From Content Only to Branded Content

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The Evolution of Creating Value in Content Development

Early on in my career, I discovered I loved content. Creating it, editing it, reading it. Finding the perfect sized font for a header or listening as I spoke a sentence that beautifully came together (yes – even in an oil and gas annual review) could bring me joy for hours. I would put all other work aside when someone mentioned “content” and “Lindsay, could you…” in the same sentence. Volunteering became about developing weekly highlights for a local non-profit and supporting another with updating their website content. This was how I spent my free time and my work time. Nothing would make me feel as though I was truly contributing to a team as when I supported them with their content.

And this is why The Write Harle (‘TWH’) started – to support companies with their content and contribute to their marketing goals.

Yet, something transitioned over the years. This is in understanding the real contribution that was being provided both as employee/volunteer supporting a team and when TWH originally started, providing, what I thought, was merely text.

The Real Value of Branded Content

I noticed the transition begin in year three when I asked several clients what value the content development brought them. To my honest amazement, the content was a really nice “extra.” It was the contribution to enhancing and understanding their brand that was the real value behind the content development and editing TWH was doing.

This became the moment of transition, not change, but transition for growth as TWH moved from developing content to developing/enhancing brand through content. Processes changed, target audiences changed, and, even our branding changed as a result. After all, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. When told what they say, you have two choices: nurture it OR change it. At TWH, we nurtured it.

How is This Content Process Different?

Reading this, you could be thinking, “sounds like marketing fluff to me.” And yeah, I can see that. But it’s really taking content one step further, so that it works to help move your company forward. Let’s break it down a wee bit:

  • Brand guides content; content should not guide your brand.

When we focus on brand, we’re able to ask “how” not “what” questions.

For instance, “how does this content further develop your brand?” and “does this content tie to your overall goals? If so, how?” look beyond what the topic is about and builds more purpose into the content. If content doesn’t further your brand and goals, then assess why you’re developing content in the first place. If you’re developing content that doesn’t further your brand voice, then you’re more likely to develop content that doesn’t have a clear message, rendering the content useless.

  • Brand builds connection with your people.

People don’t work with companies because they have well written blogs and websites. They work with companies because they CONNECT with who the company is. Brand helps you to first connect with your audience, and then build relevant content for them. Questions for content development become focused on “who are we connecting with and why is this topic/page/brochure/ad important to them” over “what content are we writing on today?”

By looking to connect rather than put out content, you’re able to focus on what content will be relevant to your audience because their questions, concerns, and pains are now being directly answered in your content. You’ve now connected your brand to your audience on a deeper level.

  • Brand gives a firm starting point for content to build on.

Oh yes indeed this is different than guiding content. While brand helps bring clarity to guiding the type of content to develop, your brand will give you a firm place to start your content. For example, as part of your brand, you will have guiding key messages. These are the individual messages that help guide individual content focus.

One of TWH’s key messages is collaboration, as we believe that to develop branded content for clients, all parties must be willing to collaborate and have open discussion about content purpose and development. When we develop a blog that focuses on content process, the blog doesn’t begin with an opening sentence. It starts with the key message at the top of the page, beside the topic to give us a focal point for content. Here, it becomes about building on a key message of TWH’s brand as it relates to a certain topic and audience rather than creating a topic and hoping it relates.

We’re not starting with the perfect sentence, we’re starting with the idea to build up and out. This is how your brand provides a solid foundation for all content to be developed.

While I personally still love content and creating a beautifully worded sentence or enticing header, it’s starting with brand first that best supports client content development. Not only that, but (while I’m not making any promised), by starting with your brand, you’re creating more connection not just with your business, but with your audience. Look at your content as an opportunity to connect your brand to your audience and suddenly your content becomes about building connection, not typing words.

How has brand development influenced your content over the years? Share your ah-has and learnings below or contact The Write Harle for a branded content chat!

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