These days, the importance of content to brand marketing is unequivocal. The question is no longer, “Should I create content to reach my customers and generate sales?” but “How do I approach content creation to best meet my business objectives?” One of the answers to that question is: quality over quantity. Churning out stacks and stacks of content is just a drain on resources unless it was strategically conceptualized and developed to both reflect who and what your brand is and does and what your audience cares about, values, or needs.
What Makes Content Good?
Good content simultaneously supports the claims made in your brand positioning statement and provides value to your target consumers in that it inspires, informs, or helps solve a problem relevant to their lives. In theory, content that does both will generate affinity for your business among the consumers you most want to reach. The challenge is identifying topics that fit both criteria.
Identifying Your Shared Interests
To determine the content marketing topics most worthy of your finite marketing resources, we recommend obsession mapping—an exercise introduced to us by the team at Quartz.
Obsession mapping is a means of identifying overlap between the things your business cares about and wants to say and the things your ideal consumers care about, find value in, and want to know. The overlap between those lists are your mutual “obsessions,” which should serve as the foundation of your content marketing strategy.
Our Content Obsessions
At Block Club, we don’t just preach obsession mapping for better content marketing, we also practice it. Back when we were developing a content marketing strategy, we conducted a teamwide obsession mapping session, where we considered our own interests and the interests of our target audience. What emerged was a series of obsessions that we’ve used to guide our content strategy since:
- Branding—Anything and everything related to brand strategy and identity, including design and copy, portfolio and hierarchy, and branded experiences.
- Design—The aesthetics and functionality of the objects and systems that constitute our world.
- Language and storytelling—Word choice and how to identify and tell powerful stories that inspire, motivate, compel, and incite.
- Generating business and entrepreneurship—Best practices and strategies for running a successful company.
- Buffalo—The people, stories, forces, and phenomena that shape the community we call home.
- Discovering our world—The new-to-us things, places, art, media, people, and ideas that change the way we think.
- Leadership—Tips, measures, and actionable advice for self-improvement in a professional capacity.
As a team, we met quarterly to generate specific topic ideas around each of the above obsessions. The ideas from those sessions informed our editorial calendar. Because we were confident that our obsessions are on brand and relevant to our target audience, we could be reasonably sure that the production of that content would be time well spent.
Conducting Your Own Obsession Mapping Exercise
If you want to conduct an obsession mapping session within your organization, the process is simple.
- Gather your team in one place.
- Divide into small groups and give each group a sheet of paper. Label one side brand and one side audience. (If your team is very small, work as individuals through step four.)
- Using the brand side of your paper, spend 15 to 30 minutes brainstorming the things your business finds interesting and wants to talk/write that also support its positioning. Record everything you think of. Get as granular with your ideas as you’d like. You can glean a lot from the details.
- Turn your paper to the side labeled audience. Spend another 15 to 30 minutes brainstorming the topics, things, and ideas your target audience cares about and finds useful or interesting. If you have qualitative or quantitative data on your audience, that’s ideal. Use it to inform your brainstorm. If you don’t have data, recall what you know anecdotally about your audience. It may be helpful to think about their challenges, pain points, and goals. Record everything you think of. Be as detailed with your ideas as you can. Nothing is too specific.
- At the end of both brainstorming sessions, reconvene to discuss your ideas as a large group. Plot all ideas on a whiteboard and begin to draw connections between the two lists. This step in the exercise requires some analytical thinking and creativity. Some of the connections might not be obvious. In other cases, it’s a good idea to make inferences that let you arrive at obsessions with interesting angles that otherwise wouldn’t reveal themselves in the data if you read it too literally.
Assuming your business is even somewhat in touch with your target audience, clear commonalities should reveal themselves between your lists. Those commonalities are the obsessions that should undergird your soon to be new-and-improved content strategy.