Welcome back to our “Year of Publishing Strategically” (nod to “A Year of Living Dangerously,” Linda Hunt, 1984 Academy Award for best supporting actress). Having covered a variety of writing tips and tactics in this column, this year we are exploring the ins and outs of content strategy. Put another way, we are all about getting your content to work harder and smarter for you by doing more thinking upfront.
You accomplish this by crafting a well-designed content strategy before you ever sit down to write.
Have You Identified Your Business Objective?
In last month’s post, “Content Strategy: What It Is and What It Isn’t,” we defined content strategy as “the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective.” Your task was to identify your business objective — that is, what you want to accomplish — as specifically as possible.
For example, let’s say your firm wants to increase the revenues of a specific practice group by 10 percent with the addition of a marquis client that will allow you to acknowledge them as a representative client. To accomplish this, you will have worked with firm lawyers and business development colleagues to identify likely targets based on your current client profile, profitability and probability. Do not gloss over this SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. It will become your guide for the content you want to publish.
Once you’ve identified your target (it’s OK to have more than one but BD experts suggest no more than three), you can begin your editorial investigation.
The Editorial Investigation
You need to know everything you can about your target — their needs and issues, how they are currently attempting to address those issues, and how your firm can enter their orbit as a potential problem-solver.
This is a very granular exercise, both for business development and content strategy.
Here’s how far you can drill down.
You know you can grow your cybersecurity practice, but how? You have a partner in the cybersecurity group who has been working well with colleagues in the hospitality industry group. Your hospitality group isn’t your largest or strongest group, but that means there is room for development. They are interested in cross-selling but don’t quite have all the tools. Based in part on their mutual strengths and current client profiles, you set your cybersecurity sights on fast-food and fast-casual restaurants and chains. Simply for the sake of illustration, we’ll say that after much-reasoned consideration, you decide to target Taco Bell, Panera and a small vegan chain that sells wraps, smoothies and acai bowls.
Why those companies? Taco Bell is on an explosive growth strategy, pushing into more international markets as it seeks to move revenues from $10 billion to $15 billion by 2022; Panera was sold in 2017, becoming a private rather than a public company, creating opportunities as alliances and priorities shift; and the vegan chain already uses the firm for trademark work and is a much-loved local company that garners great PR for its community service.
I’m glossing over some business development research here because our focus is on research into the best content development to lure those targets.
The task now is to learn how those targets stay up to date on industry issues, and how your firm can enter that content mix.
We can guess they are receiving (and likely reading) the client alerts from existing counsel. So first, review as fully as possible what your target’s current counsel is publishing. Next, align that with what you think are the target’s content needs.
- Are their service providers writing about the new wave of consumer payment options, such as Apple Pay?
- What about the security aspects of one-touch mobile ordering and delivery?
- How about supply chain security?
- Where are the opportunities to fill unmet content needs?
- What information exists but could be more accessible and digestible?
Identifying the Content Your Target Needs
The goal is to become a trusted source of information for issues the target is facing or is about to face. When you’ve identified those topics, we can look at distribution channels and the type of content that best serves what is now a very specific audience.
I think of content strategy as “read, write, reason, repeat.” By “reason” I mean “think.” This implies an iterative process. Where are you in the content strategy journey?
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