What does your content say about you?

What does your content say about you?

Nichola Stott of theMediaFlow navigates you through the process of crafting content that resonates, rather than clashes, with the personality and values of your brand.

Published 1st May 2017

In a fun competitive space like online gaming, we’ve got to get crazy smart and creative to get the best links.

However if you’re pitching high quality media outlets to take your story, your content message has to adhere to similar standards as your advertising campaigns.

The message you put out as a brand speaks volumes about your organisation to your potential customers. It has to resonate with the same personality and values you are looking to project via the brand.

So how do we balance creativity whilst maintaining brand-fit?

Know thyself!

Your audience should be positioned front and centre, and knowing who they are and how they should be spoken to will dictate the tone of your content and identity.

You may already have highly insightful customer persona data to hand, which can be used for setting that tone of voice.

Try to fix an ideal customer in mind and work through some exercises with your colleagues to set some of the real tone of voice fundamentals; such as:

  • Are we formal or informal?
  • Is our language technical or plain English?
  • Are we colloquial or diverse?
  • Do we ever do little swears!?

Perhaps try using polarising viewpoints to begin with when setting some of your tone of voice fundamentals. Another tactic to try is to take a well-known piece of writing or handful of song lyrics and rephrase a few lines into varying degrees of formality, neutrality and informality. Pass them around and try to get a consensus as to which your organisation would say if it was a living entity.

So, work out if would be…

  • Morning has broken (formal)
  • It’s morning (neutral)
  • Yo! Sun’s up (informal/slang)

Cringe

Nothing is more grating than a brand trying to project an identity it doesn’t possess and to connect with an audience in a way that it shouldn’t. For some brands in other sectors, failing to nail your tone of voice is a gamble that may or may not backfire and can be recoverable, but we’d suggest that in
online gaming this isn’t a chance we should take due to the requirements of credibility and responsibility.

I’m reminded of McDonalds’ attempt to get down with the kids in its campaign from a couple of years ago (see below).

fig1-mcdonalds.PNG
Figure 1: Example of brand adopting discordant tone of voice and personality

Not really what “the kids” mean when they say “I’d hit it”, and definitely not something to openly confess to doing with a cheeseburger! In all seriousness though, this is an attempt by a global fast food chain to adopt a brand tone of voice and personality that it absolutely doesn’t have. Whilst the consequences here are laughable examples for marketing types like me, I think the consequences could be far more damaging from a brand perception perspective if done in online gaming.

Brief on brand

Whether your content is being produced in-house or by an external agency, a good project brief is essential for hitting the right note. Understand your core motives and make sure everyone involved in the project is on the same page. Communicate openly and honestly, and be prepared for the likelihood that you project will change and evolve during the process.

As well as what you want to achieve, to stay on brand your briefing process must also facilitate an identity component. Try to be quantitative as well as qualitative; otherwise, too many intangibles may leave things too open to interpretation. A brief such as “we want to be provocative and edgy” works for a brand like Cards Against Humanity, but would we trust a high street bank with content that could be described like that?

To help with this, we as an agency stick to a consistent briefing form with our clients. This includes some static checkbox items around values and feelings, as well as more open-ended interview-style questions.

Tip: Limit the number of choices you offer or need to select to define a brief, otherwise there can be too much overlap.

Whilst it is possible to be fun and creative as well as serious and earnest; stick to primary values and feelings – up to three at a time.

Getting it right

So what does your content say about you?

Good quality content that resonates with your customers lets them know that you understand them, recognise their needs and care about their interests. If your content is consistent in tone and overall message, it will signal trust, reliability and credibility.

Content that is thoughtful, well-written and free from spelling and grammatical errors will give users faith in you and your business. Brand identity matters, and your content marketing has the power to develop it, or to damage it.

That’s all well and good, but as creators it can be difficult at times to step away from our output and objectively assess if we’ve nailed the brief. So here’s a great way to test if your content is on brand…

Focus

At the start of a campaign, we strongly recommend setting up a focus group with around 20 to 50 individuals and road-testing around three content sample pieces for tone of voice. Select participants that are not already customers or identify as very familiar with your brand but still fit broadly into your demographic. Allow them to read and process hard copy versions of content concepts and complete an evaluation form that shares some common fields to your briefing form. You should keep the following questions front of mind during this process:

  • Are you getting strong overlap in brief input and evaluation choices?
  • Is there a huge disconnect with your perceived tone of voice and your ideal demographic?

Depending on the size and scale of your content plan, you might also want to consider a ‘control’ focus group of people that are outside of your target demographic, as what may be a perfectly resonant message with your target audience could be completely discordant, even offensive, to another.

Freedom in a framework

If you follow the advice and process ideas we’ve provided here you can push the boundaries of creativity with your content marketing without fearing that your campaign is going to bomb.

Get it right and you will have an entertaining marketing asset that will have a consistent message which aligns with target users’ expectations and assumptions about you and your brand. Be aware of what tone and what type of content your customers are likely to expect from you, i.e. what is appropriate and what fits your overall message. Don’t be afraid to show your brand personality!

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