What To Do When your Content Strategy Goes Horribly Wrong
If you’re a content marketer, you’ve probably read multiple articles on the secrets of content marketing, with writers telling you that if you only follow steps A, B, and C you’re destined for success. I bet you’ve probably never read an article about a content marketing strategy that bombed. As the famous saying goes “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and that’s a great reminder for us content marketers that no matter how hard we work, or how many best practices we have in place, the human element can sometimes create outcomes we did not expect.
What happened? Well if you remember my September 12th blog, “Give your content a glamour shot”, I discussed the importance of using breaking news and influencers – for a particular piece of content I banked on just those things – breaking news and influencers – to propel my content, but on the morning of this particular content’s release I got an email saying the breaking news was, in fact, not ready to be released.
This had never happened to me before. Panicked I asked a journalist friend what to do and how to avoid it in the future. This friend told me that something like that would never fly in journalism, once a story is written, it’s only changed for errors on the journalist’s end – but as content marketers, we have very different stakeholders. As the impact of this news was to be a huge part of the viral potential of my content; my hopes sunk. But being the solution seeker I am, I refused to give in to failure, and a few days later re-packaged my content in order to cut my losses.
Here are four ways I went back to the “drawing board” to try and get my “not-as-awesome-anymore” content read and shared:
Go back to the source, the customer you’re trying to reach. The most important thing to think about when creating content is the customer and their needs, not your ideas – no matter how fabulous you think they are. When my content lost its viral-worthiness I went back to identifying the core of what my customers want and need. Honestly, they don’t care about some thought-provoking ideas that I think are cool, but have real, everyday needs to do their jobs. I revisited the content and was able to identify where in my content there were concrete examples that could help readers with their jobs. I revamped and retitled the content with those ideas as its focus.
Share-ability (Revisited). So even though the content was no longer breaking news, I knew that with my newfound focus on content that was valuable to readers’ everyday lives, it would have potential share-ability. I moved away from the article being about the achievements of thought leaders, which it was about originally, and instead focused on the larger, trending topics that those thought leaders’ work addressed. I pulled out several problems and the solutions those thought leaders had come up with and made my content into a “Top 10” list. This would give laser-focus to each problem as well as each solution. My bet was that even if the people in my content were no longer viral-worthy, at least one of those problems/solutions on the list (if not all) would be interesting to my readers. And my online research showed me that my new content answered some questions no one was really answering, which made it valuable and original.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Advice I typically give to people, such as infusing humor in their writing and making sure there are shareable pieces in the content, I had pretty much ignored that because I had banked so much on other things going right with my piece of content. Going back to the drawing board, I realized one way I could potentially save my piece of content was to follow my own advice and make it fun. I did a little extra research on one of the people who was a focus in the piece and found a really interesting anecdote about that person. This anecdote was a perfect closer for my list and actually gave me the whole theme around which I built the tone of the “new” piece. It also gave me some cool graphic ideas.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t worry because evergreen content promotion has the flexibility to be an ongoing project. My really interesting content - due to reasons beyond my control – did not quite make the splash I had hoped. So I re-energized by turning it into a list of industry pain points (as well as some other added ideas to give it new life). It helped, a little. But I am not done yet. I know that if I was able to resuscitate it, there’s potential for even more traction – I just haven’t thought of what that “more” is yet.
My recent experience with a piece of content is a sobering reminder that content marketing has some unknown factors that traditional marketing doesn’t. So many things can go wrong: You have a thought leader to write the story or be featured in it, but will she Retweet it or promote it to her audience? The breaking news about a topic you think is so fascinating…do readers even care?
Content marketing is still in its infancy too, so readers – as much as you think you are providing them with a great news resource – may be confused to see something like “breaking news” from marketers, and may not trust it. I can see why; they’re used to getting their news from news publications, not businesses.
There’s no easy answer for:"What to do when your content strategy goes horribly wrong" but I guess if there were, we content marketers would be out of business. The best answer I can give, and I hope I have with this piece, is to not get distracted by bright shiny objects and make sure all best practices are paid attention to. If they don’t “work” don’t be too caught off guard, remember they’re methods, not magic! Being able to go back the drawing board and apply some creative thinking is always going to be a necessary part of the process.