Content Systems Academy

Sharing the CSA Framework

 In General

For the past few days, I’ve been busy sharing the content systems framework within and outside my network. Generally, most people I talked with saw the value of the content systems framework when launching new projects, but many also asked how it could be applied to existing projects or initiatives. So, I decided to share one of those stories to highlight some key takeaways.

An organization of scientists and physicians wants to share news of a new medical discovery that could potentially help those living with a chronic debilitating disease, which affects approximately 30,000 Americans. They want to inform this audience of a new treatment. Considering the number of patients, family members and caregivers, it’s still a relatively small group of people – a niche. One of the most difficult challenges is trying to convince clients to focus on the smallest possible audience. Here was one of those rare occasions when that work wasn’t necessary. They had a clearly defined, small group of people who shared a common problem. In addition, this niche had an unmet need and the organization had a solution – a new possible treatment for the condition.

We have worked with this organization in the past and after seeing our framework, they wanted to learn how it could help them reach their niche audience.

Our meeting took place in their Cambridge, MA offices, where we walked through the content systems framework for their CEO, COO and the VP of Communications. We showed them how it can be used to create an awareness of the medical discovery and how they can attract and grow an engaged network connected by content. They quickly saw that their expertise and knowledge, combined with the framework’s systematic approach, would create a content system that would become a trusted resource and eventually position them as the authority on this discovery.

I thought our meeting was over—we weren’t there to sell them anything during this meeting, we were just sharing our findings and making suggestions. I was about to power down my laptop when the CEO started to talk about other projects that were already up and running. He was interested in how our framework could be applied to optimize existing initiatives. Specifically, he asked where they should start.

My advice was they should start with their niche audience because that group of people should be at the center of all their editorial decisions.

Assuming that your niche audience is still a niche audience that shares similar attitudes and behaviors, here are my three steps to initiating content optimization:

Step 1: Confirm your audience’s problem still exists

Depending on when your project originally started, you should reexamine the audience to see if there have been any changes to the audience’s need. For example, if the audience shared a common medical problem that had no treatment or cure, and if today a new or alternative treatment exists, you must shift editorial focus from providing coping techniques to providing information to help decide which treatment is best.

Step 2: Confirm the communication channel

We have seen projects in which organizations determined an optimal channel to publish content based on their audience personas. However, another platform eventually begins to attract the audience away. Unless you’re monitoring your metrics, you won’t know about a decrease in engagement, so we encourage reexamination of your communication channel on a regular basis as new channels and platforms take hold. We also see this happening with existing platforms, such as users jumping from Instagram to Pinterest and vice versa. Keeping track of which platform your audience uses also informs how you communicate with them through that channel.

Step 3: Conduct a content audit

You have verified that your niche audience still shares a common problem. You have confirmed the social platform they use to find solutions and connect with others dealing with the same issue. The next step is to make sure your published content addresses their unmet need and that it’s still resonating with them. During a content audit, you assess how well your content is doing. Is your audience engaging with it? Do they share it? Depending on the quantity of content, this is a time-intensive process which will provide valuable insight into what’s working, what needs to be adjusted and what new content needs to be produced. A future series on this site will cover the basics on how to conduct a content audit.

These are the first three steps we take to analyze the health of an existing initiative. What about you? Do you agree these are the first steps to optimize a content system? Let me know in the comments below.

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