We’ve come a long way. Attitudes concerning traditional ‘push’ marketing have changed rapidly and brands everywhere are embracing more subtle, customer-engagement strategies. One of these strategies is content creation.

Almost overnight we’ve all become content publishers. But are we all on the same page?

There’s a lot of appalling content on the web. Even those who have a clue aren’t always confident that their content strategy is working to achieve their organizational goals.

Content catastrophes occur when stories fail to attract and retain customers. Such stories lack value, relevance, conviction and consistency.

Here are 8 ways to avert a content catastrophe.

Join a relevant online group or forum in your industry

Listen to the challenges that others are facing. That way, you remain attentive and responsive to their pain-points and are better equipped to generate relevant content that solves their problems.

Determine the goal of your content

Do you want to teach, entertain, share industry ideas or generate conversation? If your goal is to teach, then the bulk of your content will consist of ‘How-To’ material. Likewise if your goal is to generate conversation, your content will consist of provocative or hot topics. Whatever the ‘raison d’être’ of your content, it is important to stick to it so that your audience understands exactly what you’re about and can rely on you for that type of information.

Make sure your message is consistent with your brand

It happens to the best of us. Once in a while we’re tempted to wander off in a different direction (topic). As a general rule of thumb, only provide content that supports your brand image. Are you a health and fitness expert? Then make sure that your content demonstrates your expertise in that area. This way you’re able to establish your brand as a niche expert. Sending different messages distracts and confuses the audience and causes them to go to a more dependable source of information.

Assign a manager to oversee your content

Every important unit in an organization has a manager to supervise its activities and ensure that they are in line with their organizational goals. In the last couple of years, content has become critically important in enhancing positive brand perception. That’s why it is important to appoint an experienced person to oversee content creation and distribution and to ensure that content goals support the goals of the organization as a whole.

Create an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar will help bring clarity and purpose to your content. A monthly editorial calendar will typically outline the topic of the week, type(s) of content to be employed (take a look at The Content Marketing Playbook for content ideas), how often to distribute content etc. An editorial calendar may be as simple or as sophisticated as you want it to be depending on the needs of the organization. The idea is simply to plan ahead of time so as to make the content creation process easier and more successful.

Survey your audience

Send surveys regularly to find out what kind of content your audience would like to receive. Even with an established content purpose and a clear message, it is a good idea to touch base with your audience once in a while. A survey helps to get their feedback and give them an opportunity to tell you what other content they would like to receive. It also helps your audience to feel like they’re part of the content creation process. In that case, they’re more likely to have a personal connection with your content.

Measure, measure and then measure again

Measuring the performance of your content helps you to figure out if you’re moving in the right direction. “How do you measure content,” you might ask. Well, it really depends on the goals that you set out in the first place. If your goal is to generate conversation, then you will measure performance by tracking comments, shares, re-tweets and brand mentions. If your goal is to drive traffic to your website, then you will measure performance by tracking the number of new visitors that come to your website through your content.

Test, experiment, adjust and improve

Content responsiveness can be dynamic today and volatile tomorrow. Your audience’s needs may also change over time. For that reason, it’s a good idea to diversify your content mix in order to keep your audience enthused and attached to your message. Every six months, try to experiment with something new, such as video, podcast, webinar etc. If it works, then you may successfully incorporate it into your content mix. If it doesn’t work, throw it out and try something else. The important thing is to be curious and to try new things that demonstrate a ‘fresh’ and interesting side to your brand.

As you can see from these suggestions, five out of eight have to do with planning and preparing for content. The key take-away message is that planning is the most important part of the content process. Carefully planned content not only achieves the objectives for which it was created, but also helps to prevent problems that could potentially ruin the perception of your brand.

Your turn.

What other methods have you used successfully to avert a content catastrophe?