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Brand Publishing 101 - #4 Planning your content flow
Brand Publishing 101 - #4 Planning your content flow

This article is Part 4 of our Brand Publishing 101 series - walking your through the ins and outs of setting up and kicking off a winning brand publishing strategy. So buckle in.

So now you have your audience identified, and your editorial mission statement locked down, it's time to start planning out your content flow.

Your content flow is simply the mix of content that you chose to include, and how you deliver that content to your audience over time.

Content flow is important because this is how you undertake a continuous conversation with your audience through your content - and all conversations naturally ebb and flow, from quiet moments of reflection to loud exclamations! The content plan that you create for your team needs to take flow into account - otherwise you'll end up with a tonne of disconnected content, and a disengaged audience.

Your content mix

When we talk about your content mix for brand publishing, we're not just talking about different kinds of articles.

There are many different types of content that you can use in your brand publishing strategy to engage your audience, across a wide spectrum of channels. The only requirement here is variety - providing as many different types of content as possible. The Content Flow Matrix below shows you the varied content types you can choose from, in relation to where they sit in the overall sales funnel and also the relative "size" of the content.

As always, before making any decisions regarding your content mix - make sure you consider each content type through the eyes of your audience (is it something they will readily consume), and ensure it fits within your editorial mission statement.

Content delivery

The rate at which you are able to create, curate and deliver content to your audience will be dependant on the content creation resources you have to hand. The amount of content required to undertake a successful brand publishing venture can vary wildly between different audiences - but is often the key area where brands fall down, mostly due to underestimating their audiences need for high volumes of engaging content.

A good place to start is to identify a current successful brand publishing venture that is focused on a similar target audience to you (be it millenial consumers, or middle aged businessmen) and break down their most recent month of content. This can also give you insights into the mix that they are providing their audience and can help you to map out your initial content mix and delivery plan. However once you've used this information to get started, you need to measure and track every aspect of your own audience's engagement - as your audience may react differently, and there is always room for improvement. 

There are several ways in which brands can boost their content delivery, without having to increase your team size:

User generated content

Leveraging user generated content is a fantastic way for brands to boost their content cadence without requiring more investment in content creation. User generated content can be as simple as pulling in social feed content based around a hashtag - such as an instagram wall for a specific product, or by enabling your brands customers to participate in your publishing venture by contributing articles and content that can be published under your brand.

While leveraging user generated content can make brand publishing sound easy, keep in mind that user generated content is best used with a light hand and carefully sprinkled throughout your content strategy - rather than forming the core. This ensures you can keep your editorial mission on track, and that the quality of content stays high. 

Influencer content

There are influencers and specialists to be found in every market, no matter how niche or obscure, and many of them are willing to write articles for the glory of being published. Often small compensation is offered, or in the case of a professional influencers (they do exist) they may have standard rates for content creation and promotion. This is an area where you can really think outside the box, and approach people that wouldn't normally write for a brand online. This can often result in some really interesting content, and new perspectives on specific topics.

Outsourced content

This is the most common way that brands boost their content delivery, by outsourcing content creation to platforms like Scripted. These platforms offer specialist content writers across a wide variety of topics/areas, and can be very competitive on cost. Whilst they are not the medium you may want to use for deep feature content - they can be great for writing regular articles, how to guides, and list focused pieces. 

However, if you are planning to use outsourced content creation services you will need a strong editing process to ensure all content being published has been thoroughly checked for spelling and grammar, as well as consistency and brand voice.

Content layout

Whilst news sites still tend to lean towards the traditional 'newspaper' format, most brand publishing sites or content hubs are reminiscent of a glossy magazine - rich with imagery and bright colours to grab the users attention. 

The layout of your content matters, as it is the layout that feeds your content to the user in a way that they find most engaging. Think of it like a magazine spread; the cover exists to capture your initial interest, then the reader is provided with a mix of feature content, news articles, real life stories, advertisements, how to guides, Q&A's, lists (and the list goes on).

Example Magazine Layout

Your 'above the fold' is the modern day equivalent of a magazine's front cover. This is where you can drive home the cornerstones or main pillars of your editorial mission and content strategy - consistently reinforcing the same messages with each new 'above the fold' refresh.

While many of the glossy womans magazines that spring to mind promote sex, body and mind as the pillars on their covers - any pillars will actually do, as long they are consistent and align with your editorial mission.

The most common ways for brands to promote their pillars is with a full screen statement image and headline, that slides between 3 different but core statements relating to key features being promoted by the brand.

When it comes to below the fold, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of potential layouts that your brand can choose to use - however as long as the content you are delivering is fresh, varied and engaging (and displayed that way on your site - don't just lump all of the videos off to one side) it should perform well. 

Measure, rinse, repeat

No content strategy or plan is complete without measurement. Make sure you are using the right tools to truly understand how your audience is engaging with your content. There are many different ways in which you should look to measure your content, here are the two main ones:

Clicks

This is a pretty obvious one right? But often it gets set up incorrectly, or left until the last minute. Get your analytics tracking in right from the start, and ensure your attribution is being tracking correctly. This enables you to know exactly where your readers are coming from, what they are doing on your site, and where they leave from.

Engagement

Knowing you had over 500 clicks on an article is pretty good right? But did they even read it? Engagement tracking measures such aspects as read time, or heat map displays to see how far down the article your users go. Some also offer anonymous recordings of your users - so you can watch them engaging with your site. 

Pulling it all together

So to summarise a winning content flow needs to include:

  • A variety of content types and sizes (to form a natural conversation flow)
  • A delivery plan that ensures content is always fresh for your audience (can be boosted by user generated content, influencer content & outsourced content creation)
  • A layout that includes a strong statement above the fold (like a magazine cover)
  • Tracking and measurement (for all of the things)

Stay tuned for Part 5 - Structuring your team and resources.

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