Creating effective online content is often a two-sided struggle. On one side, we have a content strategist who has just been given a budget for creating a branded content program. He launches the site with starter content, eager to see the pageviews and paying customers start to roll in.
But each piece of content takes a similar approach: it prioritizes business goals over content quality, resulting in a website that is overloaded with branding. Traffic comes to the site, but in most cases it leads to poor engagement and a high bounce rate. That lost customer traffic will likely return, representing lost potential sales and disappointing website performance.
It makes sense that this content strategist would be devastated.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, another content strategist launches her own branded website. The only difference? Compared to the first scenario, where business-minded branding overwhelmed the site and its visitors, this alternative website features no business features at all. The content is great, but it features zero calls to action. This second strategist has created an excellent website as far as content quality is concerned, but it isn’t something a business can use as a sales and marketing tool.
Each of these two strategists is doing part of their job very well. But their failures reside in their singular focus on other business objectives or the content strategy. These are the yin and yang of any effective brand website: both are critical to reaching an audience and generating conversions. Success is only found through the right balance between these complementary strategies.
Form Meets Function
Creativity and business strategy don’t seem like they would mix. But content has always had a business implication, even before digital channels made “content” an ever-present necessity. Getty Images’ business-focused imprint, Curve, acknowledged as much: “Intelligence marketing, thought leadership, advertorials, infomercials…all these classic marketing formats were developed to meet business goals.”
TV ads are content, as are newspaper and magazine ads. As such, they are asked to promote a brand and further its business mission—but no one expects this to happen without the content being eye catching and engaging in its own right.
This rule of content creation is what makes the Super Bowl must-see TV even for people who don’t care about football. They tune in because they know they will be entertained by the commercials played during breaks in the action—and they have every intention of judging brands for their ability to deliver a memorable ad spot on the most competitive day of the year.
Just as those ads are only effective when they both captivate an audience and strengthen a brand, a branded website—or any type of digital content, for that matter—needs to accomplish both of these tasks at once, even though their execution sometimes seems at odds with one another. It’s a balancing act that gets easier when you break it down into a two-step process.
The Branded Story
Balancing content strategy and business objectives gets easier when focus first on creating content that your audience wants. This is easier said than done—content must be relevant, engaging, easy to digest, consistent with your brand’s voice, emotionally gripping, and so many other things—but brands can do themselves a favor by focusing on the craft of storytelling, regardless of what type of content they’re producing.
As brand storytelling expert Robert McKee told the Content Standard, storytelling isn’t a fully instinctive process: it’s a synthesis of creativity and form. Every brand has business goals in mind when creating content, especially online. But there’s no hope of reaching those aforementioned business-minded goals if the content fails to forge a connection.
“It’s a question of whether the talent, the creativity, and the imagination of the storyteller can hook interest, involve people emotionally, hold people for that time, and then pay it off,” McKee said.
The challenge is figuring out where to insert your brand into that story. Sometimes the story may be about your brand, and the spotlight can shine directly on your company. Other times, the story only tangentially involves your brand, and certain messaging is best left on the periphery.
The best place to integrate this branding is dependent on the story being told, which means that decisions must be made for each piece of content. But there’s a simple rule of thumb: do what best serves the story being told, and recognize that a little bit of brand messaging goes a long way. If branding becomes tone deaf to the content, it will shortchange that content’s success.
Drive Action Through Precise Strategy
Once you have a plan for creating quality content, it becomes paramount to overlay your business strategy on top of your content template. Specifically, that means understanding where to insert branding, and when to let strong content do its work. The ideal is to use that content to set up strong branding, which is why many strategists prefer to place calls to action, on-page ads, and other selling vehicles after blog content has had a chance to engage readers.
But this organization can just as easily be flipped. For example, if you’re trying to use a white paper for sales purposes, you need to have a contact form set up as a prerequisite to downloading the content. You then entice downloads by emphasizing the content’s value and providing a sample of the highlights users will find once they download the content.
Remember that certain features like social media buttons and newsletter sign-ups are a consistent feature of any reputable media publication, so these don’t necessarily indicate that branding and goals are priorities over excellent content creation. However, these can contribute to a feeling of saturated branding on the page, so they need to be managed and balanced as business assets to make sure website content isn’t being overwhelmed—and sabotaged—by short-sighted sales efforts.
Over time, testing certain variables in how you use content to fulfill your business goals will provide deeper insight into what optimizes your content for success. It will always be a balancing act, but it all hinges on great brand storytelling.
The post Where Do Business Goals Fit in a Storified Content Strategy? appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.
About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Jonathan Crowl