By Kathy Hanbury published February 7, 2011

5 Steps to Creating an Effective Content Mix

If you’re putting together a new content marketing strategy, you know how much work there is to do. With your attention pulled in so many directions, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about defining specific content requirements.

Too many companies just set their employees loose to create articles or blog posts. While this isn’t necessarily the worst idea, it doesn’t support a clear focus for the content. You want your content to strike the right balance between being informative and entertaining while also making sure it supports a larger company strategy. When working with my clients, I take them through a series of exercises to help define the right content mix for their business.

Clarify business considerations

Identify the business considerations that will inform your content mix. These may include:

  • Industry expertise. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how far companies can wander from their area of expertise. I’ve seen technical communication companies write about the fear of flying, and electrical supply companies share their favorite recipes. Your business content should focus on what your business does best.
  • Brand focus. Has your company built its reputation by providing guidance? Or does it entertain? Inspire? Surprise? Are you a fun company? A serious company? Traditional? Every piece of content that you create needs to reinforce your brand in some way.
  • Audience goals. Why will your audience spend time reading your articles? Do they want to learn something? Do they want a distraction from their busy lives? Do they want to find something worth sharing? Your audience’s goals will help to define the purpose of your content.
  • Audience interests. If you sell pet food, your audience is probably interested in learning about pet health and nutrition. And if you make running shoes, you can assume your audience is interested in running and fitness. You have a great opportunity to happily surprise your readers by finding the sweet spot that intersects your industry expertise and their interests. Your audience’s interests will help define content topics.
  • Available resources. You need to know what resources are available. How many content contributors do you have? What are their skill sets? How much time do they have? Resources are a key consideration when defining the method of presentation and editorial schedule.

Define the purpose of your content

Refer to your brand focus and your audience’s goals to identify the right mix of content purposes. Each piece of content should have one clearly defined purpose—no more, no less. Sure, you may argue that you want to both entertain AND inform, but unless you clarify which purpose trumps the other in this particular piece of content, you’re likely to fail in both. Some common purposes include:

  • To inform (conceptual knowledge)
  • To teach (how to)
  • To inspire
  • To entertain
  • To persuade
  • To start a conversation
  • To spark a controversy
  • To express an opinion
  • To share industry knowledge or resources

Identify typical content presentation methods

Your brand focus and available resources are the key drivers behind presentation methods, but certainly your audience’s goals and interests play a role as well. Some common presentation methods include:

  • Articles or blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Cartoon drawings
  • Animations
  • Tutorials
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations

For 42 content ideas, check out the Content Marketing Playbook.

Decide on the most effective content mix and schedule

Finding the best content mix is all about proportions. Although the foundation of your content marketing efforts may be based on educating your audience through informative articles, you may also want to entertain them through infographics and cartoons so that they have something fun to share. Remember, all content should fall within your area of expertise and reinforce your brand.

Once you’ve identified your ideal content mix, include it with your editorial calendar and present it in a way that’s easy to communicate. For example:

Content Purposes

Or, Content Presentation Methods

Your content creation team (or person) will find this a great resource to help focus the content on strategic objectives.

Continually test and evaluate

Like everything else  you do with content, your first guess can usually be improved.  Always look for opportunities to gain insight into how your audience responds to your content and then make adjustments.

Have you ever created a content mix that has or hasn’t worked for your company? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Author: Kathy Hanbury

Kathy Hanbury is Founder and Principal at E3 Content Strategy, a consulting firm that integrates content strategy with customer experience. Kathy helps companies identify the opportunities that arise by providing truly great content. Then, she shapes their content and content processes to help them get there. You can find Kathy on Twitter @KathyHanbury.

Other posts by Kathy Hanbury