5 Steps to Creating Inspirational—Not Promotional—Content

contentBrands are scrambling to adopt the longtime model of traditional publishers—know your audiences, provide them with highly relevant content and build a platform that can deliver the content in unique and efficient ways. Sounds simple—right?

Not quite, especially if you work for a brand that still embraces the mentality that content is best used to promote instead of inspire. Yet hope springs eternal even for the most conservative organizations, and there is an expectation among key constituents that content should be more in line with the audience’s interests and needs.

Here’s a roadmap for getting started, courtesy of Ted Birkhahn, president of Peppercomm and contributor to PR News' Digital PR & Social Media Guidebook Vol. 6:

  1. Listen: Too often, we communicate before we listen and end up circulating ideas and information that fall flat and well short of our audience’s expectations. Great brands are great listeners. They never stop listening and they never fail to adjust their content to reflect what they hear. In large part, listening not only directs the focus and style of a brand’s content but also it decides the communications channels that are best suited to reach the desired audiences.
  2. Define your position: Listening paves the way for a content strategy that enables a brand to both create and curate content on a finite number of topics and issues that matter most to key audiences. Brands must not attempt to boil the ocean by develop- ing content streams on a vast array of topics and issues. Instead, defining a brand’s positions on a few pertinent issues will enable it to reinforce category expertise with its key audiences.
  3. Join the conversation: In addition to populating a brand’s existing platforms with content, it’s imperative that brands (and their thought leaders) provide their points of view in conversations that are taking place elsewhere—at events, on external social media channels, blogs and in online news commentary. Doing so will build credibility for the brand and its thought leaders and eventually drive traffic back to the brand’s own communications channels.
  4. Build: Since content doesn’t appear out of thin air, companies must plan accordingly and invest in the proper infrastructure that will help it develop and curate a steady stream of great content. Some brands build teams internally, while others outsource the content development to third parties. Regardless of what path a brand takes, it’s critical for the architects of the content strategy to know the brand and its audiences inside and out or risk watching their efforts fall on deaf ears.
  5. Measure: Successful content marketers are always measuring how their content is influencing others and being shared and discussed among the communities that the brand is targeting. The best marketers continuously make changes to their content strategy based on what they’re seeing and hearing in the marketplace.

Follow Ted Birkhahn: @tedbirk94

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene