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To Create More Effective Content, Look Up, Outward, And Sideways
Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

Before you can create content that is effective – i.e., that achieves its goals – it’s critically important to look up, outward, and sideways. Here is some background on the principles in this article:

What is content, and what is content strategy?

What is effective content?

Look up

How does your program align with the organization’s strategies? How will you be able to map the program’s performance to a specific strategic goal? 

While organizations’ strategic goals are sometimes lofty and aspirational, it’s key to tie a program to its larger goals. Knowing why the organization has the program is a critical step for setting clear, measurable metrics for the program.

Sample questions to ask:

  • Why is the organization choosing to start (or continue) this program?
  • What was the process for deciding to have the program, and how often are those decisions revisited?
  • What does success look like for this program?

Gather and write down this information.

Look outward

What audience is this program intended for? What audience challenges is the program solving? How can you let the audience know that the program is designed to help them?

Knowing the organization’s “why” is only half of the effectiveness equation. The other half is what the audience wants, and how the program will help them solve a challenge they face. This thinking is often implicitly behind having the program, but organizations often forget to articulate the audience need.

There are many ways to uncover audience needs and challenges: audience personas, surveys, and even documentation from the program proposal to the organization.

Gather and write down this information.

Look sideways

Who else inside your organization is creating programs that address the same or related audience challenges?

This could be

  • other content on the same topic from publications, help desk, or other information resources advocacy efforts intended to address the challenge at a legislative or regulatory level
  • courses, webinars, or conference sessions designed to address an aspect of the challenge
  • resources sold by the organization
  • internal-facing content intended to help staff people support the audience

Gather and write down this information.

Finally, look down

NOW you have the critical context to start creating effective content.

  • Why is the organization investing in this program? Content needs to support those goals
  • Who is the program for, and what need or challenge is it addressing?
  • What else is the organization creating on this topic or to address this challenge or need?

How to use the information you’ve gathered

  1. Be sure to use the audience’s language in the headline and any calls to action in the content
  2. Start the content by explicitly address your audience’s challenges
  3. If the related content covers the same points, link to the other content rather than rewriting those points
  4. Make sure that when your content is published, it cross-links to the other content
  5. Close the content with the background details: information about the history of the program or why the organization has it.

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