Ask a Content Strategist

Ask a Content Strategist: My Boss Wants Me to Write Blog Posts Without a Strategy. What Do I Do?

Last month I started working at a Mexican e-commerce company as the content manager. The truth is that content marketing is pretty much new around here. The first thing I did when I got the job was to do research, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I’m worried that I’ve been overdoing it, and now I’m at that point where I don’t how to start. Plus, I need my boss to realize that I need to do that first instead of writing and creating blog posts. I hope you can give me some advice, please.

-Alejandro, Mexico

Content marketing is a funny discipline. It’s been a major movement for the past six years, but some companies are still just starting to take it seriously. And once they do, marketing leaders panic. They turn to the closest living creature and scream, “We need to do content! Now! Someone start typing!”

That approach doesn’t work out great, because the worst kind of content only exists to check a box. Just creating content isn’t a goal. That won’t do anything for your business. Plus, you’ll waste a lot of money if your content fails to impact some larger pursuit like brand awareness, lead generation, or sales enablement.

Alejandro, without a larger strategy, you’re doomed to fail.

So how do we change your boss’s mind? Here are three great stats that could help you make your case:

1. According to a 2017 Contently survey, 98 percent of marketers believe that “having and following a content marketing strategy is important for content marketing success.”

Contently content strategy infographic

2. Per CMI’s 2018 B2B Content Marketing Trends survey, 62 percent of content marketers who rated themselves as very successful or extremely successful have a documented content strategy. Conversely, if you don’t have a strategy, there’s a good chance you won’t be successful. b2b content marketing

This holds true for B2C companies as well, as we see in CMI’s 2017 B2C report. (The 2018 B2C report hasn’t been released yet.)

b2c content marketing

3. According to SiriusDecisions, 65 percent of all content that brands produce goes unused. There are a few big reasons for why: content is hard to find, unknown to users, irrelevant, and low quality. All of these stem from a lack of content strategy.

SiriusDecisions unused content

Your boss is going to waste a lot of money if you don’t get the opportunity to put together a comprehensive content strategy. If you want to start mapping out where you need to go, check out our whitepaper Content Methodology: A New Model for Content Marketing, which provides an end-to-end guide for building a content marketing program.

How can you best measure content marketing ROI for content that’s distributed via social channels? What are the best ways to go beyond likes and social shares?

Ryan, Chicago

It’s all about setting up the right conversion pathways so you can follow what folks do after they find your content. Do they sign up for a newsletter? Check out your product page? Ask to talk to a salesperson? Your business goals will ultimately dictate what you decide to track. Regardless of what conversions you’re after, this KissMetrics guide to Google Analytics social reports is an excellent place to start.

What are the differences between a writer’s role and a content marketer’s role? Does a freelancer have to know all the technical marketing jargon, or can they just write?

Kate, Las Vegas

Contently has a network of over 100,000 freelance creatives across the globe that we vet and train to work with brands, so this is a question we’ve thought about quite a bit. If you aspire to write for a brand, you don’t need to be a content marketing expert. (Unless, of course, the topic is content marketing.) Just be a good writer who specializes in a certain topic or industry.

That being said, you do need a basic understanding of marketing terms. Writers should be versed in the foundational elements of a company’s content program. (Which is why we create a content strategy for every Contently client and make it accessible in our platform for every freelancer.) Specifically, you’ll want to know:

Business goal(s): What is your client trying to accomplish with this piece of content? What metrics will determine success?

Audience: Who is the target audience for this piece of content? (You’re going to write differently for a 55-year-old CMO than a 20-year-old student.)

Content pillars: What core topics and concepts does your client focus on?

Target SEO keywords: What target SEO keywords is your client trying to rank for with this piece of content?

Writers have to keep these factors in mind when they’re crafting content, and they need a certain level of marketing fluency to reach that point. Alternatively, if you’re a marketer working with freelancers, you need to make sure they understand this information before you start commissioning work.

Over the past five years, tons of writers have gotten hooked on content marketing after upping their marketing fluency, including me. Who knows? Once you start to geek out on content marketing, it could open up a whole new career.

Joe Lazauskas is Contently’s director of content strategy and editor-in-chief. Ask him your most pressing content strategy questions here, or email him at lazer@contently.com.

His book, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You, which he co-authored with Contently co-founder Shane Snow, will be published on January 29 by Wiley. Pre-order it here.

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