Questions to Ask Before Creating Content for a New Company

September 27, 2011 •

Creating content for a company’s social media properties, website, and blog (just to start the list) can be tough–and without a thorough understanding of the company and its audience, it’s hard to get it right. Whether you’re taking on a new client or starting a new job, you need to ask a lot of questions before you dive into creating content. Every business is different, so at Right Source Marketing, we never ask exactly the same questions for each new client, but below are a few of our staples.

Note: even if you’ve been working for a company or with a client for a while, you may realize that you don’t know the answers to these questions, or that the answers have changed since you started. It’s a good idea to reevaluate and periodically ask these questions again, even if you’re just asking yourself.

1. What’s your audience like? Who are these people who buy your stuff? What age, what gender?  Where do they work? Where do they play? What’s important to them personally and professionally? What do they already love about your business? What do they hate about it?

Keep asking questions to get as full a picture of your audience as possible. If no one can answer this question, then you need to do some research (like a survey), or bring someone who would know in the room (like a salesperson).  Knowing details about what makes your audience tick helps you figure out what topics to cover and language to use. We start with this question because all of the other questions and answers should be colored by a focus on audience.

2. What are three words to describe your ideal brand? No one ever answers this question in just three words—but that’s ok. Asking for just three words gets people distilling their business to the core instead of simply reciting a jargon jammed, over rehearsed boilerplate. Make sure you follow up by asking why these three words describe the business—even if it seems obvious, the answers might be different from the ones you would imagine.

If you don’t want to ask the cheesy “three words” version of this question, you can substitute with something like “Write a haiku about your company” or “Describe your company only using words that are 2 syllables long or shorter” Ok, those are cheesy too, but you need to find a way to shake up the way people normally talk about their company to get a true sense of the right voice to use.

3. What makes your company unique? People love to talk about how their companies are “unique” and “innovative.” In fact, you’re likely to hear those words as answers for #2—if you do, keep pushing. As David Meerman Scott pointed out at Content Marketing World (and in this article), words like that are so overused they’ve become meaningless.

Keep digging so the answer to this question isn’t “we’re unique because we’re innovative,” and you may actually come up with the real reason why the company is unique—they take a different approach to project management, or they only hire people with over 10 years of experience—whatever that specific differentiator is, find it, and your content will automatically become more convincing. This job post from Figure53, a Baltimore technology company, exemplifies this.

4. What don’t you like to talk about? The direction this question goes in depends on the business, but it’s good to keep a running list of content no-nos before they happen, or you’ll have a lot of messes to clean up later. Sub-questions may include:

  • Which holidays are ok to talk about? Are any completely off bounds?
  • Are there any words you’re uncomfortable using?  Foul language is normally an automatic no, so talk about, for example, if words like “customer” and “offer” should always be substituted with “client” and “provide.” People tend to have tons of little quirky preferences. Listen to them, because they’re often generated from prior trial and error.
  • Are there any competitors you don’t link to or talk about? Some businesses are touchier about their competitors than others. Clear the waters by asking about this up front.

5. Is there anything else? Don’t start closing your computer (or clicking off your pen) as you ask this. Let people think on it for a bit. Sometimes, important information doesn’t fit into a question and answer format, and this question takes the conversation to a whole new level.

What questions do you ask before creating content for a new company? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

 

About the Author

The Marketing Trenches blog provides thought leadership from actual marketing practitioners, not from professional thought leaders. Designed to help business leaders make more educated marketing decisions, our insights come directly from our experience in the trenches. You can find more from Right Source on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

  • Mike Anderson

    Another great post! Thx. If Content is King then Context is Queen? And both should work together. Most companies need to work on personalization of online content. Still a lot of “one size fits all” mentality on websites, etc.

    • Thanks Mike! Yes, context is essential. I could have rewritten the first question to read “What are your audiences like,” because it’s important to speak to all points in the decision making process.

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