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Avoid the Heartbreak of Lengthy Strategies, Expert Assumptions, and More [The Weekly Wrap]

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And that’s a wrap of the week ending Feb. 14, 2020

This week I’m thinking about the trap between strategy and planning. I offer my take on a new article that claims publishing less content is helping publishers grow their audiences. Veteran content marketer Rich Schwerin shares his thoughts about the business challenges of content strategy today. And I point you to an article about deconstructing a content marketing platform to come up with a better content marketing plan.

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It’s Valentine’s Day (if your Valentine is on Twitter, you can call them tweetheart). Our theme this week is how I left the plan and learned to love the planning.  Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: The problem with strategic plans (2:35)

How much strategy is enough? We all agree that a good strategic plan is important – it’s a compelling argument for why we want to go somewhere, a clear road map to help us get there, and a set of standards for the benefits of arriving at our destination.

But how detailed does the plan need to be? Too much detail and no one will read it or adopt it. Too little detail and people won’t care about the strategy, won’t be clear about the plan, or won’t understand what success looks like.

The conventional wisdom is to do two versions: a highly detailed plan with hundreds of slides and the 20-slide executive summary version of that plan.

Both of these become useless quickly. Details go sideways right away due to delays, budget fluctuations, and resource changes. Once the details change, managers worry about their ability to meet the standards of success. Then people question the direction, and everything starts all over again.

Should we just stop creating strategic plans? I explain a better way – one that keeps the strategy fixed and the plan fluid.

Should we stop creating strategic #content plans? @Robert_Rose gives the answer via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

A fresh take on a less-is-more content strategy (9:57)

I read a fascinating piece in Digiday this week with the headline Publishers Are Growing Audiences by Producing Less Content. Yup, you heard that right.

The article details several publishers that have trimmed the number of articles they’re producing yet are seeing more traffic, longer times on site, and more subscribers. These include The Guardian, The Times of London, and Le Monde.

The quote from media analyst Thomas Baekdal stood out to me:

Whether a digital magazine publishes 100, 500, or 1,000 articles makes no difference. It’s the quality and interest of the articles that matter instead. We see this clearly on YouTube, where the most popular YouTubers rarely post more than once or twice a day. Publishers look at this, do the analysis, and they discover that when they cut away the not valuable, nobody realizes that it is gone.

I’ve started to see this with my consulting clients. When they take the time to create their strategy and plan to create fewer pieces – and focus in on the quality of those pieces – they build stronger, more engaged audiences and see better results.

Create fewer #content pieces. Focus on quality. And you may see better results, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I explain how this seemingly counterintuitive strategy can help content marketers focus on helping people find what they want while leading them to start reading more of what we want them to consume.

This week’s person making a difference in content: Rich Schwerin (14:17)

This interview is a fun one because Rich Schwerin is not only a wonderfully smart guy, he’s also seen it all when it comes to content marketing in Silicon Valley. Rich is now a senior content strategist at Autodesk, where he focuses on content that engages attention, solves problems, and delivers results.

He’s worked for years in enterprise technology content strategy, including stints at VMware and Oracle. He’s done a variety of things in and around content marketing, including SEO, social media marketing strategy, and product marketing. Rich also puts his background in journalism to work writing articles and moderating panels for the Bay Area Content Marketing Meetup.

Here’s a preview of our chat:

Editors know more than readers. You and your subject matter experts are living and eating and breathing your subject 24/7 … There’s a danger in assuming the audience knows all that. Your job is to organize the information and interpret it and focus on what the audience needs to know – not everything.

Don’t assume your audience knows all that your editors and experts know, says @greencognito via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Listen in to our conversation about content strategy and some of the challenges he’s seeing in business, then get more from Rich:

One content marketing idea you can use (29:30)

I’m sharing an article from way back in 2013. Before you scoff about the age, let me tell you this article is as valuable as it was seven years ago. In Learn What Makes a Content Plan Successful by Taking One Apart, my friend Buddy Scalera wrote about building a better content plan by taking apart your existing one, putting it back together by making decisions about what works and what doesn’t, and documenting the process.

The true challenges lie in building a #content plan from scratch, says @buddyscalera via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Love for our sponsor: ContentTECH Summit

Here’s something you should plan for – especially if you’re looking for a content tech strategy. I’m talking about ContentTECH Summit, which will take place August 10-12 in San Diego.

We’ve got amazing speakers like Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson, and Wendy Richardson, senior vice president of global technical services for MasterCard.

These brand-level folks are ready to teach you about the effective use of technology and better processes that can help your strategic efforts to create, manage, deliver, and scale your enterprise content and provide your customers with better digital experiences.

Check out the agenda today.

The wrap-up

Join me next week for one thought that I love from my head to matoes. I won’t glaze over the fact you doughnut want to miss the love we share for the hole news story. And – hotdog – I think you’ll relish the content marketing tip we cannoli offer you through this podcast. You have a pizza my heart, you guys. And of course, it’s all delivered in a little less time than it takes to spray-tan your face.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute