By Ann Gynn published April 7, 2020 Est Read Time: 9 min

7 Steps to Create a Helpful Interim Content Marketing Strategy

Your clearly defined audience is changing its behaviors. Your well-detailed company goals are in flux.

Your pre-pandemic content marketing strategy isn’t working in this new world.

What should you do? Create an adjusted one-page content marketing strategy as soon as possible.

(I know you’re pressed for time so I won’t bore you with all the stats that say a documented content marketing strategy is a key success differentiator. But it is, and that’s why you need to create a new interim strategy now.)

Your pre-pandemic #contentstrategy isn’t working. It’s time to create an interim one, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Crafting a one-page, short-term content marketing strategy will help you:

  • Create and curate content that effectively addresses your audience’s current needs
  • Ensure that your strategy is aligned with shifting business operational goals
  • Inform team members (internal, external, adjacent) so they can move more quickly to the new strategy

(Note: We’ve adapted this one-page strategy in part from the in-depth one-page strategy George Stenitzer created.)

We realize “short term” can vary depending on current news, your audience, and your industry. You may need to repeat this process several times in the coming months as priorities evolve.

We also know that some companies are changing their core business to help with the COVID-19 response – an alcohol distillery shifting to produce hand sanitizer, a fabric retailer making safety masks, or a manufacturer reorganizing its plants to make ventilators and respirators. If your business falls into that category, this process is even more important. You may need to do it twice – once to educate your existing audiences about your new business (and how it may/may not affect them directly) and once for your original-but-returning business.

Before you start: Have your existing content marketing strategy nearby

You’ve likely made immediate tweaks to your editorial calendar and implementation plan. Now, it’s time to look at the overall strategy.

Open your content marketing strategy document, assuming you have one. Some of the information in it will be a helpful reference point while you walk through these steps.

Step 1: Identify current organizational goals

Think about what your business is today and what it could be in the next few months.

What’s different? What’s the same?

If you’re fortunate, the leadership team has communicated the company’s short-term direction as best as they know today. If not, look around.

What’s changed about the products and services you’re delivering to your customers? What could that look like in a month or two as people continue to isolate themselves? What would that look like when people, many of whom may have developed new perspectives or habits, slowly return to a more typical routine?

You don’t have to go through these steps in isolation. Ask a key leader or two. What does your business want to achieve in the next two weeks, month, or quarter? Have a conversation with the sales team. Since their purpose is to bring in revenue, they may have some insight that hasn’t made its way to you.

Step 2: Detail how content marketing can help the organization achieve those goals

Now that you know the company’s current priorities, it’s time to brainstorm on how content marketing can help.

It’s time to brainstorm how #contentmarketing can help your company’s current priorities, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing always has a role – even if it’s creating minimum viable content now because the demand/interest isn’t as great and devoting more time to planning for the future.

At this step, consider how content can help the company’s goals, not the audience’s. (Though the two are intertwined, each must be evaluated separately before coming together.)

For example, content marketing can help the business become recognized as:

  • An industry educator
  • A provider of alternative ideas and solutions to current challenges
  • A thought leader sharing views of the future, post-crisis world
  • A source of relevant but non-pandemic information

In some situations, the most helpful thing content marketing can do is maintenance. Keep publishing and interacting with your audiences. While you may scale back frequency or tweak topic angles, you want your audience to remember you’re there when they’re ready and need your content.

As you detail how content marketing can help achieve company goals, remember to keep measurement in mind (you’ll address it in Step 7).

Step 3: Describe your target audience

Before you just cut-and-paste your existing audience description here, take a moment to think.

Your audience is changing – exactly how may be difficult to discern yet. But it is evolving.

Are audience members’ priorities the same? How have their environments changed? What new challenges have arisen? How have their daily routines changed? How are they consuming content now? What are they consuming content about? Have their preferred communication channels changed?

Don’t cut-and-paste your audience descriptions. They are changing. Start asking questions, says @AnnGynn via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

You also may see new audiences. Why are they interested in your business now? Do their profiles differ from your existing audience? If so, walk through the standard (but abbreviated-for-time) audience evaluation process.

Given the global nature of the pandemic, you probably have a good idea of how your audience is affected. But you also can reach out to a handful of your audience members by email or voice or video call. Post a question or two to your social media platforms.

With all this information, you can document your updated target audience description.

Step 4: Explain what this audience wants to know, learn, or do as it relates to what the organization does

In times of crisis, standard practices and thinking often are abandoned. It’s human nature to want to help in whatever way you can. And that’s a good thing. But in your content marketer role, take a beat and refocus.

The question isn’t “how can we help?” The question is “how can we help our audience using our niche expertise and resources?”

Put even more simply, “What information does our audience want or need from us?” That’s your content marketing reason. It’s a Venn diagram – your audience needs or interests in one circle, your company’s expertise in the other. The overlap is what your content should cover.

Step 5: List your content creation process, including formats and distribution channels

For the first part, you probably can pull from your existing process. Tweak it to accommodate your new work environment as needed. Is your approval process the same? Is expected turnaround time the same? (I won’t go into details of how to work or manage remotely – there’s more than enough content on that nowadays.)

But the second part – on formats and distribution channels – may or may not be the same. If in-person events are part of your existing format mix, they won’t be for a while. Should you turn them into virtual events or turn the content into online videos? If your audience is time-crunched, now is not the time to publish an in-depth industry report. But now could be the time to publish brief articles.

Are your audience members still using the same communication channels? Have they increased their social media use? Are they ignoring emails from brands? Are they downloading gated content? Use your existing metrics – viewed day-to-day or week-to-week – to analyze their communication behavior and update your content distribution plans to reflect their habits.

Step 6: Specify how frequently you can commit to providing this content

Based on the previous steps, you now have a better understanding of your audience’s taste for your content. But before you put all that relevant and valuable content on the calendar, make sure you can deliver it consistently.

Think about your content marketing creation, distribution, and promotion resources – internal and external. Will budget cuts mean you can’t afford the freelancer who writes a weekly article? Is a content marketing team member having to take on other marketing responsibilities because someone is sick?

Set your content calendar based on all those factors. Make it manageable. Now probably isn’t the best time to expect maximum productivity.

Step 7: Spell out what you want the audience to do (calls to action), include measurable goals

Finally, set your goals. What do you want the audience to know, think, or do after consuming your content? How can you measure that? What time frame do you have to achieve that?

For example, your goal could simply be having your e-newsletter unsubscribe rate at 2% or less in the next 30 days. Or your goal could be to see a 20% increase in repeat visitors to your site in the next 60 days. But setting a goal that takes six months to achieve is not practical for this strategy.

The bottom line – set realistic goals based on short time frames.

Don’t stop

This seven-step process is designed to help you quickly create a one-page document that succinctly outlines your content marketing purpose and plans for the short term. Plan to revisit this document at least biweekly, if not weekly. Reassess each step. If all is going smoothly, the review won’t take more than 10 minutes.

And if things aren’t going smoothly, devote the time to tweak this short-term content marketing strategy to address your audience’s and your business’s evolving content needs as soon as possible.

Learn what the most successful content marketers, from B2B to B2C and industry-specific niches, do. Subscribe to CMI’s weekday newsletter for the latest research along with tips, trends, and more.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

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