A planning model for your content strategy that plays to needs and emotions

By Posted in - Content Marketing & Content Strategy & Strategy and Planning on July 4th, 2017 0 Comments Creating content that plays to needs and emotions

During the ContentEd inaugural conference held in London last week we shared a number of thoughts on what content strategy is. We also heard views on what makes good content from an organisational and audience perspective.

From the keynote sessions, two summaries stood out. From my own keynote, and in Mike Atherton’s (Facebook), we both shared the opinion that good content should be “useful and usable”. In Mike Petroff’s (Harvard University) keynote, he suggested that content should be “relevant and relatable”. Perhaps we need a model for combining these?

Content can be useful without actually being relevant, and usable without being relatable (and all such other combinations). I can appreciate the usefulness of a video showing me how to care for a home air conditioning unit. Since I live in the North East of England, that video is not relevant to me.

That doesn’t mean to say that there isn’t a place in our content strategy for content that is relevant and relatable, but not necessarily useful or usable. However, there should be no place in your content strategy for content that is useful and usable but not relevant and relatable to any of our audiences. If it’s useful or usable but not relevant or relatable, why on earth have it there? (…and therein lies the question that will enable you to strip thousands of pages of needless content from your site, though much of that probably isn’t useful or usable either… *sigh*).

Developing a handy model

So, I got to wondering if we can think of these four words as a framework to help auditing and planning our content. Can we use this to align content to our audience in a way that doesn’t just serve their information needs and goals (useful and usable), but also evokes empathy and builds connections with our brands and our people (relatable and relevant)? With a little train time to spare, I had a stab at pulling that together.

But first a few definitions courtesy of dictionary.com (because who doesn’t like a good definition?):

Being of use or service; serving some purpose; advantageous, helpful, or of good effect; of practical use, as for doing work; producing material results; supplying common needs

Available or convenient for use; capable of being used

To bring into or establish association, connection, or relation; to have reference (often followed by to); to have some relation (often followed by to); to establish a social or sympathetic relationship with a person or thing.

Bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; pertinent.

Using the model

And now for my attempt at pulling this together as a framework. This has a slight skew towards education-sector related content (i.e. MOOCs, timetables, etc) but could easily be adapted for other sectors and industries.

The table below is a starting point. I’d encourage you to use this framework as a model for planning content for your different audience groups. You could equally use it during a content audit to sense-check whether your content really is serving your audience. Print and pin it on your walls folks (you’re welcome).

I’ve also prepared a blank version of the template (though it’s pretty easy for you to copy anyway – not exactly a rocket-science level template!) that you can print and complete with your colleagues for your own audiences.

Create your empathy maps first

I’d strongly encourage you to complete empathy mapping exercises first or alongside this as that will help to really drive the content ideas that you develop. For folks in the education sector, I touched on empathy mapping in my HighEdWeb 2016 talk in which I spoke about the intersection of empathy and humour. But if you jump to this slide in my deck, you can see the empathy mapping templates for thinking specifically about student journey engagement. (I also blogged about this for Utterly Content a while ago – also featuring handy downloads – yay pdfs! I know, I know…)

Need help?

If you need help or advice getting started in using models like this, or want to access the wealth of knowledge here at Pickle Jar to support your content strategy, then take a peek at how we can help you or get in touch.

(Adds value to their lives)
(Something they do something with)
(Can see themselves or others whom they influence in this)

• Insights from or about people like them
• Stories that inspire ambition or aspiration, aligned to their own values and goals
• Authentic insights for or about people like them, or whom they want to be (day in the life, timetables, etc)
• Blogs by, for, or about people like them

• Advice and guidance from people like them
• Shareable content that affirms their identity (or their aspirational identity)
• “What type of… are you” quizzes
• System to enable them to ask questions of others like them
• Communities for or connections with people like them
(Connected to a specific want, need or emotional state)

• Insights from institution
• Responses to commonly asked questions
• Clear requirements of them
• Sources of support and help available to them
• Content that empowers them to draw comparisons between institutions or sources of information relevant to a specific need or moment in time
• Knowledge materials on a topic of specific interest to them designed to inform (i.e. Research news story)

• System to enable them to ask questions of an institution
• Advice and guidance from institution
• Action plans
• Checklists
• “How to” guides
• Resources
• Contact information
• Forms that trigger something to happen for them
• Knowledge materials on a topic of specific interest to them designed to advance their knowledge (i.e. MOOCs)


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