Content Arcs: Structuring a brand-led content strategy

  ●   September 24, 2019 | Blog, Content Marketing
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September 24, 2019 | Blog, Content Marketing

Content creation is at the heart of digital marketing and a crucial element in the growth of any brand’s online presence. Successful content requires a robust strategy centred around communicating what a brand has to offer.

Content arcs are the key themes a brand needs to tell their story and should be a key consideration at as you start to build your strategy. Using the overarching arcs uncovered by initial research and your client’s priorities or ‘pain points’, you can begin to break down your content ideas and map them to the content formats and purposes you need.

Creating relevant and engaging content is not easy, but if it is done right it can be hugely beneficial for both client and customer. By using a framework of content arcs, a brand can establish purpose and personality, helping to build personal connections and ultimately driving loyalty and advocacy amongst their consumers.

What is the main aim of your content?

Before you embark on building a content strategy, it is useful to consider how your content will be valuable for your client’s audience. A good content marketing strategy will aim to meet one or more of the following objectives:

  • Educate: Aimed at awareness, educational content could either be introducing someone to the brand or solving a problem for a potential customer. Telling your client’s brand story is a powerful way to bring a brand’s unique qualities to life and create a connection with its audience. Pain point content, on the other hand, focuses on how a product may solve an existing problem its customer is experiencing or how a client can optimise their experience with the service being offered.
  • Engage: Content aimed at engagement exists to make a reader stop and think. And more importantly, question why they need a certain product of service. This content is generally thought-leadership in nature, focusing on your client’s brand purpose or trends in their industry; it should be powerful enough to catch the attention of their audience and encourage debate or dialogue.
  • Encourage: This type of content is there to get customers to convert. Having navigated the early stages of the marketing funnel with the help of educating and engaging content, you can employ highly targeted content or email marketing tactics to nurture customers to click ‘buy’. Consistently engaging content could also boost the chances of repeat purchases and/or a committed brand advocate.

So, where do you start?

To the untrained eye, writing a blog post may seem like a straightforward task. In fact, content marketers will know that production is only a small part of the process, first comes preparation. If you’re aiming to use content cleverly to amplify a brand, there will be a lot to think about before getting started. Your preparation phase should include research into audience personas and competitor content, the development of an in depth brand tone of voice and creative content ideation.

1. Research

Before putting pen to paper, you need to think about who you are writing for. You may think you know your target audience really well, but by creating buyer personas you can begin to split your audience into segments and dig a little deeper. Breaking down consumers into individual buyer persons, using social data and search patterns, helps us to understand the specific challenges, pain points and resistance points for the target audience – a good place to start looking for ideas. [Link to Amelia’s article on buyer personas]

Similarly, researching content topics and themes that have been particularly successful for competitors for social media engagements or driving traffic is a great starting point for content ideas. Conducting deep dives into what it is exactly that makes the content successful (format, structure, use of images etc.) can provide best practices when it comes to your own strategy or give you further inspiration for new content areas you could explore.

2. Developing a tone of voice

In order to maintain consistency across your content output, it’s important to establish a brand tone of voice before you get writing. It can sometimes feel unnecessary when your client has spent years developing a product and branding, but the act of settling on a few basic words or sentences that sum up their tone of voice can be harder, and more beneficial than it sounds. It can also be a helpful differentiator when you create strategies for multiple clients and is a useful reference point when producing content as an external writer.

A brand’s tone of voice determines what they say and how they say it. It is dictated by brand principles and personality and can be used to demonstrate warmth, expertise, sense of humour or other key attributes that consumers should be aware of. Allowing a brand voice to come across helps to build an emotional connection as the consumer identifies with the brand personality and saying something that resonates with people will help the brand to sell more creatively and effectively.

3. Content ideation

No content strategy is complete without understanding what subjects you’ll be covering and how they will relate to each other. Start small and build up. With your research and tone of voice in hand, hold a series of creative workshops with clients or internal teams to find the overarching themes you know the client wants to cover and then create your library of content title ideas to start from. By organising your ideas into these content arcs, you will ensure you’re creating content that is directly relevant to all buyer personas and answers your client’s business priorities.

It is useful to categorise your content at this stage; once you’ve mapped your titles to the overarching themes you can then cross-reference them with what you’re trying to achieve (the purpose). Is it directed at a particular persona pain point, is it focusing on brand storytelling or is driving traffic the ultimate aim? And don’t forget to also make a note of any PR opportunities or social post ideas along the way. This process will help you know which audience segment you are speaking to, what problem you are trying to solve and may even help decide what format is most suitable.

Take the example of this B2B client:

Based on this client’s specific priorities, the content is aimed at either answering a buyer persona pain point, telling their brand story, driving SEO traffic to their site or getting PR coverage using thought leadership. Using our industry research and social data, we identified the content arcs as ‘Business Transformation’, ‘Innovation’, ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ and ‘Leadership’.

With the library of content we made in our creative session and the client’s expert knowledge, one of the titles we came up with was: ‘Align company culture with company strategy to outperform your competition’. This article would be aimed at a C-Level buyer persona who wants to know how to drive innovation in their organisation to remain competitive. So, it fits into the calendar here:

As you fill this matrix with your ideas, covering the pain points of all your personas and the priorities of your client, you will soon spot any gaps you need to fill and find further inspiration for ideas.

The ultimate goal of the preparation phase is to ensure that your content calendar is comprehensive, cohesive and consistent with both your client’s objectives and their brand’s tone of voice. Breaking content into categories in this way helps to focus the author on the purpose, allows you to spot areas that are being neglected and gives structure to the flurry of ideas.

And, now it’s time to write!

With your content titles mapped to into a matrix you can group this into a calendar. Your thorough preparation phase will have given you a rough idea of what you want to say and when, so adding dates in the diary should be a breeze. Now you only have the small task of producing the best content available on that topic!

It’s always a good idea to map out the main point of your content, the key things you want your reader to take away and how the piece will be structured before you start. Plan, plan and plan again. Once you have an outline, familiarise yourself with the best practices for the content type you’re creating: think about the length of the post, what headers will help with the flow and do you need visuals to help explain your concepts? And you’re away!

Key things to remember

  • The most important thing you can do is create quality content that offers your audience something they won’t get elsewhere – above all else, focus on why you’re writing in the first place and what your brand is trying to say that’s different
  • Being dynamic is also key to the success of any brand-led content strategy – no matter how much you plan, events and opportunities will spring up throughout the year that will become a focus and having a strong framework will allow you to swap titles and themes easily when priorities shift around
  • Lastly, be sure to monitor trends and themes in your industry and refresh and revisit your plan regularly to ensure it’s up to date, innovative and relevant

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