When I was a kid, cable television networks weren’t the homogenized mush that they are today, differentiated only by the logo in the corner of the screen and not their programming.
The Learning Channel, now known as TLC, showed surgeries in the morning. Actual see-inside-the-body surgery over breakfast. Disgusting, perhaps, but definitely educational. The only housewives on Bravo were in the audience of the stage productions that were featured heavily in their programming. Almost everything on The History Channel was in black and white.
Not every channel was great, but they weren’t trying to appeal to me. They were what they were, and that was unique. They had a perspective, a viewpoint, and all of their programming was an extension of that.
Not every cable television channel has abandoned its unique viewpoint, though. Take the Food Network, for example.
When I first began watching Food Network, it was strictly daytime viewing. I was working in newspapers. I was on a night shift. Since there was little else on television during the day that appealed to me, I watched the cooking shows that Food Network aired. This was back when today’s celebrity chefs were still getting their TV feet under them. Production values were low. But the network had a distinct viewpoint that was built around cooking. All the shows, for the most part, were instructional.
If you watch Food Network now, some things have obviously changed. There are a lot more shows that are either some sort of competition or restaurant profiles. You can still find the instructional programming, but it’s mostly confined to weekend mornings. They have altered the programming to reflect the growing foodie culture. I would argue, though, that they haven’t altered the network’s editorial viewpoint, and that is: Food is Life.
Early on, the team at Food Network took that viewpoint, married it with the food culture in the United States and came up with programming to reflect that—how to make great food for yourself. As the food culture has shifted away from making great food to eating great food—often made by someone else—the programming has changed. It’s less instructional and more experiential. The viewpoint, however, is the same.
I bring up editorial viewpoints because they aren’t just great for television networks. They are good for anyone trying to create regular content. Have a brand publication? You need an editorial viewpoint. Creating a video series? You need an editorial viewpoint. Have a blog? You need an editorial viewpoint.
It’s the viewpoint that’s going to shape your content, and, ultimately, make the job of deciding what you create much easier.
When you can write anything because everything is on the table, it’s much harder to know where to start. A viewpoint helps by giving you limits. With a defined editorial viewpoint, you can start lasering in on topics and themes.
How do you develop an editorial viewpoint?
Creating an editorial viewpoint isn’t necessarily difficult, but it does require you to know a little bit about who you are trying to reach. Here are four things you need to know before you can create an editorial viewpoint.
You have to know who your audience is.
Easy, right? It’s anyone who wants your product or service. Wrong. You can’t write or produce any kind of content for an audience that broad. If you do, you’ll write things that are so watered down they won’t be worth reading. It definitely won’t be content that brings people back to your site for more. So, define your audience. Give them a personality. Develop a profile.
What industries do they work in? At what level are they at in their organizations? Are they decision makers? How familiar are they with your products and its value propositions? If you have a technology product or service, does this audience already have an understanding of what the product or service is or does?
You have to know the kind of content your audience prefers.
You also need to know how your audience prefers to consume information. Take that last blog you wrote. It’s eloquent. It’s SEO rich. It’s more than informative. But if your audience prefers video, or infographics, or ebooks, then that blog post will barely be seen. It’ll be wasted effort. So, don’t go to the trouble to create an editorial viewpoint and then create the kind of content that’s opposite of what your audience wants to consume. An editorial viewpoint should influence every kind of content you create, so make sure you’re creating content that will get seen.
You know their preferred content method by making it part of your buyer research. It’s a good idea to vary content types anyway, just to cover your bases. But knowing your audience’s preference means you are more likely to connect and your content gets consumed, and that’s the goal.
You have to know what you want to say.
There are two R words often used to describe content. Relevant and resonant. Your content can’t just be relevant. It has to resonate.
Here’s the difference, referring back to Food Network. Content about food is relevant to everyone. We all need food to live. But content about food will resonate with those of us who are passionate about food. Keeping in mind that if you are a health nut, then food content that’s all about decadence and indulgence will likely fall flat. And someone who considers themselves a foodie is probably not going to go in for something about superfoods.
You need to identify topics and information that are going to resonate with your specific audience. Content that resonates with them on a basic level is going to keep them coming back to your blog. You are going to provide them value. You’ll become a destination for them, and an authority. All of that leads to you being top of mind the next time they have a problem that you can solve.
You have to have the expertise to say it.
Thought leadership is a tricky thing. Mainly that it requires some original thought. Original thought requires expertise. So, when you are developing your editorial viewpoint, consider topics on which you can be the expert. Get specific. Being an expert on networking is fine. Being an expert on hybrid networking is better. Being an expert on business process outsourcing is fine. Being an expert on accounts payables is better.
So, spend some time identifying your subject matter experts. Find the places where they have both an expertise and a passion, then use these to help shape your editorial viewpoint.
So, do you want to be Food Network, where your content reflects the interests of the audience that craves it—or one of those other bland, me-too channels that appeals to no one in particular? You want your content to keep your audience hungry. Identifying your editorial viewpoint is just the first step in creating content, but it’s critical. Once you have it identified, you’ll have the foundation you need to create an entire content program.