A content marketing program is more complex than some would have you believe. This is one in a series of posts laying out some best practices and essential steps to take when developing or evaluating a program for you or your organization.
When you, your team and whatever other stakeholders are laying the groundwork for a content marketing program the first step is to create some sort of structure for that program. These aren’t hard and fast rules on what content is or isn’t included or instructional how-tos on publishing and engaging.
Instead the Program Framework is a set of ideas and objectives the program will use as its guiding document. If content marketing programs are a journey – and they very much are – the program framework isn’t a map with specific directions. Instead it’s more of a repository for where you want to go, what you want to see along the way and at your destination, who’s going to decide where to eat and how you’ll decide whether or not the trip was a success.
A good program framework, in my experience, consists of five overall sections, the first of which is.
When drafting the general principles for a program, remember to think big picture and not get caught up in granular tactics or even goals. These are the kinds of statements that make for effective principles:
We will share information that is relevant to our business and interesting to our audience and customers.
To be a resource for those seeking information on the kinds of products and services we offer as well as address the needs of customers and others.
To be fresh and funny while still conveying a clear message about all aspects of our business or organization.
Each of those can be fleshed out a bit and tweaked to your particular industry, business or audience, but the overall tone should be clear: That you want to lay out “this is what we’re all about and the kind of tone we will seek to take in our communications.”
These principles are, as you may notice, platform agnostic. At no point do they mention any one outlet because they should be applicable to as many platforms as the program encompasses while allowing for new ones to be added. You can adhere to those principles whether you’re talking about Instagram, email, a blog or whatever new platforms will come on your radar two years from now.
There will, of course, be shifts that occur in those principles since, while they are flexible enough to be relevant most anywhere, business goals and needs will change over time. So if responding to customer questions becomes less of a priority, or direct sales become a bigger element of the program, it’s alright to revisit this statement of principles and make revisions.
That being said, doing so lightly can lead to confusion and cause more problems than it solves. This is the basic foundation of the program and should be treated as such.
Going back to the analogy of taking a trip, this is the part of the planning process where you say “We are going to Disney World for four days.” You haven’t laid out what route will be taken, what form of transportation you’ll be taking, where you’re eating meals or how much money you’ve budgeted. It’s just the high-level statement that should be easily understood by all involved parties.
Changing the statement of general principles is akin to saying “We’re now going to New York City for five days.” The entire premise on which what’s coming next has changed, leading to the need to secure buy-in and agreement from those involved all over again.
In that way, the general principles of a content marketing program are both vague and specific. They can be applied to many aspects both present and future of the program and don’t tie you to specific tactics or goals, but they also explain to everyone who touches the program what there is to be gained.