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Content with intent: Inform your audience

I have been thinking about content in a more serious way as of late. It’s what drives everything we do in life. Communication in every possible way it occurs is about content. If there was no content, what would we be communicating?

So, content drives everything. Online that is even more evident. It’s relatively easy to figure out just what kind of content is important to individuals or to small groups of people. There still might be a wide range of different content likes and dislikes, but they can be gathered in, quantified, and then addressed according to that need.
The Internet however, forces us to communicate in every way possible. In business, this creates some serious problems. It’s virtually impossible for most businesses to communicate with every type of person in every type of way that is best for that person and for the company also. It’s a lot of work and, more often than not, resource limitations stop folks from being all things to all people.

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What I will be concentrating on over the next few posts has to do with the intent of your content. Even if you can’t put your message in all the formats available (written word, social media outlets, video, podcast, etc.), you can control the intent of your communication. I started thinking about this a while ago at my blog and I want to expand on the idea here.
We need to decide what we are trying to accomplish with content. Once the intent is known, then the message and placement will follow more easily. I have identified six areas to look into to help define the intent of one’s content.

  1. Content to inform
  2. Content to educate
  3. Content to entertain
  4. Content to validate
  5. Content to re-create
  6. Content to populate

Now that I have introduced the concept as a whole, let’s jump right in and look at areas to consider for content that is intended to inform.
First, you have to decide what it is that you want to inform people about. Many times people will have so much to say (I am guilty here as well) that they will cram everything into one newsletter, e-mail update, or blog post, thinking they have accomplished something. That’s not informing someone. That’s annoying them and confusing them.
Now, you can inform people about anything, so for clarity I am going to stick to one area. It’s the idea that companies need to inform their customers and prospects alike of just what is going on within the company. This is a tricky kind of content approach, though, because if it looks like you are just trying to create content for content’s sake by updating on every little activity of your business then you will lose people. Remember, people are smarter than you think and they are in control of their experience with your content, not you. As a result, they can vote “no” on your business with a click if you have overstayed your welcome.
So what are the most important areas to inform your customers about, so that they feel that they are “in the know”?
Product updates – These are common and oftentimes far too technical. Try to make your product updates more conversational and concentrate on the benefit to the customer rather than the wizardry of the technology or process. People want to know “What’s in it for me?” so tell them. If someone wants more details, they’ll ask.
Management changes – Customers hate to be surprised just like the rest of us. If there has been a personnel change at your business that warrants communication with your customers, then do it sooner than later. Some initial pain or discomfort will far outweigh trying to explain why it was kept under wraps.
Community interest – If your company is involved in some kind of a community activity, tell the story without bragging. People like to be associated with people and organizations that pitch in.
Industry recognition – If you have received any industry accolades, tell your customers. It will make them feel good about doing business with you.
Employee highlights – The last thing people want to deal with is a big, faceless organization. When people get attention, your readers take notice. Why? Because they are people too and would love to see the same thing happen at their business.
There are more and I would love to get your comments but for now that’s enough to consider.
So, just how do you do this kind of intentional content creation? Blogs, newsletters, e-mail updates, Web site notifications and more are all viable options. Find a place, though, where this kind of information best fits in the context of what appears with it.
For example, a newsletter that is focused on what the company does in the community is not the place for product updates. Create a place where people will know that they will get this kind of information consistently and they don’t have to hunt it down or weed through other unrelated areas to get to it.
So, keep your customers informed and they will feel like they have a relationship with you and your brand. That relationship is important capital that can be stored up for use in times where it may come in handy ;-).

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