Meghann is a writer, editor, and digital content strategist. Meghann has worked at many major women’s magazines, including Elle, Woman’s Day, For Me, Womansday.com, Seventeen, Redbookmag.com, Scholastic Choices, Bauer Teen Group, and Working Mother, and as a freelance travel writer, she’s reported stories on destinations throughout Central America, Europe, Israel, Asia and Australia for T+L, NY Daily News and Brit+Co. Her novel Meternity has been translated into four languages, optioned by Amblin Partners for television, and called “A fresh, contemporary take on love and work, marriage and motherhood,” by NY Times bestselling author Emily Giffin. In addition to writing and editing, Meghann loves helping women entrepreneurs take their brands to the next level through her custom content strategy development process.
In this interview, Meghann and I talk about developing a content strategy – an issue that burdens entrepreneurs across the world. Most of us are spending way too much time creating and posting content here and there without a plan, and feeling frustrated about the complete lack of engagement that we get in return. There has to be a better way. And there is! Meghann walks us back to the basics. Learn how to create an intentional and authentic content plan that speaks to your potential clients.
“Building a content strategy means thinking strategically about the purpose of your brand and the needs of your customers.“
– Meghann Foye
Transcript of Our Interview:
What does it mean to build a content strategy and what are the benefits of taking the time to build this content strategy versus just kind of posting sporadically here and there as content comes up.
Sure. Well, yeah, and thank you so much for having me today. So first off, building a content strategy means thinking strategically about the purpose of your brand and the needs of your customers. And then coming up with a calendar content. It goes into depth about topics that can show how you specifically can help your customers solve their biggest challenges through your product offerings in your particular area of expertise. So for example, say you created a creativity journal as sort of a means of helping you get through your own particular struggle, let’s say infertility. Now you have the purpose of your brand, which is to help people going through really difficult challenges to tap into their own creativity and strength.
Then you also have the needs of the customer. So people going through really difficult challenges who need help and tools to get through them. So you take those two things and you identify the areas within this topic area that you have that particular authority around and you identify the biggest questions and concerns that your customer may have. Then you brainstorm individual topics and plan them into a content calendar. So basically now you have a content strategy. So content can be in the form of odd posts on your site that you promote via all the social media platforms. It can be a series of newsletter posts, it can be videos that you share on YouTube.
More increasingly, brands are finding greater success by creating topics and engaging interactive content that lives on the social media channels themselves. So such as Facebook posts that invite reader commenting or Instagram stories that engage their customers and build communities right there. Through that back and forth communication. So content strategy is really the communication halo around all your product offerings. It’s that back and forth communication that builds loyal customers and community.
So how you decide where to post is really related to your brand and your ideal customer. Where are they engaging the most and where do you like to create content the most? Then in terms of what types of content to post, you can share posts going into greater detail about your product and answering typical customer questions and concerns. You can share service journal posts that speak to the particular challenges of your audience with valuable solutions that you found through your own process. You can also share how you came to build your product and why it’s so important to you. Or you can just share moments as you’re actually doing it because people really like to see the behind the scenes since that really shows that you’re a real person. And then you can also just share a bit about your own creative and brand building purpose and process.
And finally, just from my editor’s perspective, don’t forget to add in a little bit of fun, like a little funny meme or pretty image that inspires you or a really great quote that’s really inspiring you that day. Because that really shows that you’re a real person going through the same ups and downs that we all are and builds the trust and connection with your customers.
So creating a regular calendar content versus just sporadic posts, you’re basically doing three important things. You’re showing your customer that you have the expertise and you’re an authority in the space. You’re showing that basically you’re profitable enough to be committed and you aren’t going anywhere, which that really matters and it’s like if you’re kind of just doing it every so often people may think, is this person really in business? Or you know, what’s the deal? Why is she not always there? And it also tells them that if they buy something from you and need customer service, you’re going to be there. And then number three is that you stay top of mind in your customer’s mind. And you’re there during the holidays, during the times when regular people who don’t have brands aren’t going to be posting. So you’re there maybe when your competitors or other regular people aren’t. So basically all of this together builds up trust in your customer. And that’s really one of the most important things because people will only buy from people that they trust.
So even if you’re posting sporadically, as things come up, in a consistent way, even when you’re doing it regularly, it may not have the same cohesive feel of who you are. It might feel sporadic to the customer, which kind of undermines that trust element. Right?
Yeah. Like I think what I’ve heard from people, I’ve kind of been talking to a lot of different people in the brand space and influencer space, and the way they kind of get around that is they have their consistent posts. So say they do have that calendar of one post a day and one Instagram story a day or you know, three posts a week and three Instagram stories a week. If they feel like being sporadic, then they can layer that in. But it’s better to have that consistent schedule. Because I do think that translates to your customer that you are committed enough to put in the hard work to do that basically, and that you’re there and that you’re top of mind and it just makes your life easier too. Because if you can figure that out ahead of time, you can batch it all up at the beginning and then plan it and basically you won’t be worried at the last minute that you’re not doing anything. So I think to have a regular calendar, it makes a lot more sense.
It saves you time in the long run, even though it feels like a big commitment to make that calendar. So I want to talk a little bit more about the type of content that we’re putting out there. When I spoke with you, we were talking about creating content that is emotionally authentic and connecting through our own triumphs and challenges. Can you talk to me a little more about the idea of connecting with the personal side of you and your story in the content?
Sure. I have this example of my friend Dave. Dave lives here in Jersey City where I live and he has his own cafe and it’s like health focused. So he’s building a home-cooked meal delivery service to go along with it. Basically, he could just be putting out the deals, he could just be putting out the products and saying, here’s a sale. But instead, he’s really showing himself in his own entrepreneurial process. And he’s been creating this whole business every day. He’s on Instagram basically saying, here’s how I’m getting inspired for the menu this week. He’s showing pictures of himself going to the actual farms where he’s picking up the produce. He’s showing himself talking to the farmers and saying what’s on sale this week? Or how did you grow this or that?
Then he’s showing himself actually making it. And then he’s also showing himself with his family. He’s like a new dad and he has the cutest little baby. So he just shows himself cooking for the baby and then he also shows himself saying why he came up with this idea, which is basically as a new dad, he’s a chef but he found himself ordering things like Grub Hub or Postmates basically every night. And he’s like, I’m spending so much money on takeaway food, I’m gaining weight. This makes no sense. I’m a chef, so let me create a service that I think a lot of people in our community will benefit from because they’re probably doing the same thing.
So basically instead of just showing the product efforts, he’s kind of showing the whole backstory. And I think why this works so well is that we start to, as we could be customers, but we’re also like kind of seeing his trying to triumph over tragedy as he builds his friends. And we’re kind of like invested in it and excited as friends almost to see that he’s successful. So it’s kind of like we’re watching a story unfold rather than just seeing the output of that story. And I think of that, as a customer, just feels a lot more exciting.
Absolutely. Yeah. I think in my experience with different entrepreneurs, I’ve seen kind of three different strategies that people have had and I don’t think they necessarily are always intentional strategies. But one was this kind of personal side, where you’re sharing your story on social media and it gives people an opportunity to relate. And then another is just sales and promotion. Like you were talking about there, just being out here, he’ll buy this, here are my services. And then the third is to focus pretty solely on your ideal client and saying, finding the problems that they have in saying, do you struggle with this? You know, and trying to really relate to them. And it seems like ideally, we want to kind of have all three of those mixed into our content strategy. Would you agree?
Yeah, definitely. And I think this is where having a preplanned content strategy really helps and comes in because you can really look at the ratios of that and make sure that’s what you’re doing now. Even if you’re doing it intuitively on the fly, you’re not always going to be thinking of like you might be going too overboard in one of those ratios. Also do some analysis, which is really helpful. You can look at the engagement rates of those three types and say, okay, well maybe people love, you know, they’re engaging with the “me” stuff but they’re not ordering as much. So maybe I need to bump up the product offerings posts so that we can get orders coming in a little bit more. Or maybe I’m doing all these orders but people aren’t returning. Why aren’t they returning? Maybe I need to build loyalty through some of these personal posts.
So it’s just, it’s just like you want to be able to be doing it from an intentional place and a planning place so that you do have that time to go back and do some analysis afterward. And I would say doing that every week is probably the best bet. It’s like kind of plan out the month of posts or I like to plan out the year of posts from a top-level sentence and then plan out, at the start of each month, what you’re going to do that month and then starting to each week plan out what you’re going to do that week and then the Friday or the Sunday, look at how successful this was. And maybe if you are thinking about the types of posts we’re doing rather than each post as its own individual thing. You can kind of do some analysis and say this type is working a little bit better. You know, why is that?
Yeah. And that’s a great way to connect with what your audience is actually looking for. My next question. I went to talk about the groundwork that we need to do before or while we’re developing our content strategy and some of the questions we need to be asking ourselves to get this started.
Sure. So I tried to think of a process to this and I kinda came back to what I learned in journalism. You know, in journalism one-on-one, every journalist is told these are the five things to put in every story. Who, what, when, where, and why. So I was thinking what I would do is I’ve taken them a little bit out of the context and using them for like a bigger brainstorming purpose, but I feel like these five questions can unlock a lot of great posting ideas. So I would say get out five big pieces of paper and write those things on them. Or if you like to use a computer, just put them in your computer and then basically go through the questions and ask yourself. So for who it’s like, who are you, how can you share your bio and your backstory and unique ways through content. The most important thing is to show, not tell when you’re sharing your story. So that means really talking to the reader with a beginning, a middle and an end versus like a series of dry factual bullet points about you. You want to tell it from the heart. So natural story arcs follow the same react structure. Just, I know this is interesting, but basically you always want to have like an Act One, which is where it’s like what was the conflict or the problem? What was going on in your life where this idea popped in? How did it make you feel? How was it affecting your deepest relationships, your health, or family, and what mattered to you most? And here’s where you don’t want to be afraid to not use feelings words, you want to use the feelings words, you know, like what are the states, what was going on that was really creating this in your life?
And then number and Act Two was the escalation. So it was how are you trying to solve this problem or you couldn’t, and what were you trying and what was failing? What were you getting a little success in? What character traits did you have to build as you were going through this process? And then Act Three is like the climax. It’s like here’s where you really faced the toughest hurdle or challenge and you, when you get the triumph, you get the result you wanted, you get the resolution. And maybe it’s in a way that your audience has never thought of before. So this is really like where you show off your product that you created and show why it’s so unique and it’ll get the reader the same results. And so here again, you want to use feelings words to convey how it impacts your life to have solved this big problem. How does it impact your health, your family, your loved ones, at work? And basically, as you’re sharing this story, you’re kind of taking the reader through their own natural thought process and answering all their common questions. But like in this real relatable way that just feels really exciting.
I think a lot of people when they’re trying to tell their story, they might, it might either be too short and dry or too long and overwhelming. So I would just say try to bullet into these three main points and that can be really helpful.
And then the next question is what, so it’s like, what is your product? What makes it so special? What are your customer’s biggest concerns? What are your biggest concerns? What have you done to solve them? What are you going to do this year to challenge yourself to be bigger than better than before? Just start thinking of what you know, what questions.
And then when, so when is it coming out? Are there key times over the year when it’s particularly useful? Are there key periods like black Friday that you could do a gift guide or shopping posts or are there other like national holidays or health months that you want to tie this to? So I would say when is really crucial and I would plot out, that’s actually the easiest thing to do. It’s like plot those into your calendar first so you know that you want to hit those key moments in time.
Then where, so it’s like where can you find the product? Where is it useful? If you’re selling this creativity journal, maybe it’s like a series of posts showing exactly where your customers have used it or using it in action, where does it fit your life perfectly. Like you might want to show pictures on your desktop or your car or your work. And for example, the luggage brand Away, one of the really smart things that they did was they sent their travel luggage to all of these influencers and then the influencer started posting on Instagram with pictures of this cute thing in their life. And that was really the key to all their success. Cause you really just want to show, you don’t, you want people to not have to think, you know, here’s the thing. You want to give them the visual and say this is exactly how this is going to look in your life.
And then most importantly, it’s like, why? So why is this product so meaningful to you? Why is it meaningful to your customer? Why is this product so useful and meaningful to the world? If it’s like a creativity journal, you might want to talk about why creativity is so important right now. How does creativity help solve our biggest problems in the world? Again, you want to get at the values of your brand and that people are buying based on values, right?
Then I think like bonus points, you know, beyond those five questions, I think the biggest thing I’ve learned as an editor is that again, you want to break everything down into really tangible takeaways that people can just literally take and start implementing in their life right now. That’s the most valuable piece of content. So for example, rather than say here are six ways to save the world, you can say, here’s the one action you can do every single day that will have a 70% impact on the planet. Or here’s the one recipe you can use to lose 30 pounds this month. Or here’s the 30-day challenge of specific doable ideas. Or here’s the script you can use to have a really difficult conversation with your boss. It’s basically like you want to break every single thing down into the one next step so that people can see that and go, oh I don’t even have to think about it, I can just go do it.
So that to me is the type of content that I see, and I go, Oh, I’m screenshotting that and I’m doing it. So you’re going to get that effect with people. They’ll screenshot you and then they’ll go do it. So yeah. So that’s basically, I think, by asking these simple questions and showing, not telling, I think that you’re going to be ahead of the game.