But people change.
Your communications and advertising strategy for 2017 should be a masterclass in 'buzzwordsmithery'. Buzzwords are good, as long as they make sense. Invariably they emerge to reframe the ways in which we talk about communication, because the way we communicate is changing, language is changing and behaviour is changing.
'Relevant content that is shared or published via the right digital channel will engage the audience'
We need to capitalise on new trends, new channels and changing behaviours by identifying opportunities to develop new content (words, pictures, moving images) that has an effect or 'impact', ideally a positive one. To succeed online we talk about engagement, relevance, resonance and curation. All good words that should play a key role in developing digital strategy, but they were here before 'digital strategy' and 'content strategy', and so they should not just exist in a digital silo; great art will resonate, great curators of art will become trusted for their opinions and authority, and therefore good, relevant content that is curated and shared via the right digital channel will engage the audience.
For every search we type in, or every news article that is shared, the audience will look for relevance. If not immediately and obviously relevant, you as a content creator need to give them a reason to stop and look/read/watch. The combination you want to aim for at a tactical level is relevance and creativity, that way you arrest the audience, draw them in and encourage them to share it with their peers who might find it relevant or creatively interesting or useful.
So how do we know what is relevant, what is creative? How do we know what works?
As tech trends and new digital channels grab the headlines, a good and simple strategy will consider how best you can use these new opportunities to communicate with your audience. A great strategy will take a step back; to listen to the audience, to look at how the audience (people) behave online and, ultimately, to demystify the latest innovations.
Augmented reality has reached a tipping point. So what? What does that mean to a nurse practitioner?
Social media is more visual than ever, it's all about 'storytelling'. Okay, what does that mean to a GP with a smartphone but no time?
Put the latest digital trend in the context of how your audience consumes - and has always consumed - information, how they have always discussed information, how they have always shared information, and look at what they're doing right now. Then ask, 'What next? Where next?'
Allow your content to be found, to be read/viewed, to be shared. Don't attempt a seismic shift to all-digital content or ambitious virtual environments; introduce options alongside existing behaviour, historical formats that highlight the relevance of your message, creative formats that present your message in a new and interesting way. Test types of content, test tones of content, test channels and learn. Analytics and data are powerful, but only if you know what to do with them. And if you can't look at your own content and how it has performed or is performing, look elsewhere.
A digital strategy might be defined by the agency and client, but it must be influenced by what the audience cares about or how they behave. Through social listening and content analytics you can identify what type of content garners the most engagement (shares, clicks, comments, likes), which themes or topics are most relevant to or most resonate with your audience, and so will drive the most valuable traffic to your website, video or app.
'Decide what you want people to do/think/feel before you put content out there'
Which content works? Test, learn, refine. Look at the metrics that matter, the moments that matter, the competitors doing it well, and those getting it wrong; high engagement from the wrong audience is wasted effort, so what went wrong? On your own site high traffic with high page views might mean the audience can’t find what it’s looking for; 'time on-site' could mean that the content has done its job, the audience is now aware of your message, but they might not have any reason or incentive to share that information. Decide what you want people to do/think/feel before you put content out there.
Start by building a planning framework around your business objectives, then your communications objectives, and then develop three or four content themes around which you can build specific programmes. Tailor it to specific audiences, build it out in multiple formats, share it via the most effective channels and present your message in the most engaging way.
Always use audience insight to get content right first time, but with an intelligent digital strategy, you can test, learn and build an active and engaged audience - both online and offline - without drowning in buzzwords or jumping aboard the latest trend that might tick the 'innovation' box - but is it what your audience wants? Create content that is interesting, useful and valuable to your audience, and they will see, consider and share your message, and you will see better outcomes.
Tom Griffiths is Digital Strategy Director at greyhealth group.