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What’s Really Holding Back Your Content Strategy

Everyone thinks content marketing is hard because writing is hard … right? When you think about your own agency’s challenges with your content strategy, how much of your concerns are focused on the feasibility of actually putting pen to paper? Quite a lot, I’d bet.

And you’re right. Writing isn’t easy. But there’s more to your challenges than that. Why isn’t writing easy? Lack of time? Of focus? Lack of the right topic or motivation? Ask yourself these questions and you’ll start to get somewhere. Content marketing isn’t hard because writing is hard. Content marketing is hard because you have no clue how to sustain momentum. Every month, you’re struggling to feed the beast. And every month, there it is, staring back at you with an empty stomach.

We see this all the time. And it’s de-motivating for clients. Why sink so much time and effort into your content when it’s not even “working”, meaning you’re not seeing viable leads coming in organically through your website?

Allow me to introduce the single most important tool you can use to improve and sustain your content marketing strategy: the effectively led monthly editorial meeting.

It’s Not the Writing; It’s the Editorial Meeting

Okay, you think that’s a no-brainer, right? Hear me out. I spend more time coaching my clients on getting this right than any other element of sustaining a content strategy. When run well, your monthly content meeting becomes the heartbeat of your content strategy. It provides a regular cadence of productivity that every content team member begins to anticipate and rely upon each month. Without it, people start drifting in different directions. Deadlines become soft, topics less focused. Overall production drastically declines, as does the efficacy of the content you do manage to publish.

Your monthly editorial meeting can prevent that by keeping everyone focused on the same goal for each month’s content, so your individual content items are part of a larger whole, rather than disparate pieces.

Your ideal agenda should look like this:

The Good and The Bad – 10 minutes

Level Set – 10 minutes

Topic Ideation – 60 minutes

Logistics and Wrap Up – 10 minutes

The Good and The Bad – 10 minutes

Begin your meeting with a review of the performance of last month’s content. Sounds simple, but it’s actually easy to overlook. Without this very important first step, you’re not going to have any idea if the effort you’re investing is worth it. How do you know if it’s “working”? Work with your content team to identify measures for success. Is it an average click-through rate on your content emails? Is it a certain threshold of number of clicks per article? Is it overall traffic, time on page, and bounce rate per article? Whatever the metric, whatever the goal, take time every month to evaluate your content. And if the numbers aren’t where you expected, talk about it as a team. Get in the habit of being your own diagnosticians. Objectively evaluate the content that underperformed – was it targeting the right audience? Was it truly thought leadership? Did it speak to the challenges or values of your target personas? Are there opportunities to improve the formatting of the article or the content email? These types of questions will get your entire team in the habit of critically analyzing all of the content coming out of your agency, which will vastly strengthen your content strategy as a whole.

Level Set – 10 minutes

Before beginning a discussion on the upcoming month’s content, it’s helpful to ensure everyone in the room is on the same page with what you’re trying to accomplish. One of the biggest assumptions you can make is that everyone on your team is as intimately familiar with your agency’s position and personas as you are. Some of your team members may even be unclear on the overall goal of your content strategy.

To cut through the ambiguity, challenge yourself to articulate these bedrock components of your strategy: your position, your target personas, a few challenges/values of your personas at each stage of the buy cycle, and your metrics for success. This could be as simple as writing this information on the board before your editorial meeting or formatting it into the standard agenda for the meeting. The goal is to ensure every member of your content team is aligned on the fundamentals of your strategy, so when you move into topic ideation, everyone is working within the same set of parameters. Keeping every member of your content team focused in a single direction will drastically improve the impact of what they’re writing throughout the course of the month.

Topic Ideation – 60 minutes

This is the meat of the meeting. Now that everyone is clear on the purpose of your content strategy, as well as the position of your firm and the challenges/values of your target personas, you’re ready to start ideating on topics. Your writers should come to this meeting prepared to discuss a few topics they’ve already been thinking about, but now that you’ve all been through the level set, you can evaluate each topic objectively. Every topic you consider should be subjected to the same test:

1. Does this topic support our marketplace position?

2. Is this topic relevant to a pain point or core value of one of our audience personas?

3. Does this topic target one of our audience personas at a specific stage in the buy cycle?

In most cases, you’ll get a “sort of” answer to one or more of these questions. That won’t be good enough. You need a solid, unanimous “yes” across the board. Once a topic is suggested for consideration, the team should work together to improve the topic so that those “sort of’s” become unequivocal “yes’s”. If the entire team working together can’t make that happen, you should seriously consider not writing on that topic for now.

And this is important. There must be absolute trust among your content team – no room for pride. Your editorial meetings are a safe space. Every member of your content team is contributing to a vital role in the health of your agency. And because you’re all working toward the same goal, you should collectively strive to improve each other’s ideas and writing. It’s up to you, the one leading the meeting, to set the stage for that type of environment.

The Logistics and Wrap Up – 10 minutes

Once you’ve completed ideation, you’ve reached the home stretch. Now it’s time to sort out logistics and wrap things up. Ideally you have a member of your content team who manages people’s content drafts and deadlines (we call them the “Coordinator”). The coordinator will  assign deadlines for first and final drafts, as they best fit into your content calendar. Next, the coordinator outlines a plan for the upcoming content email(s), if that’s applicable for your agency. Before you adjourn, every member of the content team should have a crystal clear picture of what they are writing, when it’s due, how it fits into the larger content plan for the month, and what will be included in the next content email blast.

Eventually, you should be able to get through this entire agenda in an hour, but for your first few tries, I recommend giving yourselves 90 minutes.

Still feeling skeptical? Give it a shot. I dare you. Follow this plan for 4-6 months and see for yourself the new life you’ve just breathed into your content strategy. Think I’m too optimistic? Tell me why… in the comments!

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