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How to Run a Strategy-Focused Content Workshop

Content is the life force of marketing today. Every business is an information business first; its product comes second. In this age, content is what enables marketers to build, connect, and interact with customers at every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey.

Newsletters, events, and courses are all great sources that content strategists, marketers, and consultants can leverage to advance the practice of content marketing. But one of the best ways to achieve the goals of content marketing – to reach, engage and convert new customers to your business – is to document your content marketing strategy with a hands-on, insightful content marketing workshop.

A content workshop will help your company clarify your marketing objectives, lend a consistent voice to your brand, and improve your customer experience, leading to the growth that your business seeks.

A #content workshop can clarify objectives, give consistent voice, & improve customer exp., says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

Here’s a step-by-step process on how to conduct a content marketing workshop that helps your organization develop and stick to a long-term, ROI-oriented content marketing strategy while maintaining the necessary flexibility to change course in times of crisis or opportunity.

1. Plan ahead

When you get confirmation that the workshop is a go, it only means you have buy-in from a small group of your leaders. That doesn’t necessarily equate to buy-in from the rest of the organization. Make it clear to your main contact that you need everyone who would be actively involved in the creation and promotion of content to attend the workshop. These roles include:

  • The content champion or evangelist who reminds the marketing department of the need for consistency in content.
  • All team members involved in writing the content and producing creatives such as graphics and videos.
  • Everyone who’s going to promote and distribute the content, including the social media and outreach teams.

You also need to understand the current status of content in the organization. If possible, gather information about previous content marketing efforts and what campaigns are running, and do a content audit of company resources.

Questions for participants:

  • Who will manage the planning and strategy?
  • What skill sets related to content creation and marketing do our organization and the individual staff have?

2. Clarify business goals

As you begin the workshop, make it clear to the attendees how their efforts will be instrumental in helping the company achieve its business goals, namely revenue, sales, profits, and brand awareness.

Make it clear how #content will help company achieve its business goals, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

It’s easy for content marketers to think of their goals in terms of web traffic, leads, or engagement. However, it’s your job to dispel this perception and clarify the difference between digital metrics and business KPIs. Explain a lot about concepts like audience targeting, customer education, thought leadership, and customer retention.

Remember: Clarifying business objectives is not the same as building a business case for content marketing. You already should have helped your point of contact in the organization present a solid business case to management before arranging the workshop. Your job here is to help the team move beyond viewing content marketing as a marketing and communication function and integrate it as a core business strategy.

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Questions for participants:

  • Does everybody understand how their role contributes to the bottom line of the company?
  • Are they aware of the right metrics that signify business growth?

3. Outline best practices that save the day, any day

With so much information overload – i.e., content about content – it’d be a surprise if any company had a clear idea of how to develop and stick to a content strategy. Yes, you might instinctively know what content your audience likes and how you can promote that new blog post you published, but in a team everyone has different instincts.

And your customers, as data repeatedly proves, have minds of their own.

Here are some best practices, some minimum viable processes that you need to get your organization to implement for consistent success in content marketing:

  • Define and document a content marketing strategy as well as mission on which the strategy is based. Every piece of content you create should conform to the mission and the strategy.
  • Use audience insights and keyword research to define the signature topics for content creation. Outline how it will be published on your blog.
  • Make an editorial strategy that aims to provide relevant content to various audience segments as and when they need it.
  • Plan for distribution on both organic and paid platforms. You need to achieve the ideal mix, keeping your goals in mind.
Every piece of #content you create should confirm to your mission & strategy, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

Questions for participants:

  • What is their current process for producing and promoting content?
  • How did they go about identifying their audience?
  • Do they know the differences among earned media, paid media, and owned media?

4. Map content to the buyer’s journey

We’ve all seen those graphics showing what formats of content to create to show to your customers at different stages of the proverbial sales funnel – blog posts for awareness, webinars for consideration, case studies for decision, and so on. Your attendees probably have a good idea of these content formats and types too.

But all that makes little sense if you don’t understand consumers’ behavior – their needs, their intent, and their context – when you’re presenting your content to them. Make it clear how the organization will:

  • Educate the audience on various matters in your niche, help them identify if they have a problem, and define it clearly in the awareness.
  • Provide various solutions and alternatives to readers’ problems in the consideration.
  • Get into each prospect’s vendor shortlist and eventually induce the prospect to choose your product or service during the decision.

In summary, stress the importance of meeting the customer’s intent at the right time:

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Questions for participants:

  • Do they know the stage/category into which each piece of content they have falls?
  • Do they have the necessary skills and resources to repurpose content into the formats appropriate for each stage?

It’s the job of the workshop leader to help the organization do a content audit and create a basic content journey map and eventually guide the team on how to make it more detailed and precise.

Remind them of the business goals at each stage ­– be it education, acquisition, activation, retention, or referral – and what they want the customer to do after viewing your content.

5. Show them how (and why) to build a community

Now that you’ve taught them about the customer journey and how to match content to the intent of the customer, you need to help them build a ready audience who will proactively view the brand’s content (and have reason to engage with it).

Help them build a ready audience for the brand’s #content, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

Emphasize to them that when there’s a basic caucus or consumer segment ready and willing to interact with the brand, the content is better received. Chances are, this community will help spread your messaging to more people, growing your audience and improving brand sentiment along the way. That’s why it’s important to start building your community as early as possible in the content planning process, even before you create and promote your regular content.

Start out with helping them make two critical decisions on moving ahead with building a community for the brand:

  • Where will the community forum be hosted? On the website or on a social platform (like a Facebook group)?
  • Who will manage and moderate the community?

Questions for participants:

  • What will be their primary goals for the community (such as customer education) and how will they steer the conversation toward these goals?
  • How will they build a process to solicit feedback from customers and act on it?
  • How can they continually grow brand advocacy via their community?

6. Give them a blueprint for content creation

Emphasize to the workshop attendees that to create content for the sake of content is an approach doomed from the start. If they can’t create unique content or content with a unique perspective added to it, they’d better not create any.

Creating #content for the sake of content is an approach doomed from the start, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

Help them set up a process to produce creative content from start to finish:

  • Determine what the audience wants and what interests it. Work with the SEO team for keyword research.
  • Identify the platforms on which it will be published and use the appropriate formats and length.
  • Brainstorm ideas for content and set up an editorial calendar for the rest of the year or selected duration.
  • Differentiate content for specific, time-limited campaigns or continuous content marketing.

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Questions for participants:

  • How much domain expertise is available in-house? Is it possible for the organization to create authoritative posts that project the brand as a thought leader in the industry?
  • Do they have enough budget for content automation or AI-driven content creation?

7. Chalk out a plan for distribution

Content marketing is branding and marketing rolled into one. Its biggest advantage is a virtually limitless array of platforms and channels for publication and promotion. In fact, this presents a problem of plenty, which you have to solve for the company. Help them decide which channels would give them the biggest ROI on the content as well as keep a critical mass of potential and existing customers engaged with the brand.

#Contentmarketing is branding and marketing rolled into one, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

You can help them:

  • Establish a content distribution network consisting of their community platform, partners’ networks, their social channels, and other owned and earned media.
  • Build a presence on industry-specific forums or websites.
  • Explore audio-visual content distribution formats like podcasts and webinars.
  • Set up a guest blogging campaign to earn brand credibility and thought leadership.
  • Work with influencers to advocate and promote their brand in new channels and markets.
  • Promote their posts via PPC campaigns on Google search, Facebook, or relevant threads on platforms such as Reddit and Quora.
  • Put in place an employee activation program, which is known to boost content reach and engagement much more than other methods.

Questions for participants:

  • On which channels is the marketing team most effective at promoting content?
  • How active are company employees on social media? Do they have freedom to speak their mind on company or industry affairs?

8. Track the effectiveness of content marketing

A comprehensive content workshop gives attendees hands-on exposure to various models, tools, methods, and templates that help define and measure the critical metrics that tell how well content marketing is working for them.

It’s your duty to set up a foolproof measurement and tracking system that clarifies whether content marketing is working for them:

  • Make them aware of content metrics, such as reach, impressions, engagement, half-life, conversion weight, and brand sentiment.
  • Show how to associate these content metrics with marketing metrics like web traffic, email subscribers, social media followers, and business metrics like leads, revenue, and CLTV.
  • Demonstrate the use of digital marketing and tracking tools and help them select a stack that best fits their needs. Create a simple dashboard for top management to monitor.

Questions for participants:

  • How do they currently measure success (or lack of it) in content marketing?
  • How will goals and metrics change when they change their strategy or tactics? How will they vary from campaign to campaign?

9. Teach them to fish

The proof of the pudding is in its eating, they say. Similarly, the proof of a content strategy workshop lies in its implementation. The outcome of most content workshops is negligible because organizational interest (and priority) in content wanes with time.

The proof of a #contentstrategy workshop lies in its implementation, says @BrennerMichael. Click To Tweet

When you end your workshop, you should make sure that the whole team:

  • Is sure how the business benefits from their role in content marketing.
  • Knows how content is important for SEO success and visibility in Google.
  • Can form clear expectations and estimate outcomes from every content campaign.
  • Can work with employees across departments to create and share brand content.
  • Can use content tool suites to plan, create, distribute, and track content.
  • Measures and tracks the ROI of content marketing.

Don’t just leave them at that. Create a pool of resources they can access and study at their convenience and assure them that you or your team is available to help whenever they’re stuck or need to scale their content marketing efforts. Needless to say, the real work begins at the end of your content marketing workshop. Good luck.

If you’re a content marketing leader, content strategist, or have been asked to conduct a content marketing workshop for your organization, join Michael Brenner at Content Marketing World 2019 for a half-day workshop called Content Marketing 101: Setting and Documenting Your Strategy and Building Your Team. Register today. Use code CMIBLOG100 to save $100 on general conference registration.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute