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The Atomic Guide to Content Strategy


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Here's how to clean up your content strategy in 12 brutal yet sensible steps - inspired by #atomicdesign

Summary? The key to untie the content strategic knot and/or declutter your content strategy is to be found in its most fundamental component: your answers to the top of your (future) customer’s FAQ list.

An ‘atomic’ content strategy will answer FAQ #1 first, proceed to answer one question at a time, tag each answer systematically with their why, who, how, when, whereto and where… and scrum from there...

Published in: Marketing
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The Atomic Guide to Content Strategy

  1. © These Days Y & R The Atomic Guide to Content Strategy Frank Delmelle, Senior Content Strategist at These Days Y&R
  2. © These Days Y & R #ContentStrategy: a new, atomic, bottom-up and future-proof paradigm in 12 decisive steps       Buckle up, strategists. Here’s…
  3. © These Days Y & R “A new content strategy paradigm”?  Why? Who needs it? 
  4. © These Days Y & R© These Days Y & R  a.k.a. #DeathByPowerpoint diagram diarrhea Google content strategy and – excusez le mot – this is all you get:
  5. © These Days Y & R Content strategy seems to be stuck thinking in circles… content-wheel-45628376
  6. © These Days Y & R … and burgers  That’s a “content strategy burger” (no kiddin’)
  7. © These Days Y & R … and a chalupa… content-marketing-needs-to-be-like-a-chalupa- e080b7b054f9#.nr9wupjil
  8. © These Days Y & R ‘Content strategy’s very probably Wikipedia’s Most Wicked Wiki
  9. © These Days Y & R  At the CMI, content strategists in spe get tangled up in toolkits, templates and trellos
  10. © These Days Y & R …
  11. © These Days Y & R Digiday Content Marketing Summit? Spewing challenges instead of solutions…
  12. © These Days Y & R   Your customer doesn’t give a flying bleep about your content strategy Image credit: Flickr,Tambako The Jaguar And if that’s bad, this is worse:
  13. © These Days Y & R … Neither do your strategy’s indispensable middle men…  (Paid) Discovery? (Paid) Social? (Paid) Search? Earned? Owned? One-to-one?
  14. © These Days Y & R Splintered segments? Content shocks? Algorithm anxiety? Broken journeys? … It wouldn’t be entirely fair, of course, to have content strategist take all the blame. Their task has turned rather sysyphean… Excuses?
  15. © These Days Y & R Still, claiming that content strategy could do with some decluttering would be a flagrant understatement    
  16. © These Days Y & R   Solution? A Copernican Revolution!  
  17. © These Days Y & R “Unleash the 12 steps!” 
  18. © These Days Y & R Kaboom!  Step 1. Nuke the diagram diarrhea Tabula rasa! Clean those desks! Let’s get back to the basics and rebuild from the bottom up.
  19. © These Days Y & R Step 2. Focus on the very top of your (future) customer’s FAQ list* *The ranking of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) being the one thing your customers – and your strategy’s indispensable middle men – are guaranteed to care about: answers to their questions.
  20. © These Days Y & R Tweet that! Content relevance, by the way, is the one thing that will never entirely be delivered by the bots Focusing on your audience’s FAQ will make sure you steer clear of both commoditized content and ‘last year’s’ shallow (meaningless) content snacks (to offer relevant ‘content atoms’ instead.)
  21. © These Days Y & R© These Days Y & R Step 3. Answer one question a time (FAQ #1, FAQ #2, FAQ #3 etc.) Answering FAQs / focusing on your ‘smallest relevant element’, is not only what’ll make sure you get discovered, found, considered, trusted, revisited and recommended. It’s also what’ll offer you the ‘natural’ window of opportunity you need to pitch your product or service… and reap subsequent conversions.
  22. © These Days Y & R Image: atomic content calendar, work in progress for Step 4. Fill out your answers’ strategic profiles The interesting thing about these ‘content atoms’ or answers to FAQs, is that they will enable you to get agile on all seven strategic levels: give each ‘content atom’ a strategic passport, i.e. a content profile with these 7 tags: #WHO #WHAT, #WHY, #WHERETO, #WHEN, #HOW and #WHERE… and you’ll find the fragmentation that used to be your worst headache, will at once become your best friend. The future-proof paradigm shift? Once they’re tagged, your content atoms will make up the core of a content strategy that’s scalable, targetable, fine-tunable and even IoT-ready. Your headlines will be so relevant they’ll seamlessly increase notification CTRs…
  23. © These Days Y & R Illustration: a ‘content atom’ from the top of Bank of America customers’ FAQ list: “How Do I Pay Down Debt?”, Step 5. Tag your answer(s) with target audience segment(s) #WHO This first tag level will enable you to pull content clusters relevant for specific segments from your content archives, making segmentation ‘a piece of cake’.
  24. © These Days Y & R Step 6. Tag your answer with the customer need /desire you’re satisfying #WHAT Tag level number two consists of the keywords, categories or themes that reflect the specific customer questions (wonderings/needs/desires) you’re answering. Expect a return in terms of SEO, obviously, but equally so in terms of, for example, ‘sharp as a knife’ subject lines etc. Illustration: a ‘content atom’ from the top of Thomson Reuters’ clients’ FAQ list: “How Will We Fill 9 Billion Bowls by 2050?”,
  25. © These Days Y & R   Step 7. Tag your answer with the ROMI* it’ll realize *ROMI being the return on marketing objectives your individual piece of content is supposed to generate. In this third level of tags – ranging from awareness to advocacy – your specific KPI’s are listed. How will this particular piece of content pull peeps through your funnel? Top-funnel impact? Mid-funnel? Bottom-funnel? Will it increase traffic, sign-ups, qualified leads, … ? #WHY Illustration: a ‘content atom’ from AXA’s leads’ FAQ list: “Will the taxman leave me alone once I’m retired?”, aventure-pension
  26. © These Days Y & R Step 8. Tag your answer with the CTA(s) to be featured underneath   The fourth level of tags will indicate what each piece of content is pointing at / where you want peeps to go next ‘post content consumption’. ‘See more’, ‘subscribe’, ‘discover product abc’, ‘join us at event xyz’: here you tag your ‘content atom’ with the call to action (CTA) inviting content consumer to proceed to their ‘next best action’: the natural next place in your funnel. These tags will a.o. enable an information architecture / a UX that (feels like it) makes perfect sense. #WHERETO
  27. © These Days Y & R   Step 9. Tag your answer with the Moments of Truth indicating #WHEN it’ll be (most) relevant   In tag level number five you indicate the familiar incident, the moment of truth or the ‘life event’ during which your answer will be especially relevant. This will enable you to grab appropriate clusters of content when targeting segments at a specific MOT (while getting rid of old-school campaign thinking in favour of an ‘always on’ ‘content service’…) Illustration: a ‘content atom’ based on Netflix subscribers’ FAQ list: “Will Francis and Claire lose everything?”, netflix_pr_darwin_ui_regular_us_web_442014_7b0b4f0d530e365df57003d58a130df9.jpg
  28. © These Days Y & R Step 10. Tag your answer with the touchpoints / platforms where it will thrive #WHERE      More good news: the relevance of answers to top FAQs will only very rarely be limited to your ‘owned web’. Hence this sixth level of tags listing all the touchpoints where your ‘content atom’ could/should thrive. The interesting thing here is that the keys to a sensible ‘channel mix’ can - largely - be found in the nature of your customers’ questions and the quality of your answers. For some answers (paid) search will obviously be the natural habitat besides your ‘owned web’, while for others (paid) discovery, (paid) social and/or email will be the logical place to be. Tag level #6, in short, will empower integrated media planning and enable content economies of scale (beyond the usual silos). This is where you’ll make content marketing catchphrases such as ‘create once publish many’, ‘maximize return on interview’ e.a. (finally and) actually happen.
  29. © These Days Y & R  Step 11. Tag your answer with the genre/format that’ll make sure it’ll get read/watched #HOW In a seventh level of tags, finally, you indicate the (editorial) genre – opinion, testimonial, expert advice etc. – and/or the content format – video tutorial, infographic, listicle, longread, … – that will improve the likelihood of your content atom to be read and/or watched. This will enable you to, in a holistic way, pick formats taking into account platform requirements, media preferences/behavior, editorial resources (budget) etc.
  30. © These Days Y & R Step 12. Answer FAQs #2, #3 etc & scrum from there  
  31. © These Days Y & R If designers can build UXs from the bottom up, why shouldn’t content strategists be capable to follow suit? #AtomicDesign BTW: an atomic approach might also help to get your content strategy sold. Your consistent answers to customers’ FAQs will certainly prove to remedy the ‘diagram itch’ that gets you stuck in the elevator pitch.  
  32. © These Days Y & R© These Days Y & R  Summary? Break up and FAQ around!  
  33. © These Days Y & R The key to untie the content strategic knot and/or declutter your content strategy is to be found in its most fundamental component: your answers to the top of your (future) customer’s FAQ list. Illustration: a ‘content atom’ from the CMO’s FAQ list: “How To Make The Banner Blind See Again?”, the-battered-banner-ad-3cf781895025#.r3e392fmu
  34. © These Days Y & R An atomic content strategy will answer FAQ #1 first, proceed to answer one question at a time, tag each answer systematically with its why, who, how, when and where(to) … and scrum from there. Illustration: an earned media ‘content atom’ about/ for Tesla/Solar City (…)’s future customers’ FAQ list: “How Will Elon Musk Change The World?”, change-your-life.html
  35. © These Days Y & R Strategically sound soundtrack?; Image: screenshot from:
  36. © These Days Y & R And one more for the road: keep an eye on Quora’s ‘No Answers Yet’ You might just hit a content jackpot;)
  37. © These Days Y & R Still not sure where to start?