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Waggener Edstrom Explains Its New Content 2.0 Strategy

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We believe that content is our future; it’s already leading the way.

A major firm launching its own related studio/operation isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news at this point, especially since the big names have reached a sort of consensus regarding the value of original content creation in differentiating one’s services.

Yet the trend continues to evolve. Waggener Edstrom is the latest firm to announce the roll-out of its own full-service offering under the Content360 heading.

We recently spoke to WE advisor/project manager Hava Jeroslow to get some perspective on what makes Content360 different.

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How does Content360 differ from standard content service offerings? 

First, Content360 is not just about creating content. It’s a system for making sure content creation efforts are effective, consistent, relevant to specific audiences, measured and — therefore — the best use of your time and budget. Second, Content360 offerings are flexible. There are pre-set package options to choose from, or we can customize services based on need, level of “content maturity” and budget.

Ultimately, Content360 helps ensure storytelling activities are part of a strategic framework and connected to business priorities so you can demonstrate their core business value — something that has traditionally been a struggle for communicators.

Does every business stand to gain from a coherent content strategy?

Yes, every business needs a content strategy. There is an ever-increasing glut of content competing for our attention (I’ve heard it recently called “infobesity”). Businesses whose content will stand out are strategic about what they produce and when and where that material is presented. They are the ones who deeply understand (and regularly reconfirm) their potential customers’ challenges, needs and preferences.

These days content must…fuel customer loyalty, positive word of mouth and, ultimately, sales.

(Ed note: here, for example, is content created for the very sort of business you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the term–a “therapeutic riding center.”)

What’s the most common shortcoming among existing content projects?

The biggest challenge we see is that businesses don’t know the true impact of their content; many companies are scrambling to create more and more without pausing to understand what would make their efforts more rewarding. (After all, the answer may be less content done better.) This is why we start with an overarching assessment of content activites.

(Ed. note: here’s a page from Content360′s survey, designed to help clients solve the very problems Jeroslow mentioned above. As content creators ourselves, we found it helpful.)

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How specific do clients tend to be with their strategies?

The best-engineered structures derive strength through flexibility, and a solid content strategy is no different. It may need to provide storytelling guidance for content and creative efforts across an entire team, division or organization. Or you may need it to focus on a specific project or storytelling channel – such as a website redesign or blog program development.

Regardless, a successful content strategy encapsulates important considerations about business priorities, messaging objectives, audience needs and desired outcomes, recommended content type and mix, voice and tone, creation and governance processes, as well as measurement and editorial approaches — scaled appropriately to meet specific needs.

What does the word “engagement” mean to you? (This may seem obvious, but we recently posted on a study revealing that many marketers don’t have a clear definition.)

Quite simply, it’s when someone is participating – taking part in a conversation, involved in a community, connecting with someone else. It suggests a relationship over time, based on trust and meaningful connection. We define content marketing as “a customer who creates a customer” because it describes the ideal scenario.

What did you take to be the most interesting finding from the related white paper?

We penned the white paper to provide a digest of simple tips. The first tip, about audience awareness, touches on a content marketing tactic we find to be consistently enlightening for clients.

Most companies think they deeply understand their audiences’ needs, preferences and interests, but there are always new and updated discoveries that can be made. Audience profile exercises are a reliable way to uncover ah-ha moments that clarify new and sometimes unexpected opportunities for companies to ensure their content spurs ongoing audience engagement.

Beyond basic writing/content creation skills, what’s the most important requirement for a related plan?

Hands down: that it’s regenerative. It needs to be a living system based on vetted insights about audience and business needs, be expertly executed, and encompass a plan for measuring and improving impact. It’s all about listening, learning and honing over time. This is how you achieve true engagement.

What does a firm have to do to make its own content services stand out?

Content creation is only a piece of the puzzle. For content to connect – to spur loyalty, sharing, participation and ultimately sales – it has to break through the noise. It must be deliberately planned, developed and managed. And it must accrue to a larger purpose, a purpose based on audience needs and a company’s unique brand story. This may sound easy, but it’s hard to do.

Who on your team specializes in content? Do they have journalistic backgrounds?

Our content team has a diverse make-up. It comprises former journalists, broadcast journalists and investigative reporters who are experts at short- and long-form textual as well as visual and multimedia storytelling. We also have experts in the management side of content strategy, guiding editorial direction, concepting, planning and project management. And we have experts in the technical aspects of content such as web publishing, channel and community management and promotion, and web development skills.

Communications firms have long hired journalists, but now we’re seeing more and more non-communications companies hire journalists. This demonstrates the ever-growing acknowledgment of the value of content strategy and marketing in the business community.

How has the blurring of the content lines affected media relations strategies?

At Waggener Edstrom, we look at communications strategy not in pieces, but as a whole. There are moments along that journey where owned content is valuable, moments where earned content is valuable, and other times where paid content makes sense. The trick is connecting all these approaches into one truly powerful communications strategy.

Interestingly, the blurring of these lines has made us even better at helping members of the press get the information and access they need to tell stories that inspire and inform their audiences.

What’s the key to determining ROI on a content project? How is the Waggener approach unique in that respect?

Measuring impact — based on metrics clearly identified at project conception — is foundational to content success. Rigorous and continual success measurement is the lynch pin of a truly regenerative content strategy.

Waggener Edstrom is unique in that we have a whip-smart in-house Insight & Analytics team that works side-by-side with our communications practitioners. In this way we can not just track a wide range of data that reveals the impact of a campaign or effort, but also suss out from that intelligence measured insights about how to shift or enhance future efforts to continually take our clients’ content efforts to the next level of success.

What do we think? What stands out about Content360?

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