Creating content that audiences can consume online is now part and parcel of the way organisations operate. There are plenty of different content types that organisations can embrace, including articles, podcasts, videos, and much more.
The heritage sector is no stranger to content – content is all about storytelling and heritage organisations have a lot of stories on hand, whether it’s about rebuilding a wildlife habitat or the history of the local community. Either way, online content is the quickest way to reach new people and keep them informed about what you’re doing.
You don’t have to be a big organisation to produce lots of good, informative content. The Bourne Conservation Group, based in Surrey, regularly posts articles and news updates to its website, while the Framework Knitters Museum in Nottingham produced an interactive ‘Luddite drama’ on its YouTube account as well as posting regular video content on its Instagram.
But for organisations to make the most out of their content, they must employ an effective digital content strategy. In this article, we show you how.
At its most simple, digital content is defined as information provided to an audience via a website or other electronic medium or platform. Content creators can range from anyone who writes a blog post to anyone who posts a video on TikTok. Anything that informs your online audience about what you do, from tweets to newsletters, constitutes digital content.
A digital content strategy is all about making your content more efficient, ensuring that each piece is aligned with your organisation’s overarching goals, whether that’s reaching new audiences or attracting volunteers. Content with a purpose is far more useful to an organisation than content for its own sake.
The first step in developing your digital content strategy is thinking about the resources you currently have.
What content are you already covering? Which content is performing well? You can measure this in whichever way works best for you, but you might want to look at engagements on social media if you post content there, or reads, if you’re able to track those. Most content management systems will allow you to track reads, too.
Whichever metrics you choose to use, make sure you monitor them when you post your existing content so you can identify which pieces are working for you and which topics. Knowing what works now will help you choose the content that will best work towards your goals in the future.
Think, too, about the subjects your volunteers and staff are able to cover. Perhaps you have tour guides who can give histories of objects or areas in your museum. Or perhaps there’s someone who can identify different animal tracks or calls of birds. Note these areas of expertise down for later. You can use it for inspiration when thinking about what content to create.
The next step is thinking about what your audience wants to hear from you. Thinking about who your content is for will help you understand what to include in it next.
Take note of the different types of audiences who come to you for information – visitors, donors, volunteers, and journalists, for example. Write each audience type down, adding what you think they want to know and what they are interested in.
You might also want to ask your audiences directly what they think about your content and what they want from it in the future. Don’t underestimate the appetite that people have for helping you out – you need only ask and there’s nothing like a good survey to show you how your audience is really feeling.
You could use a Google Form (free and easy to set up with a Google account) or a platform like SurveyMonkey, which has free and paid options. The free version limits you to ten questions and only 100 respondents, but this may be enough for some organisations, depending on how deeply they want to look into their content.
After the first two steps, you should now know what sort of content you want to produce. Step three is about generating ideas.
Look at other organisations in the sector to see what sort of content they are producing. Don’t copy them but try to get a feel for what is possible, and look especially at how they present and promote it. Looking at lots of Instagram captions, for example, can show you the trendy ways to post your own content there.
Look outside the sector for general digital trends you can follow. Videos might be more in fashion than articles, for instance, or you might spot an emerging platform whose audience aligns with yours. Check digital trends regularly to identify opportunities for your content that you can add to your strategy.
Finally, take note of these opportunities and think about where your voice is relevant. Ask yourself if you have anything valuable to say on a certain topic or whether the audience you want to reach is on a certain platform? A good content strategy focuses on specific areas and doing them well, rather than trying to do it all and hoping something sticks.
Getting the most out of your content means making it with a purpose in mind. When writing your content strategy, you should think directly about what you want to achieve with it.
For example, perhaps you want to reach younger people with your content, encouraging them to visit your heritage site. Creating video content on mobile-first platforms like Instagram and TikTok, therefore, would be a great way to reach them; research suggests 99% of those aged 16 to 34 own a smartphone in the UK.
Ultimately, your goals for your content should reflect those of your organisation. Make sure you make them quantifiable so you can measure progress and motivate your team towards a well-defined goal. If your aim is increasing your Twitter follower count, for example, set a goal of how many.
Add time frames to all your goals. A time frame allows you to monitor progress and also helps with prioritising next steps.
Split your goals into short-term and long-term. A short-term goal could be simply creating a bank of informative videos. A long-term goal could be doubling your YouTube subscribers over the next 12 months. They should work together but by splitting them up, you set out clearer expectations of what can be achieved and when.
Now it is time to take everything you’ve learned above and boil it down to one comprehensive digital content strategy.
It’s not final
The most important thing to remember about your digital content strategy is that it is not set in stone. The topics and content types that perform well for you now may not be the same in the future.
It is important to be flexible and continually assess whether your content is working towards your goals. Don’t panic if something you try doesn’t work – chalk it up to learning and try something else. Simply keep your core goals in mind at all times and don’t lose sight of what you want to achieve.
You don’t have to do it all
Similarly, remember that you don’t have to do everything in the world of content for it to be effective. Having lots of different types of content can help you reach more people but only if it’s interesting and informative still. Start small by focusing on one type of content and doing that well before adding another, especially if your resources are limited.
It’s all about you
Finally, think about what you can do, rather than worrying about what you can’t. You might not be able to shoot Oscar-worthy videos, for example, but a lot can be achieved with a smartphone camera and an engaging story to tell.
Authenticity should always be at the heart of your digital content strategy. It is about what content works for you and what works for your audience (usually the two are very much aligned), and once you have that information, the next step is creating it.
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Please attribute as: "How do I write, implement, and monitor a digital content strategy? (2022) by Laura Stanley, Charity Digital supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0