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March 15th, 2018
How to create content that’s clever, not clutter
by Sarah Williamson

Everyone seems to be talking about, and producing, ‘content’. Suddenly Marketing teams everywhere need brilliant blogs, videos that ‘go viral’, and immaculate images for Instagram. There’s no shortage of ideas out there. However 60% of all content created by brands is just clutter – it’s poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver*

Why? In our experience, rigorous strategic discussions around content are often not taking place, and instead brands are often focused on tactically creating ‘stuff’ to populate their channels.
To do content well, there can be huge implications for resources, budgets, processes and even org structures – so we need to be having strategic content discussions with our teams and stakeholders.

So, what are our 3 biggest tips for creating content that works?
1. Ask ‘Why are we investing in content?’
In the stampede to create, curate, re-purpose and publish content, brand teams often forget to ask a crucial question. Why are we investing in content?
The Content Marketing Association says that content is effective, measurable and can build deeper relationships between brands and consumers. We agree. But brand teams need to explore at the outset what, specifically, they are trying to achieve. What are the potential benefits for their business?
An exercise we use in many planning workshops (whether communications planning or content planning), is to agree the target audience and then look at their attitudes/behaviour towards the brand. What are their attitudes and behaviour towards the brand now, and where would we like to shift them to, to meet our growth objectives?
Out of this exercise it becomes clear a) where your audience are in their decision-making journey with the brand, b) what change in consumer attitude and behaviour is needed to help your business grow, and c) what the barriers are to growth.
For example your brand may be ‘famous in our own living room’ and need to grow reach and awareness. Or you might want to deepen relationships with existing consumers who currently only choose your brand based on price.
This exercise will help answer the question ‘Why are we investing in content?’ – the most important place to start.

2. Explore ‘Who is our content for, where can we find them and what is relevant to them?’
You’ve decided your target audience, where you want to focus in the consumer decision-making journey and what you want to achieve for your brand (see above).
Now it’s time to truly walk in your audience’s shoes and explore what kind of content would be relevant and meaningful to them.
The content you provide might be help, solutions, education, inspiration or entertainment. It’s not about pushing out what the brand wants to say or sell. It is about being consumer-centric and pulling the audience to content that is valuable and meaningful to them.
When we work with teams to devise a content strategy, we always ask them to bring to life
• what are their target audience doing in those moments when they’re interacting with the category or the brand?
• where and how are they interacting with the category or the brand?
• how are they feeling in these moments?
• what help do they need?
• what are their questions, pain points and frustrations?
• what are they typing into a search engine?
Google has several free tools which provide some very useful data points such as what people are searching for online. These data points, combined with some creative empathy exercises where you get the team walking in the target audience’s shoes, will help you to crystallise how your brand can be useful and relevant to your audience.
For example, Nationwide’s content strategy is about helping 13-24 year olds actively take control of their finances. Rather than focusing on creating content about their own products and services, Nationwide have created useful content inspired by the specific questions and concerns that young people have about money. The content is varied, accessible, visual, bite sized and hosted where the audience is – on Tumblr and YouTube…

3. Find the ‘sweet spot’ between what’s relevant and what’s credible
Just because a content topic or idea is relevant to your target audience it doesn’t mean that it’s credible for your brand to be talking about it. Think about the sweet spot between what’s relevant to your audience and what you have passion, expertise and credibility to talk about. Draw it out on a venn diagram and look for the overlaps. This is where to focus.
For example, hair and beauty brands often create helpful tutorials and how-to’s on how to use their products or achieve a particular look – this is both relevant and credible. If they started commenting on cars or gardening it might be rather surprising and un-believable.

So to ensure your brand’s content is relevant, credible and not pure clutter that fails to deliver, follow our 3 tips and then get creative!

Ask yourself – why are we investing in content?
Explore – who is our content for, where can we find them and what is relevant to them?
Seek out – the ‘sweet spot’ between what’s relevant and what’s credible

*Havas Meaningful Brands study 2017