Creating a Holistic Content Strategy

Creating a Holistic Content Strategy

I have a confession: I truly believe in the underlying meaning of clichés: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All that glitters isn’t gold. Read between the lines. But my favorite is that content is king. To me, the content and the strategy for leveraging it make or break a campaign in a heartbeat. You can have the best survey results in the world, but without a thought through and well-defined content strategy behind it, that survey will not help your business objectives.

For years, I have loved the challenge of determining how we can use the messages in a planned piece for email, visuals, paid placements, microsites, press releases, media interviews, roundtables and more. A good campaign is an integrated one where all of the pieces play off of each other. But how do you even start to plan such a campaign? In my experience, good content strategy that results in a truly integrated campaign follows the same process each time.

  • Establish a goal for the content – With any campaign, you need to know what you are trying to accomplish and how are you going to measure success. Are you trying to get new leads? Is your goal to gain share of voice in the media in a new vertical? Do you want potential investors to see how you are filling an industry gap so that they will consider being part of your next round of funding? Once you determine the marketing goals, you can determine what type of content to create.
  • Focus on addressing a concern for your target market – With a goal established, you should know better who you are targeting. Let’s assume that you are a revenue cycle management (RCM) vendor that has traditionally been in the hospital space but are now moving in physician practices – this is a fairly crowded market so you need to focus on cutting through the noise. To do that, you know that physicians want more information about time to collections and data on the increase in patient self-pay and how that is impacting their bottom line. This will be the central theme of your content.
  • Define the seminal piece of content that you will create – If we continue with the RCM idea above, you may create a survey about the impact patient self-pay has had on the bottom line for physician practices. Then you can create a report on the results that leverages visuals and analysis. It is critical to understand what the first piece of content you will create will be – you will need to focus on creating that so that other content can spin off it easily.
  • Let your imagination go wild with how you can use that content – Now that you know that you are creating a report based on survey results, take time to think through how it that will be further leveraged. In addition to the traditional press releases and byline articles about the results, some potential options include:
    • Media interviews with embargoed pre-pitching to key media so that you generate a buzz
    • Email campaigns to potential leads to show the data that you have collected
    • Sponsorships on industry websites – this could include “gating” a version of the content to get new leads (people interested in the content provide their name and contact information to qualify for access)
    • Paid digital ads that point back to your website for further leads – using Google ads, LinkedIn promotions and more, you can accurately target prospects who may be searching for your content
    • An interactive microsite that highlights the data that can drive retargeting efforts
  • Layout a timeline of when all the content can be created and disseminated – Once you confirm the exact content you will produce, it is time to create a development and dissemination timeline. At the launch of a campaign, you need to know exactly when content will launch – this would include the seminal piece and the initial promotional pieces such as a press release, social content, email blasts. You can then divide the paper into snackable visuals and create infographics, articles and sponsored content so that can continue to capture leads. The goal will be to continue to provide fresh insights or analysis of the data that will encourage people to download the paper and fodder for the digital team to use for paid marketing. But you must have a calendar of when each piece and each channel will be engaged to keep the campaign on track.
  • Measure, measure, measure – As you did in the beginning, you should have established how you will measure success. Whether that is new leads, greater share of voice or other metrics, you need to start measuring sooner than later so that you know what channels are or are not working. So set a standard process for reviewing metrics and making tweaks to the entire plan.


By following these steps, you will be well positioned for a strong integrated marketing campaign that leverages the value of your content and thought leadership.

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The Most Amazing Blog You’ll Ever Read

‘Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but the stories you tell.’

—Seth Godin

Roaming the Exhibit Hall at HIMSS17 last year, I found a truly unique healthcare solution. It solves seemingly intractable problems with uncommon grace and simplicity. It’s intuitive, innovative and disruptive. I predict that it will ascend the rarefied summit of ‘Revolutionizing How Healthcare Happens.’

What was this paradigm-shifting solution and what was the visionary company behind it?

All of them. All 1,323 exhibitors at the conference.

OK, maybe a few expressed a bit more modesty. But with varying degrees of word choice and hyperbolic intensity, most used this highly subjective template to describe their solutions. Their baby is the most beautiful in the world—just accept it.

But words that once felt so tantalizing and full of possibility have become eye-glazing clichés. Worse, they are beginning to subsume good storytelling, like a lush and varied landscape overrun by kudzu.

lush and varied landscape overrun by kudzu

We’re being “disruptive’ over here!

We live in an age of multi-media communication. We can slice-and-dice any demographic, curate content a million different ways, and measure it all more precisely than ever before. But somewhere along the way, many of us have forgotten how to tell a story—and tell it well.

Healthcare is full of terrific—and, yes, innovative—solutions. However, the signal you believe you are projecting into the marketplace with slick marketing and flashy buzzwords is just another forgettable layer of noise. Old-fashioned storytelling, on the other hand, is a method that more readily sticks in the minds of editors—and customers.

Lions and Gazelles

The journalism profession is shrinking and de-centralizing. The newspapers and magazines that aren’t shuttering are dramatically reducing staff and tightening the purse strings. Healthcare journalism is no exception.

Here’s an example. The HIMSS Annual Conference is the largest health IT tradeshow in North America. For many healthcare professionals, this show sets the agenda for the rest of the year. In 2015, 126 editors registered for the Conference—one for every 10 exhibitors.

In 2017, only 76 editors registered—one for every 17 exhibitors. And a number of those “editors” were actually in sales, seeking ad and sponsorship dollars. Plus, these editors aren’t just roaming the Exhibit Hall. They’re also interviewing keynote speakers, attending education sessions, hosting their own meetings—and trying to jam it all into four days.

Think of it this way: Your healthcare company is one of 1,300 lions chasing—at best—60 gazelles. A lot of you are going to go hungry.

Cheetah chasing two gazelles

‘But our platform is scalable across the enterprise…wait!’

This is not to say that your solution is not revolutionary. It’s probably great! Terrific—but guess what? Everyone else is saying the exact same thing about their solutions. Trust me, as a former healthcare reporter and editor, buzzwords were pure white noise. If you want to bag earned media in a shrinking media landscape, you need to up your game. You need to tell me a story.

Ideas Over Solutions

It would be easy enough to blast out yet another listicle of stuff you need to tell a good story. Here are 344 million of them via Google.

I would rather tell you how much I hated science as a kid.

A teacher in a too-short clip-on tie would blandly recite an endless list of equations, scientific jargon and theories until the bell rang for recess. I was temporarily free from the deadly boring grasp of arcane measurements cooked up by a bunch of Europeans who have been dead for 500 years.

None of what I was taught was wrong. It just didn’t mean anything to me.

Around that time, PBS aired Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. It was written and narrated by Carl Sagan, the famous science popularizer.

Sagan discussed all the same equations and theories and dead scientists as my teacher did. Some of it I understood, some of it I didn’t. But the difference was how all those facts connected to tell a 14-billion-year-old story. I was able to understand how all those discoveries impacted the world I lived in. Suddenly, the universe wasn’t a C+ on a future pop quiz. It was impossibly big and beautiful, brimming with weird worlds and strange physics. It was vast and violent and without mercy. And I was a part of it!

I don’t remember the name of my science teacher, but I remember Carl Sagan and the story he told in Cosmos.

Carl Sagen

Be this guy… turtleneck optional.

All those capabilities and features of your healthcare solution—what deeper story do they tell? How do they impact the lives of the people who will use them? How does it add to the larger healthcare stories being told today?

It’s not enough to say you’re innovative. People don’t connect to “innovative.” They connect to stories.

Your story might be big. It might be small. But if it’s meaningful, if it connects, it will find an audience. Tell a great story—and your solution will rise above the noise.