Lessons on content marketing

Yesterday I read an interesting article on Medium about how a change in editorial strategy — from blogging to magazine-style storytelling — has enabled Wellcome Collection to reach and engage more people. The content sits under the heading of ‘Stories‘ on their website.

The piece was written by Jennifer Staves, digital content manager at Wellcome Collection, and I spotted it thanks to a share on Twitter by Tom Scott, head of digital there.

I mainly work with small and medium-sized cultural organisations, but even if organisations don’t have a team, expertise or budget that are comparable to Wellcome Collection, I think there are some key lessons in the article that are universal.

I’ve put together five transferable tips which I share when delivering training on content marketing and that the piece on Wellcome Collection highlights:

1.Treat your online presence as more than a shop window

“Wellcome Collection’s 2017 strategy recognised that our website and social channels — were Wellcome Collection rather than promoted Wellcome Collection.”

Websites and social media channels should reflect your organisation’s purpose and values, and provide a user experience that echoes these. They should be seen as opportunities to connect with and engage audiences, and not just as tools to sell products, visits and events.

So for Wellcome Collection:

“That means the editorial content we produce should deliver a Wellcome Collection experience — one of being challenged to think and feel differently about health by considering its social and cultural contexts.”

2. Understand and cater for your audiences

I always go on about the importance of identifying, understanding and catering for your audiences.

Wellcome Collection’s take on this is providing content in familiar formats with content clearly signposted:

“using a journalistic approach to storytelling, creating high-quality, regular content with all the parts stories have — narrators, protagonists and antagonists, arguments, opinions, climaxes, resolutions — in formats readers know and recognise.

“We’ve chosen six content formats, focusing on the ones that people who love reading are used to reading in newspapers, magazines and online: serials, essays, interviews, photo galleries, book extracts and comics. By using these familiar and well-loved formats, our readers are primed to consume these stories.”

And how have they developed this approach? “We’ve used research with readers to develop, refine and rename the formats so they know what to expect.”

It doesn’t have to be that cumbersome or expensive, but if you don’t know what your audiences and potential audiences want, you need to consult them.

The Stories pages on the Wellcome Collection website are also great at referring readers on to additional articles in a way that is common on Amazon and YouTube but I don’t tend to see on museum websites.

Recommendations at the end of an article about
The sickness in the wellness industry
Prompts to other articles near the bottom of the Stories’ home page

All of this helps website visitors navigate reams of material to find what they’re after or find something that piques their interest quickly (remembering you don’t have long online to engage people before they drift off).

3. Create and publish content regularly

This provides reasons for your audiences to keep coming back, can attract new audiences, improve your search engine optimisation (SEO) and showcase your organisation’s breadth and depth of collections and activities.

Having a schedule (either internally or as a public commitment) forces accountability and will motivate people to produce content. It also means you can plan ahead and be more proactive and strategic in your choices of subject and timings, rather than scrabbling around trying to think of something to write quickly on a Friday afternoon.

As Jennifer says “The time we’ve saved on this we’ve reinvested into ensuring the stories are well-edited and of higher quality. (It’s also less stressful!)”

4. Encourage a range of content contributors

Not only does this mean the responsibility and workload doesn’t rest on one person’s shoulders, but you are also likely to get a greater range of subjects and perspectives.

Wellcome Collection is able to commission articles which they pay for, but encouraging other members of staff or volunteers to write articles and opinion pieces is also a great way to source content.

When I was comms manager at Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART), volunteers researched and wrote articles for the website on aspects of Norwich’s heritage that fell within key topics and which interested them. Aside from the Heritage Open Days pages, these articles were consistently the most popular on the website and drove so much new traffic to the website (from people interested in those topics but who perhaps were not aware of HEART).

If you are sourcing content from different contributors, you might want to draft a basic guide to ensure consistency (for example to include copy length; tone of voice; how to reference; sourcing and labelling images).

5. And don’t forget evaluation

Always monitor and evaluate what you’re doing so you know what’s working well and can hone future plans and activities. The key to this is having clear and ideally SMART objectives so you know what data to collect and can set up a method for doing this efficiently.

For Wellcome Collection this has meant marked increases in the number of readers and how long they stay on the website, which ultimately “means more engagement with Wellcome Collection and more people who can be inspired to journey further into our site that suits what they want to do — whether it’s to research a topic more deeply, plan a visit or read another story.”

All of these points can be achieved with the investment of some thinking, planning and time – it’s not dependent on reams of budget – and it will pay dividends.

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