There is nothing that challenges marketers and marketing organizations more than finding new topics that can form the basis for the development of new content. I recently addressed this challenge in a presentation to law school recruiting professionals at the 2016 Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) Annual Meeting and Education Conference held at the Disney World Resort.
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While the location and venue provided a wonderful atmosphere for learning and sharing, there was absolutely nothing “Mickey Mouse” about the agendas of the law schools attending the conference. Law schools across the country, including the highest ranked schools, are seeing applicant volumes decline and actual enrollment decline. With a constant media backdrop of rising student debt stories and reports of mergers and downsizing in many large law firms, the story being received is that potential law students might want to consider another career.
To combat this market dynamic, the LSAC and law schools are looking to promote a different story that engages prospective students and paints a more complete picture of a career in law. My goal was to share my experience in meeting the challenge of content creation and show them how they can easily ramp up their content machine to educate and attract more students.
One of the ideas that has consumed me over the past several years as I considered what a post-digital marketing model might look like, was how the structure of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs lends itself to a “digital marketing hierarchy of needs”.
This new pyramid places Social Media at the top where Maslow has Self- Actualization, followed by Paid Media, Email and Web/Blog. At the bottom of the pyramid, where Maslow places the most fundamental of human needs, I placed Content as the most fundamental of marketing needs.
Content, in one form or another, has always been the lingua franca of successful marketing but as the volume and variety of viable communication channels has exploded with the advent of digital, social and mobile media, quality content has become crucial to keeping the organization’s story top-of-mind among its constituencies.
In my presentation to the law school admissions professionals, I shared a high-level approach to content creation that outlined the who, what, where, when and how of a process that can deliver a continually increasing library of relevant content and a channel strategy that delivers the right content to the right audience at the right time.
In an abridged form, my suggested process looked like this:
Before you can begin to create great content, you have to know your audience – who are your buyers. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. To create them, you consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. But, really effective buyer personas go beyond demographic information and document things like interests, fears, hopes and dreams – helping you truly understand what makes readers tick.
Since most organizations have multiple audiences for their product/service, it is important to create a persona for every target that might have some influence on the decision, in this case deciding which law school to attend or even whether to go to law school at all.
Launching the content creation process without knowing what content the organization already owns can be a serious waste of effort. Taking inventory of all existing content – Web pages/FAQs/Blog articles/ Presentations/Brochures/Flyers/Posters – supports a focus on creating important new content first while also identifying existing content that can be repurposed and/or redistributed to an audience that has not been previously exposed to it.
I also shared the “Write once, use many” philosophy where quality content is precious, possesses a long shelf life and should be used in various formats/content types to be spread across every distribution channel and to multiple audiences.
I concluded my presentation by discussing where to distribute this great new content (where each target audience is reading), the value of “gating” vs. “not gating” content (balancing asking for personal information against driving potential readers away) and the value using a formal content creation plan.
My final point looked at how to measure success. Digital marketing has delivered upon us many new platforms and tools to measure the impact of our marketing strategies, programs, and tactics and I shared several of the most common analytics and how to use them to re-calibrate their content marketing initiatives.
As an aside, I had the greatest time at the conference, had a terrific audience (the most attended session!) for my presentation and was incredibly surprised and overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of questions.