The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 4: Engaging and Building an Audience

By Joe Lazauskas May 5th, 2015

Four years ago, I found myself on a plane to Zurich, warm from Air France wine and oblivious to the fact that I was about to learn a very hard lesson in content marketing.

I was 23 and excited about the most ambitious project of my young career. I was part of a small but talented team of young writers and documentary filmmakers tasked with creating a real-time documentary about five young entrepreneurs fighting for social good at a young leadership conference. From interviews we’d conducted over the previous few weeks we knew they had plans to rally their peers and the powerful world leaders in attendance. The plan was for our team to capture it all as it unfolded, posting updates across social and on a slick site we’d built in just 20 days.

Things went better than we could have ever imagined. Our five young protagonists, all aged 17 to 21, were infectiously charismatic; they rallied their peers and the global leaders in attendance, and we captured it all through videos and blog posts. By the end of the weekend, we were on a serious work high: There were concrete plans for a global movement, and a number of powerful leaders had rallied around our young stars.

The project felt like a huge success. There was excited talk of keeping the documentary going for years to come, and I was pumped at the prospect of helping lead the editorial operations of a mini-revolution. But within a week, the whole thing was deemed a colossal failure and shut down. You see, while we had created a ton of great content, no one had actually seen it.

We’d failed to build any sort of real content distribution or audience-building strategy, and it cost us a huge opportunity.

It was a hard-learned lesson—one that a lot of brands and publishers have learned over the past few years. If you build it, they probably won’t just magically come. Instead, you need to work your ass off to get them there and keep them coming back.

In our Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook series so far, we’ve covered—step-by-step—how to evangelize a content program, create a killer content strategy by identifying an underserved audience, and staff and launch your content program so that you can publish high-quality content quickly and efficiently. But the most important work—getting people to read, and keep reading, your content—has just begun.

Here, in our fourth Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook, we’ll dive into a detailed overview of how to build an audience for your brand publication. You’ll hear from some of the most successful brand publishers on Earth, as well as from our own experience growing our audience tenfold to over 200,000 readers in the past year. Along the way, we’ll cover four major tactics:

1. Email newsletters

2. Organic social media

3. Paid content distribution

4. SEO

Let’s get started. Download The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 4: Engaging and Building an Audience, below.

Image by Kyle Fewell