You need this simple framework to stay special.Is your content feeling unwieldy and amorphous? Undifferentiated? Even… boring? We’ve got you covered.
One of the hardest truths about corporate culture is that new ideas, no matter how researched and strategic and exciting, can easily morph to look a lot like existing ideas.
Blame nothing but the process itself: Just like a stone that gets hit by water over thousands of years, corporate culture and ideals and reviews can have a muting effect. The most common way this happens in content marketing is that a great concept is stretched and expanded to fit everyone’s vision of what it could be — including each department, folding in every initiative — until the entire project feels listless and unwieldy.
Those are the moments you look around, bewildered, and ask: What are we even saying? And to who?
This happens all the time in content marketing. The good news is that there is a simple framework to stay special, and you can implement it immediately at your company.
Your “Stay Special” Framework = Filter + Format
For any content marketing asset, campaign or other initiative, it’s critical to define your unique filter and format upfront to build immediate and persistent guardrails as you navigate through approvals.
Your filter = What your content will (and won’t) do for your audience
Filters rule the internet. Think about the accounts on social media that perform best. Typically they stand for something and regularly deliver content with predictability for a specific audience, regardless of whether they create all the content themselves or not. They share great content that makes it through their filter, which is a service in and of itself.
A filter is really just a promise of what your project or piece will deliver to the audience, and what it won’t.
Try framing your next effort like this:
- A short description of the effort and why it’s important to the audience.
- What it aims to deliver to the audience: What are the benefits of consuming it? What will they learn?
- What it does not aim to deliver to the audience: What won’t we cover or achieve?
Here’s an example: We’re currently working on a project with a brand client who wants to reach a specific, highly influential government audience. Our filter for the program’s content has been sharp utility for a discerning audience of busy professionals:
- We aim to deliver actionable frameworks that professionals can implement immediately.
- We specifically won’t cover long histories of issues, lots of background material or lengthy policy breakdowns.
This sets up firm guardrails that help us stay on track and be highly relevant to a specific audience throughout our creation process. Our in-the-know professional audience appreciates our hyper focus because they don’t have to wade through obvious explainer content that the lay person might need to know but is considered elementary by our audience.
Your format = The unique way you’ll present the information
Your effort has to have features that make it consumable and memorable. It has to consider your audience: the time they have, how interactive they want to be, how willing they are to engage, what they expect from your brand and what channel you’re planning to reach them in. Here are some good examples of unique formats that work for their audiences:
- NYT’s The Hunt
- Blair Imani’s Smarter in Seconds
- Cheese by Numbers
(Here are a few more ideas for formats if you’re looking for even more inspiration).
For formats, the key is structure. Pay attention to the formats around you — chances are most of the media you’re consuming follows a standard, predictable format, and it’s what has built the content into a powerful, long-lasting franchise.
Whenever you’re starting to feel at sea with a project — when it feels like you have nothing tangible that you can see working for a target audience — go back to this formula. Take a few minutes to write down what you believe to be the best approach for the filter and format, always with your audience in mind. And then share it with your team to help frame the discussion.
Interested in finding the right filter and format that drives your content planning? Drop us a line and we’d be happy to help you think things through. R
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