Helping a media startup increase community engagement

CMX Project Image

“Clem’s work with CMX really turned our content ship around. I worked with Clem over the summer of 2015, and he helped us transform our content production, measurement, and governance processes. Clem lead the charge on all these changes and opened all of our eyes to the power of content strategy.” –Carrie Jones, COO and Founding Partner

Overview

CMX Media educates and empowers the world’s community professionals through events, editorial content, and training and workshops.

When I came onboard, my primary responsibility was copy editing articles for the website. But as a team of two, the CEO and the COO had little bandwidth to think more strategically about their web content. Before long, it was clear that they needed content strategy and more streamlined editorial process for scaling content production.

With larger projects and partnerships in the works, it was crucial that the company transition away from ad-hoc content development. I worked directly with the COO (previously, the Director of Content) to implement content strategy in a modular way.

Defining the Challenge

The editorial side of the business faced several challenges:

  • No clear audience needs and goals: They intimately understood their audience but that knowledge wasn’t made explicit in a way that helped them produce targeted content.
  • Not sure if content was meeting business objectives: They had a vision for content but it wasn’t articulated enough to guide their efforts. It was hard to tell whether the content was contributing towards business metrics.
  • Editorial process wasn’t scalable: They had a process for content production but it wasn’t organized in a way that was repeatable. Inefficient content production ate up time that could be spent on more strategic work. Their process wouldn’t be sustainable as the company grows.
  • No clear line-of-sight from metrics, insights, and action: They used web analytics to measure content performance but they weren’t sure how to consistently integrate insights into business strategy and operations.

Approach

Carrie, CMX Director of Content, doing a card sorting exercise to figure out CMX's voice and tone and message architecture.

Carrie, CMX COO, doing a card sorting exercise to figure out CMX’s voice and tone and message architecture.

Audience research and personas

  • Analyzed qualitative feedback from CMX Summit conferences, analyzed Google Analytics for top performing pages, and set up a process for member interviews.
  • The COO and I developed 3-4 personas that we used to focus writing, editing, and editorial strategy.
  • Performed keyword research and developed SEO strategy for articles.

Content framework and standards

CMX core strategy statement

  • Identified business objectives, member needs, and content goals through workshop-style stakeholder interviews.
  • Developed a core content strategy that frames what each piece of content should accomplish. Then mapped content types to each stage of the marketing/sales funnel.
  • Used card sorting to develop CMX brand’s voice and tone and message architecture. Developed a communication framework and high-level messaging based on the card sort.
  • Documented everything in a style guide for all CMX content.
  • Created a process for how key content decisions are made and when to evaluate editorial plans.

CMX voice guide

Prescriptive editorial process

  • Created templates, checklists, and guides for writing articles and collaborating with contributors. Assembled best practices for things like writing headlines and repurposing older articles.
  • Documented clear responsibilities for anyone involved in content production using a content matrix.
  • Created a system to source ideas for articles and generate new and relevant topics.

Measurement plan for metrics

  • Created a measurement plan that clarified what to measure and why, what each metric tells us, and how to improve content based on insights.
  •  Segmented plan based on channels and content type.

An example of a measurement plan for web content. We also defined metrics for Awareness content and Sales content.

Developed a roadmap for implementing content strategy

Primary Persona for CMX

One of the first things we tackled in our minimum viable approach was learning about members’ needs and creating personas.

Outcome

  • Grew email list by over 50% in the summer months (when I was implementing content strategy)
  • Increased weekly traffic to the CMX website by 60% and doubled its return visitors
  • The ebook generated 50% open rate for the emails that promoted it, which is 30% higher than the main mailing list.

“We now consistently receive messages from our members that our content goes above and beyond anything else in this field, and that we’ve become an indispensable resource for them.” –Carrie Jones, COO and Founding Partner

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