Video Content Strategy: The Ultimate Guide
What is a Content Strategy?
Content strategy is one of those terms that have become increasingly popular in business conversations. Everyone talks about it, everyone needs one, every agency is pitching one. It sounds so sensible and so straightforward, yet many of us will struggle to pin down exactly what it is or how to create one.
Well, like many things, it can be most easily understood by looking at its opposite. How does a website, a brand, or a business look that doesn’t have one.
In one word: messy. Without a video content strategy your company’s messages to your customers, across all channels, will appear disjointed, incoherent, or even chaotic.
Who uses a content marketing strategy?
Now for most self-respecting brands and businesses, this is not the case, so most have already been inadvertently creating and utilising content strategies, or at least components of it.
That’s good news, and also makes the whole topic much more accessible. You likely already have some brand guidelines or principles for tone & voice or corporate identity guidelines or market and audience research data. All these form part of a well thought out content strategy.
A good content strategy just orchestrates these, and a few other elements, very well. Large companies of course have their dedicated content strategy teams (for instance at Google), but for most businesses, content strategy is something that members of the marketing or communications team will be responsible for.
Why do you need a content strategy?
At this point you might be wondering why we, as a video production agency, care so much about content strategy. And it’s true, originally content strategy was concerned mostly with the words, and possibly, images that make up websites.
However, the world has moved on and today the vast majority of Internet traffic is video content, typically consumed on the go on a mobile phone, about 80%. So, video is a hugely important building block of any content strategy these days.
We often have clients come to us with an idea or a brief for a specific video. Before we get to work we typically ask them how this particular video fits into their wider content strategy. Knowing this makes it much easier for us to truly create an exceptional video that performs per the clients’ wishes.
Many clients have indeed fully formed content strategies, but we also find that many businesses we work with may have components of a content strategy, but not the full strategy worked out.
This is where this post comes in. By no means the final word on all things content strategy, but hopefully a few helpful pointers to creating or extending your content marketing strategy – with a particular view to the role of video content.
Definition of a content strategy
There are many versions, but this one is the official US Government Content Strategy definition:
“Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content. Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website.”
Why do you need a video content strategy?
As we said above, you likely already have some building blocks of a video marketing strategy in place, even if they are note explicitly labeled as such. Many of our clients also have a pretty detailed understanding of the video content strategy for their brand or business, but they’ve never written it down or made it explicit.
Do not worry for many, in particular smaller businesses, this can be just fine. It’s also entirely normal if you are just starting out or experimenting with video content.
We’ve created many outstanding films with clients that didn’t have a content strategy. A full-fledged video content strategy really only becomes essential when you are thinking about multiple videos, multiple channels (e.g. mobile, web, app, etc.), or the interplay between your written editorial content, imagery, and video.
Of course, these days, this is increasingly true for many businesses. This is also where a common pitfall lies: you start out with one or two videos, they perform really well, so you continue with additional content, but you never take the time to formalise the original briefings and learnings into a video content strategy. This can very quickly lead to the perception of outdated or disjointed video content reaching your audience.
In short, don’t be held up when you are setting out by writing a video content strategy covering all channels and eventualities, but do begin building one from components as you learn and are producing more content.
How to create a Content Marketing Strategy?
As we’ve said, don’t think of this like a hundred page document that you need upfront, but it’s helpful to have the structure and required components in mind, so that you can build this out over time. Or, you can also start assembling what you may have already into a coherent video content strategy.
- Define your your goals (and metrics)It sounds simple, but it happens again and again that content is produced without a clear and shared perspective on what the desired outcome is. The same is true for metrics: number of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ or watch-time is seen as a success, but no baseline or comparable has been established, so it’s hard to know whether the numbers we are seeing are in fact good or not. Even if these metrics are above average, we still don’t know whether a watched or liked video is in fact achieving for the brand or business what we hoped.Creating a crisp and agreed description of a goal for a single video or multiple pieces of content across multiple channels is not an easy task. In fact it can be so daunting that it’s often bypassed. From our experience it will often be an iterative process. It’s important to start with a rough goal statement and a rough idea for metrics, but to then come back and to refine, as you go through steps 2 + 3 below.
- Understand your audience most of our clients already have a strong understanding of their audience. This can come from experience in the field, from having directly spoken to and observed audience members, or from large scale market research.Importantly, ‘know your audience’ means not only knowing their attitudes, preferences, and behaviours, but also – more subtly – what makes them tick.What excites them? What turns them off?These aspects are really important input for your voice & tone guide. The difference between a winning and middling video often lies in hitting the right tonality.Related, it also pays to know what cultural references your audience has, as these are the materials you can work with in creating your video. Will the knowing reference create a smile or go unnoticed?Here it’s really important to include qualitative research (or some social media sleuthing). Quant research will give a big picture, and is particularly helpful giving you the outlines, but in order to get closer to the creative brief you’ll also need a deeper, qualitative understanding. Many creatives find it helpful to amalgamate these quant and qual perspectives in a ‘persona’. That is simply a real-life description of one or multiple ‘typical’ audience member(s). Often these personas have names, faces, hobbies, etc. – they simply make planning for them easier.It’s important though to always remember that these personas are simply possible instantiations that help kick off the creative process rather than prescriptive accurate representations of your audience. There is no single ‘typical’ or ‘average’ person.
- Understand your sweet spot (the creative brief)Audience research and persona creation are only one part of the coin. You also need to have a clear perspective on your message – and in particular how your message will stand out. In other words, what is your ‘sweet spot’.What is it that your brand or your business can communicate that’s perceived as true and relevant by your audience? In effect you need to find the overlap between your content or business objectives and your audience’s interests.There is no straightforward recipe for how to achieve this. It’s a truly creative process and you will likely go through a number of iterations with your creative brief.Some of our clients already do audience tests at this stage of a project – to see which of multiple possible messages resonates best with their audience. Again, if you work in a larger organisation, some of the work may already have been done for you in the form of brand, communications, or corporate identity guidelines.You can then build on these and incorporate them into your creative brief and – more broadly – in your video content strategy.
- Define your content channels and lifecycleThis is truly what sets apart a video content strategy from a one-off project brief. Steps 1-3 above are important for any video production, but in this section we are zooming out a few levels.
- First we are not only looking at the creation and launch of a video, but at its life beyond the launch. How long will it be relevant and up-to-date: When will it need to be replaced or updated? What will take its place?Next, we are also looking at its interplay with other content your brand or organization is directing at your audience: What is the optimal timing for this video? How do you ensure it’s not drowned by other content you are putting out? What about the broader ecosystem: will your audience be busy with other news, competitor communications, national events, etc.? Beyond time and lifecycle, the next dimension of video content marketing strategy is that of channels and modalities.Looking at the goals you’ve defined in Section 1 above and at the messaging in Section 3, what is the most effective channel for these? Is it mobile video? Is it desktop video?
Also, how can other content help amplify the impact of your video? You’ll likely need captions and intro paragraphs for your video, you may also need stills, which in turn also require captions.
What are the elements of a content strategy?
Entire books have been written on how to structure and format a good video marketing strategy, so we are keeping things sweet and simple here (but if you want to read more, have a look at these handy overviews: Google, Facebook, Percolate)
- Clear description of business & content goals and metrics (the SMART framework comes in handy)
- Audience research (quant & qual) and possibly personas
- Creative brief (possibly including brand, voice & tone, corporate identity guidelines)
- Content lifecycle (launch calendar, refresh cycles and operations)
- Multi-channel guidelines (words, images to go with your video content)
- Feedback channels for your audience (so that you can keep refining your content)
Common pitfalls and additional resources
There are a few common pitfalls when it comes to video content strategy. It’s easy to sidestep them if you are aware of them, so here’s a brief handy overview
- Trying to define everything upfront. This will slow you down unnecessarily. It’s better to draft a few elements of a content strategy and then to revisit and build on it over time
- Never writing down anything. This is of course the opposite mistake. And it’s an easy one to commit, in particular when you start out small. It’s best to document (in light-weight form) what you’ve learned from each video project. This way you are building the key blocks of your video content strategy without it ever being a huge lift.
- Becoming too focused on the persona. People can fall in love with the personas they create to capture their audience attributes. That’s not a bad thing, but it can hinder creativity if a particular persona manifestation is taken as the absolute single truth
- Not considering the content lifecycle. Every piece of content has a use-by date by which it will have to be taken down, replaced, or updated. Without a plan for how to periodically review and update content, you’ll unintentionally be projecting an unprofessional image – even if the content was stellar when it was first produced.
Content strategy has been around for a while, but with more and more content being produced over more and more channels it’s become more important and ubiquitous.
With video now being one of the most important and fastest growing types of content on the internet, the interplay between video production and content strategy has become particularly important.
We advise our clients to think of their videos not just of individual productions, but as part of a growing content strategy. While the term sounds a bit abstract, it’s not a secret sauce.
Most companies have the key components already in place, and the most important thing is not to be daunted by it, but to start building towards it via small steps.
Contact us and we’ll be happy to talk video content strategy, whether it’s your first video production or whether you are looking for a complete refresh of your video content across all your channels.