Now, in 2018, you would struggle to find an article on marketing that doesn’t include a certain clichéd (though with good reason) phrase about content and its regality. But something that slips under the radar the majority of the time is only one letter adrift – context.
While content can be beautiful, informative and innovative, utilising new and different technologies and reinventing the entirety of art, it is context that holds its leash. No matter how ground-breaking and accomplished the content is, if the context is wrong, you’ll see no pickup, no links, and ultimately, no improvement in leads or sales. And that is, of course, every marketer’s nightmare.
Context is easy enough to understand. While content covers a simple question, which is to say, “what?” as well as possibly “how?”, context is the who, when, where, and why – and sometimes part of the how as well.
In simple terms, when a company outreaches a piece of content, the journalists can immediately see what the content is, and maybe how it works. They might even be interested in what it means.
But the context comes across in all sorts of ways. The most immediate are who, why and when.
Who is the company that have created this content – is it a respected finance company? Is it a local business? Is it a disreputable political consulting firm recently involved in a data-mining scandal?
This is going to have an effect on how the content is viewed, because immediately the subconscious response is why – the content might be thought of as by-the-numbers, standard content or as an impressive effort by a small business to break into a larger market. Or it might be see as an attempt to gain respect in a serious market after taking a PR blow.
When is related, but can be a separate question. In the case of the scandalised company, it will have obvious suggestions of being an attempt to recover from the scandal. But in a wider sense, it will relate to ongoing news events. For example, a content piece on Christmas shopping is likely to see much more in the way of results in December than if it was released in July.
Likewise, in an ongoing news climate where social media is feared to be stealing more data about us than we would like, pieces about data security might well be viewed with greater interest than in a time of peaceful nonchalance.
The difficulty of context is that it might seem out of your control. You can’t change your client when you’re trying to outreach their content, and you can’t create a news climate that favours your piece.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t work with what you have. Here’s a few ways of shifting the focus of your strategy to benefit your content:
As said previously, you can’t change your client. But you can adjust the focus on them. If you’re outreaching for that prominent finance company, for example, you might want to make a big deal of their involvement. Their logo should be conspicuous on the content. Their name should be plastered everywhere reasonable. In emails, you can make their previous successes and their events a focal point to support the validity of the content.
A less interesting or more distracting client should receive the opposite treatment. Coverage and links of the client are important, but the client need not fill the journalist and users’ mind throughout the content journey. They can be intrigued by the nature of the content itself and the value it provides and treat the client as a secondary interest.
The why is something to consider when creating content for a client. Oftentimes when speaking with journalists about new content, they will want to know why a certain company is producing it. For example, an online gaming client might produce content on football, but the link between the two might not be immediately obvious.
You can take control of this both before and after you start talking about the new piece.
Beforehand, you can ensure the content you develop has ties back to the client. The gaming client might have an interest in odds, for example, and including football odds in the content provides a strong link back to the original topic for very little extra work.
After it’s created, you just have to look at how you can join the content back to the client’s sector. Telling a journalist upfront about why a travel company is talking about pets (answer: everyone loves their pets and might want to take them on holiday) can be the difference between coverage and silence.
It’s common for ideation sessions to identify upcoming events and recent news and look to create content in line with rising interest in those – it won’t redefine marketing if I say that that’s a worthwhile approach to take.
But perhaps less obvious is how to tackle this when it comes to a creative strategy. You can create a microclimate of client news that provides different context. For example, if you were developing a travel campaign, the basic strategy would be to have outreach target holidays around the summer or just prior, when the public mind is on where to escape city life.
But in terms of the content released within the campaign itself, you can give it a sense of progression. If you lead with content on good airlines, for example, going on to produce content on tips for having a good flight, and then content on the best hotel chains, can provide a strong sense of continuity that you can tap into when trying to place content within publications.
In short, you can form an ongoing story that you can call back to when trying to outreach each successive piece of content – and this coherence can not only develop the content campaign, it can also make you more memorable to journalists and help develop a relationship with them.
Personal context is something a little different, and takes more work on an individual level from a PR team than at the start from a Creative Strategist or Director.
Suppose you have a dream one night. In that dream, you’re going for a run, and you’re running through a field of mobile phones, for whatever reason. In the morning, you’re on your commute, and you see a sign advertising a new Google Pixel 2.
That sign has been on your commute for weeks, but because of your dream, you only notice it now. That’s personal context – because of your own life, you pay more attention to something external.
Now, I’m not suggesting you try and control the public’s dreams – a) because that seems a little immoral, and b) because there’s no real practical way of making it happen – but by doing research into the journalists and the publications to which you’re outreaching, you can identify individual interests and passions and tap into those to draw attention.
For example, when writing up an email on “what’s the most comfortable material in different climates and settings?” content for a major clothing company, and you’re targeting a journalist, you might care to glance through their public social media profiles. You might find that they’re currently celebrating the incoming hot weather of summer – which gives you a way to connect with something that’s already on their mind. Personal context just made content personally relevant.
It’s clear that context is something that has a mind of its own and can’t be controlled like content can. But hopefully from this it’s not hard to see that you can at least begin to shape context to fit your purposes, whether just starting out on a content strategy or taking it to its final stages.
For more on how you can improve your content strategies, grab a free ticket to our event on 10th May – more information available here.
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