Event Recap: Tips for Building a Content Strategy

IABC Ottawa-Speakers-2

Dominique Jolicoeur,  content strategist at the National Capital Commission and president of IABC Ottawa, recaps ‘Building a Content Strategy: Putting the User First

A few years ago IABC Ottawa hosted a series of Content Strategy Meetups with Kris Mausser, president and senior content strategy consultant of Kina’ole Canada. The series had a significant impact on my career and today I proudly carry the title of Content Strategist. That’s the thing about IABC: it guides us along our career path in subtle ways.

On the first evening of spring, IABC Ottawa reintroduced our community to content strategy. The topic drew a much larger crowd this time. Over 70 communication and marketing professionals came out to the event, eager to find out more about this budding profession. We were lucky to hear from some very bright content strategists:

  • Biz Sanford, Content Strategist at Shopify
  • Olivier Fortin, Chief Creative Strategist at Banfield Agency
  • Kris Mausser, President and Senior Content Strategy Consultant at Kina’ole

Below are some of the highlights from the discussion.

On user focused content…

With the abundance of digital platforms, brands are creating more content than ever before. Our speakers revealed that it’s time to bring in content strategy when content becomes unmanageable. It’s also time if your website speaks to your employees rather than the audience it’s meant to serve. If your content doesn’t speak to the user, then it is irrelevant and you’re wasting resources.

Here are a few tips for getting into the mind of a user:

  1. Tell stories that connect with your users. According to Olivier, incredible stories about your brand are waiting to be found. Talk to employees at every level of the organization and your customers. You never know what stories they have to tell! Here’s an example of how Banfield Agency used storytelling in a recent campaign.
  2. Develop user personas to put a face to the audiences you’re creating content for. Kris believes user personas are a critical tool for a successful content strategy because they serve as a guide during the content decision making process.
  3. Get a better understanding of user needs by talking to the users themselves. By listening to user needs and adapting their content, Shopify was able to reduce support debt.
  4. Create a voice and tone guide to ensure consistency across all channels. This is especially important for companies with multiple content creators. Check out this guide by MailChimp.

On collaboration…

Content is everybody’s business and it can be used to break down siloes. “Bringing content to the table helps everyone speak the same language,” said Kris. To get the best results, it’s important to get everyone – content leads, designers, subject matter experts and developers – talking about content at the very beginning of a project. The speakers told our audience that they are best positioned to act as content champions within their organizations and encouraged them to teach others to create great content. “Often it’s the content strategist who acts as the bridge builder between different teams,” said Biz.

The best way to get buy-in for content strategy is to show leaders the risks associated with not having a solid content strategy.  Some of these risks include a lack of audience awareness and a drain on other resources within the organization, such as customer service. Olivier suggested communicators should develop case studies out of their content strategy successes to demonstrate ROI.

On the future of content strategy…

How will the role of the content strategist evolve in three to five years? The good news is that content strategy is here to stay. The platforms and digital assets will evolve rapidly (chat bots, anyone?), but the content principles will remain the same.  Kris started working in the field in 2004 and she’s just starting to see a real push for content strategy in the past year. The panelists all agree that we can expect to see more and more jobs come up with the title of “Content Strategist”.

My favorite part of the evening was when a student in the audience asked: What can I do to prepare for a career in content strategy? Here are a few tips:

  1. Read everything you can on the topic and share your new knowledge with your networks. Start here.
  2. Determine which aspect of content strategy you find most interesting – user experience, storytelling, product content, etc.
  3. Practice writing in a way that is both simple and clear using the Hemingway app.
  4. Volunteer for a small non-profit to help them with their website audit and content review.

We hope the event inspired you to explore further the exciting world of content strategy! Keep an eye out for upcoming monthly IABC Ottawa events here.

Photo: FINNSQUARE.com 

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