There are no right answers in a content strategy, but there are better answers

By Posted in - Content on January 15th, 2020 0 Comments Text reads "There are no right answers in content strategy, but there are better answers".

One of my most persistent habits – one that I find really hard to break – is that I rarely give people the answer they want to hear. I’m not intentionally trying to be difficult, but I always want to make sure that I’m being as helpful as possible. This sometimes means that the answer to a question is, “Well, it depends…”

While I believe I’m being helpful, the person asking me the question doesn’t always see it this way. And when they’re part of a busy communications or marketing team in a university, they want me to give them a direct answer. The problem is that a direct answer is rarely helpful in the long term.

That’s because there’s rarely a “right” way to do things. Some questions do have simple answers, such as, “No, don’t try to set up a MySpace page,” or “Yes, you really should tell people the dates of your open days.” But these aren’t the questions that content teams in education want answering. They know these answers already.

The questions I answer with “it depends” are those that are harder to pin down. They’re things like, “What time should we post on our Twitter account?” This is a question we get asked a lot, and one that doesn’t have a simple answer. There’s a lot of additional context we need to know to answer this, such as (but definitely not limited to):

– Who follows the account?
– What information do they want from you?
– When are they active on Twitter?
– What else are they looking at?
– What do you want people to do after they see your post?
– What other audience might benefit from this information?

The “When should we post on social media?” question is one that’s dogged content creators for years, and it’s only exacerbated by many platforms switching to non-chronological feeds. With all that in mind, you can see why people might want an easy answer, and why – in fact – there isn’t one.

And that’s one of the “easier” questions.

Something like, “Should we make more video content?” takes us into another realm entirely. It feels like the answer should be “yes”, but we should always take a step back, and think about why we’re doing anything. Does our audience even watch video content? Would they watch our videos? Do they want this content at all? Do they want it as a video? Would they watch it on our website, or do we need to post it elsewhere?

I had an experience recently in which I was asked what an institution should include in their student personas. What information would be most important for the marketing and recruitment teams to know about?

My answer was (obviously), “Well, it depends…”

In this kind of situation the first question should always be, “Do we even need this?” Is a persona the best resource for us to use? Is there something else that’s going to be more effective? And that’s before we get into any of the detail about what that persona (or equivalent) should include.

These kinds of issues crop up all the time when working with content, whether it’s in the planning, creation, or evaluation stages. We often find that getting research done as early as possible means that the answer moves away from “it depends” very quickly. 

It’s understandable to want to get to the right answer, but we can’t always leap to it. Sometimes we need to put in the time to understand more. It’ll help us produce better content, and it helps our audiences find what they need in a way that works for them.

Which is why, when you get in touch with us with a question about your next project, you’ll probably find that my answer is, “Well, it depends…”

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