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COVID-19 prompts consumers to ask big questions

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COVID-19 prompts consumers to ask big questions


Marketers need to take account of five key trends in current consumer behavior as they plan for 2022 says a new survey from the Gartner marketing practice. “Marketers must recognize that consumers are in the midst of an exhausting practical and spiritual overhaul,” said VP analyst Kate Muhl.

Why we care. Marketers (and journalists) are consumers too. Ask yourself if any of the following trends resonates with your own experience and then think about what they mean when it comes to engaging with consumers. Not just consumers. Although they’re the focus of the Gartner survey, we think these trends will also be found, one way or another, among B2B buyers.

Home-centricity. For many consumers, home-first has become a mantra — especially for those able to work from home. That means people are thinking hard about their homes, how to manage them and how to feel safe and secure in them. 58% of those surveyed now think the pandemic will have a lasting effect on how they view their homes, an eye-popping increase on the 12% when Gartner posed the question in 2020.

A major social experiment. Consumers are being forced to rethink basic certainties about their lives. Home-centricity leads to a blurring of work and personal life with more than 50% of workers now saying they undertake personal tasks during work hours. The more fundamental rethinking of priorities can be seen in the so-called “Great Resignation.”

Read next: Marketers, where will you be a year from now?

Divided on digital versus in-person. While almost 40% of consumers value the ease and convenience of online shopping and other aspects of virtual life, a growing number view digital as an inadequate replacement for offline and in-person experiences (57%, up 17% on 2020).

Straightforward media. There are indications in the survey results that consumers are looking for relaxation, entertainment and an escape from reality, whether through social or traditional media. This may not be the time to challenge them with complexity or anything too emotionally raw.

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Let’s do the time warp. The figures speak for themselves. 77% of those surveyed reported a distorted perception of time (going up to 91% for Gen Z) and 66% have difficulty making long-term plans.

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space. He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.



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MARKETING

How To Plan a Content ‘Season’ Like a Hollywood Showrunner

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How To Plan a Content 'Season' Like a Hollywood Showrunner

What should we talk about in our content?

This question plagues many content marketing teams. The brand message might be crystal clear. The products have clear value propositions and differentiators. The marketing team understands its paid media schedule, the agency is working out the creative elements, and the PR team is readying news around new hires, products, and partnerships.

The content team, however, struggles with topics.

Content marketers often approach this by getting a meeting together to brainstorm.

Here’s how that usually goes:

Someone from the demand generation team suggests creating a list of all the questions buyers might ask about the company’s particular approach.

The product marketing manager likes that idea and says, “We could create articles answering those questions and then sprinkle in how we solve those challenges.”

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The brand marketing manager says, “Why don’t we write some posts about our new brand mission and how our products and services are helping solve climate change?” They punctuate their suggestion by throwing a copy of Simon Sinek’s Start With Why onto the table.

The product marketing manager chimes in: “Yes, and we could sprinkle in a bit about how our product solves those challenges.”

“I know,” says someone from PR, “let’s write posts that feature profiles of our executives and their thought leadership in the market.”

The brand marketing manager nods in appreciation. “Yes, great idea. That’s storytelling. It’s got a hero.”

The product marketing manager stands up and says, “I like it. And maybe the executives could talk a little about how our product solves difficult challenges.”

Only the content marketing team sits silently, looking down at their notebooks. They’ve taken exactly zero notes.

The pizza arrives, and the meeting ends. The brand marketing manager says, “I don’t know what you all were so worried about. We’ve got tons of things to talk about.”

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Finding the bigger story

I work with content marketing teams for brands all over the world. I’ve noticed that when teams struggle to find a focused editorial direction for their content platform, it’s usually because they haven’t set the foundation for a bigger story.

Without a focused story (or stories), any alternative feels valid. As a result, their blog feels like an ad hoc collection of answers to FAQs. The resource center is a random collection of promotional materials and case studies. Their webinar program is just a catch-all featuring whoever is available to talk about how their product solves things.

I’ve discussed the importance of planning before. But within that planning process description lies the assumption that the relevant teams have met to decide on a bigger story to use as a foundation for planning.

But what if that hasn’t happened yet? How do you go about finding that bigger story?

As it turns out, you can learn a lot from media operations.

An overarching story helps #Content end the struggle to find editorial direction, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What TV showrunners know

Television series are created by teams representing all aspects of producing great content. There are writers, directors, actors, editors, production specialists, and so on.

Similarly, multiple teams come together when a brand’s content marketing team embarks on a thought leadership program or content marketing initiative. These teams also rely on diverse experts: writers, designers, subject matter experts, and others.

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Both teams face similar problems. This chaotic, creative process requires participation from many different groups.

How do you align all those disciplines and develop a cohesive story?

The question in Hollywood: “What’s the story?”

The question in content marketing: “What’s the story?”

Here is an approach that I’ve seen work in both situations.

Find the story – then plan it out over a season

The first thing I advise content marketing teams to do is this: Find the focus for a story they want to tell over a specific period on specific platforms.

I’ve talked before about the approach of using your brand story to find your content stories and even rebooting your story from content you’ve written before.

But another (often overlooked) aspect of this first step is to plan how your story will play out over time.

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Hollywood showrunners do this by bringing all the writers together to generate ideas about episodes and character development arcs.

Content marketers can learn from this. Why not bring the team together to plan out a bunch of ideas that would help you tell a complete story?

Think of it like planning out an entire season of content. For example, you might theme your editorial strategy for the coming quarter, build it around a curriculum, or even align it to the seasonal calendar.

With this approach, you’ll end up with more than a list of titles of articles, posts, or assets to create. You’ll have planned different chapters (or episodes) of a broader story that may end up as many kinds of digital assets for different platforms.

Think of #content planning like plotting out an entire TV show season, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Outline the chapters – then create your packages

The next step for showrunners is to create outlines of the episodes that make up the show’s season. These detailed story outlines help the other professionals understand when things like specific locales, guest actors, or bigger budgets may be necessary.

In content marketing, outlining your story’s upcoming chapters can help you decide which formats would work best. For example, you may decide that for the initial “episode,” you want to create an article and a blog post. But you want to combine the second episode with a white paper, a webinar, and a blog post.

Deciding on these packages separates the content development from the digital assets you’ll package them into. Creators get a heads-up that they’ll need to write the content for the various interfaces selected to optimize accordingly. Designers will have a complete portfolio of content that they can use to create all the assets needed.

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Planning at this level of detail enables the true benefits of a content calendar. All the teams can see plans for the story to unfold and all the different platforms where it will be told. They may start to see that the content season will meet their needs – reducing the demand for ad hoc assets.

Planning a full season of #Content lets internal teams see how the story will meet their needs, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Create the content ­– not necessarily the assets

In the next stage, Hollywood showrunners assign the writing for the various episodes. All the writers know the story and the outlines for upcoming episodes so that the showrunner can choose the optimal writer for each episode.

A content marketing team might assign the first couple of episodes to one writing team, then assign another team to take up the project for episode three.

Think of it like this: If you’ve mapped out your entire story, you and the team know what’s coming. You can work on the chapters simultaneously, knowing that things can change if needed. More importantly, this approach lets you work ahead instead of constantly chasing deadlines.

The key here is to write the content, not necessarily the digital assets. The goal is to have the stories created well ahead of the deadlines in your story schedule. For example, one successful content marketing team I’ve worked with makes a “content digest” for each of their episodes. This single document includes all the written content for all the places it will live (e.g., promotional ads, blog posts, social posts, long-form articles, etc.) and a creative brief for all the asset elements the content will be packaged into. Once the content reaches production, the creative team creates all the design containers simultaneously.

Approaching content separately from production means you may have 10 or more episodes ready to go before the first one even publishes. This lets you adjust the production schedule as you learn from each episode as it rolls out. If episode 1 goes exceedingly well, for example, you can make changes to episode 6.  You’ve seen this in action with your favorite series. A character becomes a fan favorite in episode 1 – and suddenly has much more screen time by episode 5.

Additionally, it’s a much more efficient process. You know episode 3 (which is already written) will need a thought leadership paper, a webinar, and a blog post. Fantastic. Now, you know how to help the production team schedule their efforts. And, you have the room to change if the first webinar is so successful that you want to add more.

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One story to rule (out) them all

Setting the bigger story in place and working the plan through cross-functional teams does more than give you production efficiency. It also provides focus. You can weigh any proposed idea against something important: the bigger story.

So, when that inevitable “Yes, and can we sprinkle in a little more about how our product solves that challenge” comment comes in?

You can look down at your copious notes and say, “I’m sorry, that’s not part of this particular story.”

Remember, it’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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