Creating a brand voice and content that fits that brand’s voice is a large part of a content marketing strategy.
However, far too often the content that fits into a brand identity is limited to only the marketing department.
Sales, service, HR, and finance departments are often left out of the loop and are unaware of what the content tone, voice, and style are.
While some amount of non-alignment is to be expected, businesses that want to expand can risk losing their identity when there isn’t enough alliance between departments during periods of growth.
Creating a content alignment strategy is therefore key to ensuring that measures are taken to protect consistency and reliability internally and externally.
But what exactly is content alignment? Why is it important for your brand and, most importantly, how do you go about creating a content alignment strategy?
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into content alignment and look at the steps needed to create a content alignment strategy that works.
What is Content Alignment?
Content alignment is the process of creating cohesion across your entire content network by building a set of rules that each faction of your organization can participate in to avoid overlaps in authority, credibility, and recognition.
Content alignment works to ensure that the same message, style, tone, and voice are shared across every part of your business to create a strong, consistent image.
There are many different types of content that should be included under the umbrella of your content alignment. They include:
- Marketing assets
- Website copy
- Sales collateral
- Public relations
- Internal communication
- HR documentation
- Thought leadership
- SEO strategies
- Brand messages
- Social media
A content alignment strategy is the process of building out a content alignment and cohesion plan.
Brands that create a content alignment strategy can rapidly expand and grow, enter new channels with confidence, and avoid the confusion that comes from differing messages to external customers and internal departments.
Content Alignment vs. Brand Alignment
Content alignment is similar to the familiar concept of brand alignment, but there are some differences.
Brand alignment refers to the practice of aligning customer interactions and marketing assets to represent the same brand voice.
It’s what ensures that you have the same experience no matter which branch or franchise you visit.
While brand alignment is an important part of content alignment, the latter focus much more heavily on communication, both internal and external.
After all, your brand is customer-facing while your content reaches many more facets of your entire operation.
Content alignment is much broader and encompassing than brand alignment, but both strategies need to work together to deliver the best results for your overall cohesion and ongoing consistency.
Why Should Your Business Strive for Content Alignment?
Many organizations have never considered creating a content alignment strategy or even looked into the idea of content alignment.
Unfortunately, this means that many businesses aren’t in the best possible position.
A content alignment strategy provides help and creates a consistent set of rules for businesses. This can help in many different areas.
Businesses that want to grow quickly or are nearing times of rapid expansion can risk getting lost in the onslaught of new business and channels.
A content alignment strategy in place ensures that all content produced by the areas of the business is set in place.
With a content alignment strategy set, growth doesn’t have to stall as a result of conflicting messages and a lack of cohesion.
Another benefit of content alignment is that it helps bring together different parts of the business.
Many times, in business, there are different opinions, goals, and strategies in place from different departments.
This can lead to internal conflict and unhappy leaders and employees.
When there is content alignment, the amount of conflict can be reduced and internal cooperation can run more smoothly.
While content alignment can help business organization and internal communications, it can also help on the customer-facing side.
When marketing collateral, sales copy, advertisements, and social media posts are all in alignment regardless of the department or branch it comes from, customers have a more consistent experience.
And when a customer knows what to expect out of the content they consume, they don’t become confused or upset by conflicting messages.
How to Develop a Content Alignment Strategy
Now that you understand what content alignment is and why it’s important for your organization to invest in it, let’s take a look at the steps needed to develop a strong content alignment strategy that helps your business grow and maintain consistency.
1. Set Your Goals
The first step of any strategy is to set the end goals.
Without goals in place, you won’t be able to establish whether or not your strategy and efforts have had any effect.
An end result also sets the goalposts that every member of your team will attempt to strive towards. That keeps everyone focused on the same goal and working together.
Goals for content alignment can include:
- Creating better internal communication.
- Keeping a strong voice of authority through periods of change or growth.
- Helping customers get a consistent experience when interacting with your brand.
2. Know Your Buyer Personas
One of the cornerstones of content creation is knowing your audience.
A buyer persona is a fictionalized, idealized customer that represents a significant segment of your target audience.
Having buyer personas documented and available to your entire organization ensures that there isn’t any confusion about who your brand is targeting.
If your personas aren’t documented or are out of date, this is a great time to update them.
You should make sure that your personas are clear before starting a content alignment strategy. Otherwise, you may have to go back and revise steps which can cause confusion.
3. Map Out Your Customer Journeys
Once your buyer personas are established, take some time to document your customer journeys.
A customer journey is the specific steps each of your leads takes before making a final purchase decision.
That can include recognizing a problem, researching for solutions, contacting your brand, joining a sales pipeline, and adding items to their carts.
Customer journeys are an important step in your content planning as during each different step a different content approach is needed to appeal to customers.
You wouldn’t want to give a strong sales pitch too early or fail to close in on a lead who is nearing a conversion.
4. Run an Audit on Existing Content
The next step is to take a look at the existing content you already have.
For each business, this can mean your internal documents, external communication, website copy, blogs, ebooks, and even existing brand guides.
Analyze each piece of content and see how it fits into the buyer’s journey and which customer profile it targets.
This not only helps you find any gaps in your existing content, but helps you get a good idea about the style, tone, and voice you currently have for external and internal communications.
5. Create Topics that Make Sense
Once you’ve finished your audit, you’ll want to plan out the topics and content groups that you want to continue developing.
You might want to drop old areas of interest that are no longer as relevant to your brand or add in new topics that better reflect the current state of your business.
6. Avoid Focusing Too Much on Keywords
One of the problems that many companies face when beginning a content alignment is focusing too much on keywords.
While keywords are great for guiding content, when they are treated too importantly, they can hurt your content creation process.
Keywords should be used sparingly and not take focus away from the quality of your content or the story you want to portray.
They should be used as guiding phrases, not the goals of any piece of content.
7. Build Rules for Content
Once you have the building blocks of your content alignment strategy in place, you can begin to build the rules that you want to be established.
These rules will be the content guide that everyone in your organization refers to when creating content, so they need to be clear, cohesive, and easy to follow for each department of your business.
8. Share the Plan Internally
Once you’ve set the content rules and have a guide in place, you can share the plan internally.
Based on the level of upper management support the content alignment has, you might want to consider a company-wide meeting to go through the details of the plan.
You can also consider other ways to establish the importance of the plan and keep track of who is following along and who might need some more help in understanding the value that a content alignment strategy will provide.
9. Focus on Your Brand’s Image
Brand image and content are closely linked.
As we discussed earlier, brand alignment is a significant part of an overall content alignment strategy.
When your brand’s image is at the core of your content alignment, there is a clear message and identity that you can strive to match.
This helps when departments aren’t clearly aligned or struggle to understand the value of a content alignment strategy.
10. Keep Everyone Involved
Content alignment is dependent on all departments being willing to put in time and effort to create a consistent content message across all channels.
When you lack cohesion, it leads to confusion and potentially even a loss of authority in your brand.
By keeping everyone involved in the process, you can retain a higher percentage of buy-in from different department leaders and managers.
This helps your content alignment strategy spread and get implemented across the organization.
11. Measure Your Results
Just as setting goals is important to the success of any strategy, you similarly need to measure whether those goals have been achieved to truly see the end results of your implementation.
By measuring your results and checking to see that your goals have been reached, you can gain a better understanding of the success of your content alignment strategy.
You can also see the areas you may have fallen behind in, which helps you when it comes to adapting your strategy and maneuvering to take the steps that will help you better meet your goals in the future.
12. Optimize Your Content Alignment Strategy
The final step of a content alignment strategy is continually optimizing your content alignment.
A content alignment strategy can’t just be set and forgotten about. It takes dedication and time from your team to ensure it is kept up and followed.
You also need to update and optimize your strategy as your brand develops and grows.
If you enter new industries, build new product or service lines, or expand into new territories your content alignment needs to reflect the new business and updated brand image.
By allowing your content alignment strategy to have flexibility, you can better adapt and grow to meet new challenges, onboard new talent, and create cohesion, clarity, and authority across your entire organization with ease.
Alignment is a key ingredient in a successful business, and content alignment bridges the gap between a brand identity and the production of content that matches your tone, voice, and style.
Without a content alignment strategy, you risk damaging your image as your business grows and confusing both your customers and your internal teams.
Content alignment is an important part of an overall content marketing strategy. Another important aspect of your content is knowing your content maturity.
If you are a marketer who wants to improve your content performance, take a look at our Content Maturity Assessment!
In it, you’ll learn how to identify gaps in your content, tell you where you are succeeding, and give you advice on how to improve.