Prepare, Budget, And Get Buy-In
Having an affective content strategy is only great if the right people are behind it and the proper preparation was exercised.
Meghan Casey, the author of the 2017 book, “The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right,” wrote in great depth about how important it is for content strategists to budget, prepare, and get buy-in for project proposals.
To explain each step and their importance, let us look at a hypothetical scenario of someone making a proposal to research ways to improve a news organization’s website while also redesigning the site for optimal performance.
Preparation is key when going to a client with such a proposal. Before even looking at what you want to pitch, you should first take a deep dive into the site and find out what works and what does not work. Then, come up with hypotheses of how the site can be improved. Once the hypotheses are established, Casey said you need to find a way to document and test the hypotheses. This part of the strategy is like the scientific method, where you hypothesize a situation, test it, document results, analyze the results, and see how the hypotheses held up. Depending on the results, you continue to test it repeatedly until you have enough data to be firm in your understanding of the situation.
Once you have the data you need, you can then begin to investigate how you are going to get buy-in from the client. You speak with people inside and find out who the stakeholders are, what the biggest complaints about the site are, what they would like to see improved, and more. All this information helps you to build a case, which you will eventually present to higher-ups in the organization. Speaking with stakeholders is a key, though, because they have the most to gain or lose. If you can come up with a way to put your proposal into risk vs. reward terms and how the organization will get a better return on investment than they have with other expenses, you have a better chance of getting project approval.
One of the major hurdles you may encounter is convincing old school business executives and owners that a content strategy sets them up for success and the earlier they put a strategy in place, the less they will be playing catchup later.
As a content strategist, it is important to budget your time and the time of others. When you propose a job, you should have an idea of how much time you and your team plan to spend working on key deliverables. As you track the time – which not only benefits you with the project but also benefits any future projects you take on because you have data – you may find that you are going over what you proposed because some of the tasks may be more complicated than others. If that is the case, Casey said to have a discussion with the stakeholders and find out if they want to move forward with that task and get billed for the work, or if they want to adjust the project to fit within the budget. Ultimately, it is their money, so being up front and honest and not hitting them with surprises later is crucial.
John Hall wrote an article in 2017 for Forbes Magazine titled, “The Importance of Budgeting for Content Marketing in 2017.” In the article, Hall really spells out the importance of putting a plan in place and the challenges the companies will face later.
“Content Marketing Institute’s latest trends report stated that, on average, 29 percent of brands’ total marketing budget is spent on content marketing alone. Thirty-nine percent of marketers anticipate that budget will increase, while 45 percent say it will stay the same,” Hall said in his article, addressing business owners directly. “These numbers show that your competitors are getting their acts together and making room for content marketing in their budgets while you sit in the corner making budget excuses.”
Hall went on to tell these business owners what they are saying about their business. The main thing he tells them they are admitting to being lazy when they say they do not have the budget. That is the same thing as saying they do not have time, Hall said, and if companies do not have the budget for it now, they will need to spend more money on it later.
The return is too great to cop out, Hall said, and because marketers have difficulty tracking the return of investment from content marketing, they do not understand how great of a ROI they will get.
“Accept it: Content marketing is here,” Hall said. “Embracing it will only amplify your efforts. If you are making excuses or avoiding content marketing altogether, you’re passing on a prime opportunity to take your brand further.”
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Casey, M. (2015). The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right. Westlake Village, California: New Riders.
Hall, J.. (2016) The Importance Of Budgeting For Content Marketing In 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2016/11/06/the-importance-of-budgeting-for-content-marketing-in-2017/?sh=7da038156519