Initially a simple travel, lifestyle, and photography blog, I realized I needed to clearly develop the brand's identity to reach as many people as possible. To do this I created strategies to promote the brand through an expandable website with informative, visually-engaging content that empowered users and also gave them an enjoyable experience.
Services: Content Strategy, Site Design, UX Writing & Design, Digital Strategy, Information Architecture, Brand Design, Content Creation, Copywriting & Editorial, Digital Analytics, SEO
Being the founder and having the power to shape the brand in my vision, I took on the responsibility of designing the core strategy and organizational goals through research, experimentation, and implementation. I used data and creativity to develop the overarching content strategy, UX writing and design guidelines, site design, and the actual written and visual content. It was a tall order but an imperative step to guide the future of my brand.
Since I do not have a degree or formal school in this field, my knowledge was limited to the online resources at my disposal. Therefore I took several online courses on content strategy, scoured the internet for articles on design and implementation, and listened to marketing podcasts to guide my brand’s development.
Brand Positioning & Core Strategy Statements, Key Messaging, Audience Personas, Core Experiences, Brand-Style Guidelines & Requirements, Content Management, Content Creation, Distribution, Editorial Strategy
When I first launched the site, there was no strategy in place to guide the creation, publication, and distribution of useful, usable content. In order to provide meaningful information that would reach a wider audience, I needed to define not only which content would be published but also why I was publishing it in the first place. I therefore took it upon myself to learn the techniques and skills of content strategy and within several months apply the concepts to my brand.
The original goal when first launching was to provide audiences with information-rich travel guides, a portfolio of beautiful photos to peruse, and a lifestyle blog with meaningful tips and perspectives. In other words, the focus was solely on the information and content.
In order to differentiate ourselves from a competitive market, I realized how much more strategic I needed to be. The priority shifted to the audience and users, how we could meet their needs and provide value to them. In order to do this, I came up with goals of what I wanted my brand to communicate:
Build trust through communication
Provide useful, usable information
Give a memorable experience worth sharing
Build an emotional connection by providing meaningful content that has personal significance
Be a source of positive individual and social change and empower audiences to take action
Encourage interaction through social media and build an online community
Clean, enjoyable user experience
Promote interaction with elements on page
After discovering the field of content strategy, I dove deeper and read countless articles on the subject. Eventually I took a few online courses and gained technical knowledge of the processes and components needed to plan for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
Through my research I created a framework to guide the process of creating the content strategy for Sweet Life. It centered around defining the brand's identity, the target audiences and experiences, guidelines for how content was created, displayed, maintained, and managed, and distributed.
These components would ultimately shape the core strategy. But to extract this information, I followed brain traffic's steps:
Steps To Develop Content Strategy
This process eventually gave me the framework for my overarching content strategy and how my brand would be managed:
WHAT IS 'SWEET LIFE'
The discovery phase was a quick, high‐intensity effort that allowed me to define project milestones, audit the existing work, review the competitor landscape, understand my vision, and begin research into user needs, behaviors, and points of discord.
In the process of fleshing out the brand's identity, I found that the main purpose was to empower individuals to lead meaningful lives and seek enriching experiences.
DEFINING PROJECT MILESTONES
In order to measure the success of my website and brand, I needed to clearly define what the project objectives were and have quantifiable KPI's. Since it's currently a one-man crew, they needed to be fairly modest.
I focused on metrics that showed whether or not the site was becoming popular and how much users engaged with the web pages. These goals were mainly based on standard Google Analytics metrics such as: page views, new and returning users, average time on pages, bounce rates, and social likes and shares.
Later on I found that one of the biggest indicator of success was the amount of people who consistently followed my brand. So I adjusted my strategy to focus on driving email subscriptions and social media followers.
Since I was limited in my resources, I decided to conduct research using reports, articles, and studies available online, into user motivations to gain insight on how users like to consume information.
I found that audiences were more likely to read content that makes them smarter, looks out for their interests, is convenient and easy to access, and gives them something to talk about with others (social experience).
But in a deeper context, audiences want concrete solutions to real-life situations. Therefore my content needed to give them something that they could walk away with, as opposed to content that stays on the surface and doesn't offer anything real.
Designing on an emotional and functional level: The personas gave a framework for not only what knowledge audiences want out of the content and what it should encourage them to do, but also how the content should make them feel. I believe this make a huge difference between a good experience and a bad one. Therefore knowing who I was designing for helped me figure out how the content would fit into the lives of its users.
I thought about ideal experiences and focused on how the personas thought and behaved instead of focusing on my own goals. Keeping these scenarios in mind, I could better explore how to communicate my messages clearly through a functional and emotional perspective and gain insight with users.
Mapping out the users emotions was key to setting client expectations about the aspirational emotional state we were aiming to design for. Based off of Medill on Media Engagement's instructional text, I discovered the main experiences that my brand would communicate:
Gives me useful tips and advice; good ideas
Learn about things to do
Learn how to improve myself, do thigns the right way
Helps me make decisions
I can talk about these things and share it with friends and family
Reading this makes me more interesting
Gives me something to talk about
Makes me believe I can accomplish things on my own.
Brings out my aspiration to live a fulfilling and meaningful life
Allows me to escape from pressures of daily life
Lose myself in the pleasure of reading it; takes my mind off other things; it’s an escape
Feel less stressful;
My reward for working hard
BRAND POSITIONING STATEMENT
The brand positioning statement was key to understanding the consumer and audiences I wanted to reach. To create a strong brand, I needed to relate to experiences that were important to the targeted consumer segments. To do this I had to categorize target audience and who they are, characterize the brand and what it can do for the target audience, and differentiate it from other competitors. This statement would be used to keep all my content centered around a strategy:
For explorers and millennials in their 20-30’s who seek to take control of their lives by broadening their perspectives and improving their lifestyles, this is a travel and lifestyle website devoted to help them explore new, enriching experiences, find meaning in their lives, and provide information to plan out their next vacation or ways to improve themselves. Sweet Life is devoted to giving them the boost they need to finally take action.
CORE STRATEGY STATEMENT
The core strategy defines where the efforts will be focused to improve the content and structure, workflow and governance. And by having a core strategy statement, I could use it as a tool to communicate the core strategy components. Since my brand is designed around travel AND lifestyle, I provided two statements to guide each type of content.
Lifestyle: Curate a technical, online reference guide for that helps millennials stressed, lost millennials lead driven, purposeful, and fulfilling lifestyles.
Travel: Create informational and accessible travel guides for clueless travelers so they can plan their next adventure.
DEFINING BRAND PRIORITIES & REQUIREMENTS
Understanding the audience and experiences helped me develop a clear vision on the tone of my brand and how I wanted to communicate its personality to our users. I developed brand style guidelines to direct how all content should look, feel, and articulate the brand’s core messages.
Believe in the brand’s role for positive change in the world
Enable community power for positive transformation
INSPIRATIONAL AND ENCOURAGING
Help users understand they have agency and believe that they can accomplish things on their own
celebrate the user’s progress
positive messages that give users belief in themselves
Come from a point of view that you’ve been in their shoes before
Don’t just share good outcomes but also understand that failure is likely, and that’s okay
Users feeling like they are not alone
Show empathy for users’ situations
High-level concepts and language
Provide good ideas and usable information
Make sure the information is correct
Design interactions that do more than just inform
use visually striking images that attract users
Encourage users to explore more content
Engage users on an intellectual and emotional level
Encourage users to explore and research content further
CONVENIENT AND ACCESSIBLE
Easy to read and navigate
Encourage exploration within website
Don't pretend to be something you're not
Be honest, event when making a mistake