We Are Communication Architects

Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

May 4th, 2010

Content Planning: Form Follows Function

One of the things we pride ourselves on at Voce is our ability to work with clients to find and flesh out the stories they have to tell. Everything else is based on that, from the platforms those stories live on to the distribution strategy is based on those initial story ideas. While future posts will deal with each successive step in the process, we start at the point where a content plan is still being established and designed.

The initial step in the process is one that can be alternatively gut-wrenching, thrilling or a little of both. It starts with sitting down with a client and trying to find the answers to a number of questions: What goals are we trying to achieve? How are we going to measure them? Who will be contributing? What platforms will be used? What communications are already being developed that we can build off of? Those are just some of the potential questions to get asked.

Notice that I haven’t used the word “blog” yet. That’s very intentional since what I’m talking about here is not a blog program, it’s a content program. While a blog can certainly be part of that it’s not essential. No, a blog is not essential. A publishing program can include a blog, but it can also be run solely on social/status networks or even solely within the comments on other people’s blogs. And even though not everyone here is from Chicago we all seem to follow the credo of form following function, meaning the goals and participants – along with other factors – are going to influence how the program is designed.

So the first question to get asked is what goals the program is meant to achieve. I’m not just talking about hard metrics such as pageviews, though those are certainly important, but broader questions such as “Is this a customer service program?,” “Is this an HR program?” and the like. Basically, what’s the intent behind the program?

Divining the answers to these questions goes hand-in-hand with acquiring buy-in from the various stakeholders within a company whose operations are potentially going to be touched by the launch of a content program. Social media publishing does not exist in a vacuum and so even if a program’s core focus is going to be HR or investor relations there are going to be customer service inquiries that are likely to come in through those channels. So even though Customer Relations might not be directly contributing, it’s important for them to be aware and comfortable with what’s going on so that when something does happen that they need to deal with it doesn’t require explanation.

Part of that buy-in process means including them not only in the initial planning sessions but also making sure that the entire extended internal team has access to metrics and other status reports that provide both hard numbers and analysis. Securing that approval and awareness at the outset and promising to keep them in the loop carries with it a number of advantages, from avoiding future instances of people wondering what’s going on to making sure everyone knows there is a program currently in motion so, if they get the hankering to launch a program of their own they can take advantage of the learning that’s already gone on and not have to re-invent the wheel.

Look for more installments chronicling the Content Planning process in the next few weeks.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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