People Before Product — A Consumer-First Approach to Content Strategy
Written by Marisa Olson, Associate Writing Director. Illustration by Kristen Minarik, Associate Creative Director
Content strategy is the art of delivering the right stories, to the right people, at the right place, at the right time — and it plays an integral role in shaping brand storytelling. We’ve been actively iterating on our content strategy practice, and in doing so, have developed a process that’s efficient, collaborative, and most importantly, rooted in the consumer.
In a shift from product-led storytelling, our consumer-first approach not only helps our clients to be sharper in their messaging, but it also enriches the experience for their audience, fosters stronger relationships, and supports more efficient content creation. Generating content is easy. Generating content that actually serves your audience is more difficult.
So how do we create compelling consumer-first narratives? It looks like this.
Identify the Audience
First, we form a team with our clients, bringing a combination of creative and strategic thinkers to the table. We start with identifying what matters most — their values and goals, products and initiatives, and competitors and stakeholders. Those learnings, merged with our own insights from research and data, enable us to make strategic target audience recommendations.
Dig Even Deeper
Once we’ve identified who the audience is, we delve into who they are. How are they feeling right now? What do they want to hear about? Where are they spending their time? Why are they here? Understanding their nuanced mindsets is a critical step in the process, and one that recognizes that audiences don’t follow a set path when they engage with brands or product. This nonlinear journey requires our clients to meet them where they’re active, in formats that earn their attention. We use data and creative thinking to outline these audience journeys and key mindsets. This is a critical step and it forms the backbone of a strategy for content that resonates.
Sharpen the Message
With the foundation in place, we work closely with key stakeholders and creative partners who will ultimately execute the strategy. Together, we concept narrative themes and build an ecosystem of connected storytelling that aligns with both the audience(s) and business goals. We’re able to sharpen messaging to a fine point, recommending influencers and asset sources, creating story angles for different platforms, and connecting to a variety of mindsets.
Think for the Future
It just isn’t enough to focus on content for today — we know that the landscape is constantly changing, that our audience is changing with it, and planning for the future has to happen now. Through identifying up-and-coming trends across culture, technology, media, retail, and more, we can create a strategy that works for today, tomorrow, and next year.
Find Ways to Do It Better
This process has created efficiencies in a number of ways, all with the goal of helping our clients tell the most compelling stories possible, as often as possible, and as smartly as possible. We pull in stakeholders early on in the process, so their involvement and feedback is represented from the beginning. We maximize content capture opportunities by providing clients with a plan and tools to get more out of every shoot, resulting in a greater variety of stories that resonate with a wider audience. We help clients get sharper with the executions they’re going to produce — we don’t blanket stories across every channel. Instead, we identify what should live where in advance, and then capture assets specifically for it.
Keep It Going
Of course, none of this matters if we’re not learning along the way. The strengthening of our content strategy practice has been highly iterative, as we’ve learned from clients, audiences, measuring, and testing. The end result isn’t just about creating a successful process, though, it’s about helping our clients learn to create consumer-driven content themselves, so they reap the rewards for decades to come.