Navigation Now: Building Content Strategy Amid Information Chaos

Never in history has media messaging been as confusing.

President Donald Trump inherited 13 million Twitter followers through the account, @POTUS, and tweets regularly there as well as @realDonaldTrump, his account with 18 million followers.

Workers at federal agencies are now tweeting under non-official accounts in response to a request for a media “black-out.”

The heads of corporations and foundations also tweet their instant reactions to the latest news in real time.

According to Twitter, for its 313 million active users globally, the mission is “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

That lack of barriers is what may be problematic. It is difficult to know what is trustworthy. And difficult for organizations and companies to stand out with their content.

Every second people around the world view 8 million YouTube videos, and a new video sharing app launched this week in Canada will increase views even more. average American spends 15 hours a day looking at media. The challenge is for brands and organizations to get messages to customers that are not lost in this accelerating flood of content.

More Internet content has been created in the last two years than in all of recorded history. According to a recent story in the New York Times, one tweet with fake information originally went out to 40 followers and was shared 350,000 times on Facebook.

This alacrity of information spreading — some without vetting — is what president Barack Obama referred to in his farewell speech recently as “a third threat to our democracy.” Obama said, “But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.“

Politics of course intersects with business. CEOs may want to follow the relevant industry appointments, from construction companies looking at the latest announcements and messages from Ben Carson’s 2.55 million followers to lawyers looking at updates from Jeff Sessions’ 100,000 followers.

The challenge is for companies and brands to pursue effective content strategy considering this explosion of matter. Brands want to reach consumers. All organizations wish to use content to create loyalty and meaning with stakeholders.

Several years ago I co-created a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Content Strategy. Nearly 100,000 individuals from more than 175 countries signed up to take the course that is still offered.

As much as 70 percent of all organizations have little sense of how each piece of content creates meaning for an overall plan. Although half of these companies are appointing a person in 2017 to be in charge of content, the integration is still missing. In many organizations, the communications team is fragmented into those who work on digital and social media, internal communications, corporate communications, advertising, and marketing campaigns with no integrated approach from the top.

Worse, there is no governance structure. Confusion arises when seeking approval for a content offering including how many need to give approval. Timing is also a concern, such as when does content disappear, and when is it archived, if at all. With the influx of new content, questions arise if content just keeps growing, like Topsy.

Organizations can improve their content by following key principles.

  1. Strategic planning: All content needs to be integrated, emanating from a set of goals.
  2. C-suite oversight: The main way that customers interact is through communication. It can’t be left to each department to decide messaging and delivery. Plan on a governance structure for content.
  3. Embrace of platforms and media: Organizations need to reach customers where they are. Yet any one customer may be in many places during the day. Messages need to change format to reach the audience. The customer on the train on his or her mobile phone will consume messaging differently than the same customer checking google later in the day on a laptop.
  4. Personalization: Wherever possible, messages and stories need to be told in a way that appeals to a customer. Personalization helps. Many organizations worry that customers do not want them to use data due to privacy, but customers want to be known to the brands they favor. Organizations need to think of customers in terms of portfolios of segmented groups who will respond to different communications.
  5. Interactivity: This includes dialogue opportunities, games, surveys, polls, leaderboards. This is the age of two-way conversation. Pronouncing content without inviting feedback, fun and interactivity is losing an opportunity to engage repeatedly with the customer.
  6. Visuals: Tell a story concisely and with skill but also show. More than 63 percent of social media has images. Consult tools available to maximize data visualization.
  7. Community building: Think of ways to create a community with members who will talk to each other. Two types of communities can be built based on milestones or passions. If some of your customers are about to get married, they will be intensely interested in weddings for a period of time and then not so much. These milestones are events that bring people together who want to learn from each other and the host can gain value from supplying content and hosting the community. Passion communities are built on longer term interests, from cooking to golf. Again, you can bring together people who want to enjoy the opportunity to meet like-minded people and converse in the digital sphere.
  8. Test and measure: Test your subject lines. Determine if your current program works. Decide how you will know if it works and strive to improve.
  9. Partner with media: Media companies are working with brands, including creating or showcasing content that emanates from the brand in new and different ways. This “native advertising” is available from reputable media companies, allowing brands to reach the customer with more than a banner ad. The customer can read meaningful content alongside the traditional media content. From The New York Times to Forbes, media showcases content from advertisers and helps organizations think through maximum value.

The deluge of content will continue into 2017 and far beyond, and likely even increase. More platforms will appear; more entrepreneurs will invent; more technology will provide interfaces.

Soon perhaps your refrigerator will read you recipes; your car will provide the history of the passing town; the skin cream will tell you how much to apply; the department store dressing room will alert you to the accessories that would look good with your potential outfit.