To connect with audiences in crowded (and increasingly noisy) markets,
professionals rely on strategic custom content
By John Pulley, Yes&
Being heard above the din of a crowded market is a challenge, yet savvy marketing communications pros know that expertly crafted content cuts through the noise. Customized, strategic communications accelerate the engagement of hard-to-reach audiences. The right content moves people and drives results. In the absence of great content, communications efforts can get stuck in neutral.
Delivering successful comms programs isn’t easy. At times, it’s like navigating a rutted road. That’s because the proliferation of digital channels has made connecting with audiences more challenging than ever. The rutted road has become a slog up an unmarked mountain trail in a blizzard. The sheer volume of multi-channel messages coming at consumers is blinding. On average, Americans spend more than two hours daily on social media alone, pelted by a barrage of messages. To weather the storm, audiences have learned to ignore most of what seeks to capture their attention.
Strategic custom content—video, opinion-editorials, social content, white papers, blogs, original music, etc.—enables public and private sector organizations to rise above the fray and make meaningful connections. In crowded markets, deploying strategic custom content is a winning strategy for influencing target audiences and attaining an organization’s strategic goals. Unlike generic, cookie-cutter messages, custom content is unique, strategic, targeted, and welcomed by consumers.
Content That Compels
The Content Strategy Group at Yes& develops and delivers custom content to advance the strategic objectives of government agencies and private-sector clients. This is our purpose and passion. Employing proven techniques and best practices, CSG’s communications strategists and developers—writers, illustrators, videographers, animators, web designers, scripters, social media mavens, and other engagement specialists—craft and deliver optimal solutions to your unique challenges. CSG’s breadth and depth of experience in marketing and strategic communications enables us to know what will work and what won’t in your market.
We’ve learned that effective strategic content encompasses common characteristics. We’re sharing some of them here in hopes that your organization will use them to develop effective content and to catalyze your strategic communication program.
When developing custom communications:
1. Develop content that resonates with your audience.
When encountering messages seeking their attention (email, video, print articles, etc.), audiences will welcome or reject content based on their answer to a single question: What’s in it for me? Pressed for time and eager to weed out anything perceived to lack value, prospective information consumers make snap judgments. Many times every day, they dismiss appeals of perceived irrelevance. Know your audience and speak to their concerns, business challenges, problems, hopes, and dreams. Be precise. Content developed for everyone is heard by no one.
2. Align content with your brand.
If you haven’t thought about your organization’s brand in a while, now is a good time to revisit it. We’re not talking about logos, style sheets, slogans, or jingles. The concept of brand, in its truest sense, is a promise made by an organization to its customers, clients, and constituents. A brand functions as an informal pact: avail yourself of our product, service, membership, or other offering, and we (the brand guarantor) will provide something of value in return, typically something intangible, often an experience. The brand of the United States is freedom. The BMW brand promises prospective customers “the ultimate driving” experience. The delivery vehicle for fulfilling that promise is BMW’s “ultimate driving machine.” Get the most out of custom strategic content by aligning it with your brand.
3. Create content with delivery in mind.
Not infrequently, great custom content fails to get results because it fails to reach its intended audience. No one has ever been moved by the song unheard or the video unseen. Craft custom content with delivery in mind. The conveyance of choice informs content’s shape, tone, appearance, etc. Content delivered by email, for example, should typically be brief and snappy. Earned media commentary published in a trade magazine will get better results appearing in a media property whose readership is well-aligned with the content and its goals than it would in a publication that’s “a pretty good fit.” Delivery matters. Be intentional about the how and the where of content conveyance.
4. Prefer content with legs.
Consider the bespoke suit, an exquisitely tailored article of customized clothing perfectly fitted for one person. Choosing a durable and versatile fabric will produce a garment that maximizes return on investment. When producing custom content, keep the bespoke suit in mind. Unless you have unlimited funds, it pays to develop strategic communication assets that won’t become obsolete overnight. Quality content also lends itself to reconfiguration and reuse. A well-crafted 60-second video can often be distilled into 30- and 15-second spots. Similarly, great content is often suitable for multiple platforms. An expertly developed essay will often include passages or turns of phrase easily repurposed as web copy or social media messages. Develop content with legs.
5. Be bold. Demand the audience’s attention.
Seeking attention in a crowded public forum is not for the meek. In the physical world, town square orators avail themselves of soapboxes and megaphones. If your strategic content is to be seen and heard above the din, it will need a boost, as well. To that end, begin with a bang. In many forums, you must grab the attention of your audience in approximately a second (perhaps less) or they will move on. The initial image, words, or sound in your custom content should intrigue and delight your audience. A boring subject line in an email is an invitation to deletion. An essay that opens with bureaucratic, procedural, boilerplate language will turn off the most willing reader. If your content were a person, would you want to spend time with it?
6. Design for Success.
You know the maxim: It’s not what you say, but how you say it. That’s true whether what’s being said is coming from a person or a piece of custom content. Think about it another way: Non-verbal communication constitutes an estimated 70% of information conveyed during an in-person conversation—tone, eye contact, body language, voice volume, energy level, attire, and other non-verbal cues and characteristics. Custom content, whether a speech or a music video, shouldn’t rely too much on what’s literally being said (or sung). By definition, custom content is maximally presentable. It is a bespoke suit. Content capable of moving an audience often starts with a great script, but bringing it to life requires a team of skilled professionals, from videographers and sound engineers to editors—and the proofers who review every transition, fade, and voice-over before signing off on the final cut.
7. Create content with intention.
Finally, begin with the end in mind. In the realm of custom content that gets results, that means having a clear-eyed vision at the outset of the “call to action.” If you have a desired destination, your chances of getting there are greatly improved. Gaining that level of clarity requires work on the front end that will generate dividends later on. Skipping or glossing over this phase of developing custom content is deadly. In the excitement and rush of starting a new project, organizations can lose sight of the basic principles that will lead to success. If you’re working with a creative team, choose a partner who will bring rigor to the process—and an unwavering focus on the goal.
Contact us to learn more about what the Creative Strategy Group can do for you!
Yes& is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.