Using content analysis to understand your company’s conversations
When I do content audits for companies, I frequently come across the same issue again and again – inconsistent communication approaches. Now, you may have content in your corporate libraries or materials that have different degrees of branding and that’s totally fine. In fact, I’d recommend you have that. Not all content, interactions, or conversations that a company produces should be heavily branded and messaged. In fact, companies often incorporate third-party materials to communicate their messages for them, so they balance what they say about themselves with what others say about them. But at the same time, you need to know what being branded means for your company.
And content analysis can do that. We can use a scoring approach that is similar to the accountability approach to equalize content as much as possible so we can more easily identify what is working or not working. However, this analysis is different in that here we are analyzing what is being communicated and how that is done rather than if a company is delivering on its promise. And that is consistent with my favorite way to describe branding: it’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.
Great branding doesn’t involve only using the right logos and colors; it accurately communicates who the company is and what it does through its conversations and interactions. And this content analysis approach may be able to help you determine if you are succeeding doing that in your customer conversations.
There are 6 parts to this type of analysis:
Visibility: To start, classify where this piece lives in your customer relationship lifecycle and its tier.
Author and audience: for the purposes of this analysis, we will assume it is the company; if the author is someone or something else note that.
Purpose and Type of Conversation: Classify which type of conservation it is from the 4 categories
Content and Conversation Topics: what you are saying in your conversation? Or scoring conversation topics.
What It Means to Be On-Brand in Your Conversations: or how you are saying your conversation or scoring the conversation brand
How do these conversations map to the bottom line? Gather the results for the different types of content for comparison to better understand how they contribute to the conversation. This exercise can help you see how your company’s conversations are contributing to the bottom line.
What do I mean by visibility?
Where does your audience find your content in the customer relationship lifecycle? As we know, there are 4 steps:
Prepurchase or the joy of discovery
Purchase or the key transaction step of a journey
Product experience or where expectations are met
Post-purchase or where loyalty and community is built
You can learn more about these steps in the associated videos in the course area. When you determine where your content, conversations and interactions occur in this lifecycle, you may notice that some content will appear in more than one step and that’s okay. Also note that you will be communicating your brand in a slightly different way in each step, most likely communicating some values more strongly than others along the way. And this is okay too. In fact, it is necessary. We are going to explore this in one of the other analyses. All we are doing in this analysis is indicating where the content is visible.
You may also want to note which tier of the customer relationship lifecycle this conversation appears. Is this a conversation for a first-tier relationship to sell a main product? Or is it a conversation related to a VIP program, a replacement or repair, or resale, or other type of deeper customer connection? That’s also key to understand and note for later analysis.
Author and audience
For this part of the analysis, the author will typically be the company, or an employee and the audience can be anyone in a stakeholder group, from partners to customers and prospects and more. The audience could even include members of your supply chain.
Your company may have content authors who are not employees. This could include influencers or hired consultants who complete a study that supports different company initiatives. However, these types of authors and their work impact the brand. This is why it should be noted who the author is and the target audience. And the author may not always be an employee but the company, or rather it is the work of an employee or contractor written or spoken as the company. And that’s okay too. We just need to record and track it for our analysis so we can more easily compare and contrast content in an apples-to-apples comparison so we can better understand what is effective or rather what does and does not communicate the brand.
Purpose and Type of Conversation
There are four types of conversations:
Automated experiences or experiences that are typically found online in websites or apps, but they could be found in a kiosk, or in a print, video, web, or audio ad. Readers or viewers typically enjoy these experiences alone on their own time.
Automated conversations or self-guided conversations, which are great for people not quite ready to have a conversation with your company even though they are looking for specific information.
In-person conversations. They are deliciously messy, and that’s why they are so effective. Conversations naturally allow space for people to express emotions and immediately respond to someone’s thoughts and intentions.
In-person experiences or the best way your company can build customer relationships. Customers need to have shared experiences with employees in your company.
These conversations are detailed in various course and training videos. But for the purposes of this analysis, we are only indicating the type of conversation the content or interaction represents. This identification will provide insight into the purpose of the conversation and the anticipated outcome and results. It’s a good way to label chatbot scripts, call scripts, supporting materials like presentation decks, and websites and collateral. Those are conversation pieces and their performance should be evaluated as well for brand compliance.
Content and Conversation Topics
We can score content and conversation topics. Your conversation topics should map to the problem your company solves, the customer jobs to be done, a company’s brand promise, and its brand values. The topic of your conversations with various stakeholders matters more than you think.
There needs to be a flow of topics, almost like a mind map, guiding a prospect or customer through various ideas to better understand the thinking that a company has behind its solution. It helps a prospect, customer, and even other stakeholders to understand why a company decided to create a product and how the company views its contribution to the world. It provides meaning and a larger vision or goal for someone in the company’s community to be part of that is bigger than themselves alone. This human need drives us to be more, to do more, and see how your product makes them part of something they can’t do alone. And this ranges from solving their immediate problem to solving larger world problems like disease, hunger, or even human trafficking.
This is why a topic that may be distantly related to your brand, company, and product could be confusing to your readers. If your company is making a statement or claim that is unexpected, then it may be perceived as off-brand for your organization. A branded conversation and experience helps people understand what to expect from your organization. And when your company deviates from that, it can be confusing for your stakeholders. It’s like when you interact with someone who gets a style makeover that may not suit his or her personality. The look may clash or feel not harmonious. That’s what’s happening here regarding conversation topics. There may be topics that conflict or aren’t harmonious with your company’s brand.
Determining the right topics for your brand is a pre-step to this part of the analysis, where you can consider how different types of conversation topics apply to the customer jobs to be done, or the problem your company solves, and relate to your company’s brand values. Sure, there are topics that are more current and newsworthy, but there are also some topics that are strongly aligned with your brand and more closely map to your company. You could make a list of your company’s values, the product values, and product benefit and map topics to them, scoring each with a point. The topics with the most points are the most relevant to use.
Let’s consider how this could work in a real-world example. Let’s say your company is developing an AI framework for the healthcare industry. It is safe to say that your company should host discussions about AI and its impacts on health care, physicians, surgeons, patients, administration, hospitals and physician practices – even health insurance. However, there may be a hot conversation that’s happening about AI’s and social media. It may even be distantly health care related. But that may be a conversation that your company avoids not only because it could be too controversial, but it simply is something your company doesn’t address. Customers and prospects could be confused by an AI healthcare company suddenly entering a conversation about social media. It most likely will score low on your content analysis of topics because it doesn’t apply to what the product does or support the values of the company. It is in an area that the company doesn’t address. By addressing topics that your company can’t claim expertise in you confuse stakeholders and muddle your brand. This is why it’s smart to score your topics so you can explore new ideas and have a more objective way to determine if an area is okay for you to discuss.
A few considerations you may want to make during this part of the analysis:
As we just discussed, make sure that the topics you support are aligned with the problem that your company solves.
Map these topics to your company’s brand values to make sure they complement it and build upon it.
Determine which topics and conversations are currently most popularthat you can leverage to build awareness versus which topics will help you build product knowledge with your stakeholders. Which offline conversations build better relationships today? Try to have more of those.
Don’t be shy about including topics like company announcements. They are important too! Just be mindful of how you communicate it using your brand values.
Popular topics can be discovered through social media and hashtags. Feel free to use these to help build awareness of your organization but be mindful to communicate your ideas leveraging your brand values. Don’t news jack just for the traffic and attention. People will eventually see what your company is doing and stop following their clickbait. Make your conversations meaningful to attract real customers who want to solve a problem.
What It Means to Be On-Brand in Your Conversations
Analyze if your content and conversations are on brand in how you talk about them, which includes considering the tone, style, word choice, and format, including look and feel, of the conversation. To do this, you’ll need to complete a similar exercise as you did for scoring reviews by determining how you talk about a brand using values.
But there are some pre-activities you may want to consider doing before you get started.
One exercise outlined in the brand workbook helps you determine if commonly used company phrases are on brand or not. And you could include in your analysis if these phrases improve performance – or hinder it. Start by identifying and reviewing commonly used words and phrases your company uses in its communications and conversations.
Do these words and phrases express your company’s and brand values today?
How do you use these phrases?
Is there an observable trend that when you are using these words in conversations that you see a lift or impact?
Do you see a relationship between using these phrases and results of a better customer relationship or revenue? Do pieces that include them perform better or worse?
Based on this could such an analysis provide insights into your larger brand analysis for your communications to further define your brand communication’s effectiveness?
Again, list the phrases and score them with a point to determine if they support the brand or the relationship.
Another pre-analysis step could be that you compare the problem your product solves to the customer’s job to be done and determine if these two elements are consistent. There may be a gap here. During this pre-analysis step, you could also consider:
How customers feel today by having this problem?
How customers feel without this problem when they are using your product or service?
How does this experience maps to your brand values?
You’ll also want to determine what it means to be visually on brand. You should validate more than if a piece is using the right logo, colors, and fonts. Here are some characteristics of an organization’s visual brand expression to use:
Clean, clear lines vs a more organic approach
Dominant use of blank space or white space versus a color
Color use as main or accent colors
Images or illustrations or both
A consistent photo or illustration style
There are more considerations to add, based on your brand’s visual identity that a designer could provide, but this can get you started. You can use the point scoring method described earlier to determine if pieces that use these design elements perform better or worse, or if the content seems to have more impact on results.
Additionally, you may also want to do a preliminary analysis of how these values, phrases, and graphic elements translate into emotions. This analysis can help you determine if your content provokes emotional expressions to get to a deeper engagement with your audience. One way to think about it is to ask these questions about each brand value:
How do you communicate this value in your materials?
How does this value relate to the problem you solve and customer jobs to be done?
What emotions do you expect or anticipate your customers to feel when they experience this expression? (There may be multiple here to consider)
How do you want them to envision the experience of working with your company emotionally to support this value?
After consideration of these questions, you’ll want to get feedback from customers and stakeholders to determine exactly how they feel about your brand and its reputation—and how they would answer such questions. You could do surveys and focus groups to get this information or make some generalizations yourself as a first pass. Remember to always follow-up any work you do about customer assumptions with direct research that includes them to validate those thoughts. Such a study is super valuable. Understanding stakeholder perception of your brand may help you make adjustments, if necessary, to it for improved communication and to build better customer relationships.
With all of this in mind, how could you approach a content analysis for brand? First, list the company’s values and product values and benefits as you did for accountability. Then list the brand elements to validate. This will include brand values, brand positioning, brand promise, brand image and brand personality. We could also leverage the pre-activity for commonly used company phrases that directly map to the brand, depending on the level of detail you want to address in the analysis and if you know that pieces with these phrases have improved performance.
Score each piece of content to those elements. Each item that the content supports gets a point. This will give you an idea of how your content appears to stakeholders as being consistent or not. However, a key component is missing from the analysis so far: how the content is received today and if it achieves its goals. That’s key to determine if the brand is effective or if something needs to change in the conversation to form a better customer relationship.
Engagement and Loyalty
Engagement can be defined as interactions with a customer through conversations that can include reading content, having conversations with employees, or experiencing a product or a digital tool. It could include views, clicks, comments, likes, shares – some type of conversation around it. This includes live conversations like emails and phone calls.
Loyalty is developed by customers having these conversations, or engagement experiences, over time. People are loyal when they come to you for answers to their problems. Metrics that support loyalty can include repeat visits, following on social media, sharing, returned calls or repeat calls – anything that indicates repeat engagement.
These are all indicators of a great customer-company relationship. And there will be a future video about loyalty and engagement and how to measure them beyond repeat sales or referrals, which are indeed loyalty indicators but tied to revenue. And as we know, revenue isn’t the only indicator of business success. We often forget that increased engagement and loyalty to build a customer relationship will also increase revenue.
For the content you have gathered, map selected metrics for engagement and loyalty to each to get a better idea of their performance. We’ll use this in the analysis.
First, try to make equivalent comparisons wherever possible. Compare content that has similar topics, lifecycle steps, and content types. Review how closely content follows the brand practices – topic and look/feel. Compare all of those elements with content performance and results. Determine which qualities are in the pieces that are getting the results you want. What about them is working for you? Why are they more successful than other pieces that aren’t working so well? See if you notice a pattern – you probably will.
As an example, look at the results of individual pieces and how they are performing across a lifecycle step to gain insights into the messages and designs that resonate with your audiences. Consider the relationship between single pieces and the entire journey of a customer and how this is part of a larger conversation. Also consider if there is a relationship between the pieces, a story so you can see a path from start to finish. You may observe trends such as people skipping around steps or enter in the middle of a lifecycle step. And this is okay. Understanding this may help you refine your journey and select more appropriate brand topics to better meet your customers where they are.
You can also look at content using the perspective of type in a lifecycle step. Which aspects of phone scripts are more effective? Or brochures and white papers? What are their topics? What is their branding like? Which do customers like more?
After you look at the pieces from the perspective of the larger and smaller points of view, you can start to gain some insights. Here are some general observations and trends that come to mind right away.
If the content or conversations analyzed score low for branding, both style and content topics, but high for engagement there may be two situations happening: either you need to revisit your brand communications because what you are communicating as the brand and/or what you are using as your analyzing criteria isn’t reflective of your organization’s true brand. Or what you are doing as-is is already highly effective and you need to more strongly communicate your brand to make it more effective. Before making a final call, determine the brand values of what you are communicating. Is your content lightly branded or is it communicating the wrong brand? You may be communicating a brand for a different organization, confusing your readers, viewers, or customers in conversations with your company. That additional analysis may confirm the true situation and help you determine direction is best to take.
If the branded content scores are high and engagement is low, but you are making okay revenue, you may not be communicating your brand properly to the right audience. Either you aren’t speaking to the right target market and you need to revisit your communication plans and approaches, or you need to revisit your brand communications in general or something else. In a case like this, something is missing because your customers aren’t falling in love with your company and brand. You’ll need to take a step back and re-evaluate what you are communicating, how you are doing it, who you are talking to and how can you build a better relationship with them. What is missing emotionally in your communications? Focus on that.
Analyzing Data Using the Customer Lifecycle
Let’s get more specific by analyzing and reviewing each lifecycle step results, insights and implications
For awareness content pieces, you could use number of views as an indicator of success. It’s not very instructive, because a view doesn’t mean someone read it or took action, but it can indicate how many people access that content, which is a type of engagement. Time spent on page is a better indicator of engagement, but still not a reliable indicator of someone truly reading something. Page scroll is a better indicator to determine if someone read the entire page, or at least skimmed it.
Alternatively, if you can determine if a reader or viewer engaging in a second conversation or a second piece of content, that would be a highly effective measurement of successful engagement. If you have a way to track the order in which people access content, that’s even better to determine how people hear the story you have to tell – and better understand which messages keep them coming back. This would allow you to investigate if the order of messages received makes a difference in engagement, loyalty, or the structure and nature of the relationship.
If there is a noticeable flow of readers going from one content piece to the next or contacting the company throughout the process, rather than a funnel where fewer read pieces or connect with the company as time goes on in the sales process, then you are doing a great job of engaging a reader’s awareness and to become an influencer.
For purchase, you can use metrics like the number of leads, purchases or conversations that occur to understand customer engagement or loyalty. You could also consider as a success metric the views for different pieces of content that lead up to this step. Many may use such metrics today to indicate a successful brand, especially leads and purchases, because they directly map to revenue. This brand content analysis offers an opportunity to consider different measurements of success that may be more closely be related to relationship building, which include the number of customer conversations or engagements (depending on the topics, more conversations would mean increased engagement and potentially loyalty). You could also consider using awareness metrics in this step as well, like what topics or content customer read and how often they read it. Either way, the more engaged a customer is during this step, from a brand perspective, the content of the conversations would be supporting the brand.
For a product you could use a metric like repeat usage or product engagement. Another metric could be similar to what you find in awareness – how people continue to stay engaged with the brand and return to use the product or connect with it and the company digitally and through offline interactions. This information may help you develop a profile for the types of users who use your product so you can better target them during awareness and purchase, refine your conversation topics and approaches to improve engagement with them.
For post-purchase, you could consider the types of conversation you have with customers and if they continue the relationship. The number of customers who exit is a great indicator of a challenging company experience. The goal should be customer retention. That’s a key metric for building great customer relationships. Alternatively, you could consider the number of touchpoints and interactions that each conversation contributes. And that is a measure of engagement and loyalty. Do customers go to your company first to solve problems—online or through the phone or email? Who do they reach out to when they need help?
Content to Include in the Analysis
Types of content that you shouldn’t forget to include in this inventory and analysis:
Call scripts: Although there is a call to action or result to measure during each call for engagement or loyalty, you may want to determine if the language used in the original script is properly reflecting the brand. You may also want to get a sample of transcripts of recorded calls using this script to see how the script translates into real-life calls and if core brand elements continue to be captured. At times, a call center employee may sacrifice brand for effectiveness and improved customer service. Through content analysis, you could discover how you can better integrate the two without excluding the customer, creating a better experience.
Each page of your website: The conversations on your website usually span across the customer relationship lifecycle and include a broad range of topics. But the challenge of a website is that each page tells a different story, introducing a different aspect of your brand’s conversation. That means you need to score each page to determine if it maps to your brand standard. A cumulative score averaged for the number of pages in the site will contribute to how the website overall communicates the brand, but each page really is a stand-alone element of the brand and needs to be measured as such.
Sales presentations: Analyzing these materials will help build conversations between sales and marketing to keep the brand fresh and alive. Sales often will modify a templated presentation to have a more effective conversation with a prospective customer. However, those insights often don’t make it back to marketing. They are reused and shared in a sales organization, which is great! But they need to make it back to marketing so that team can incorporate those messages into other materials they are making to spark those same conversations and improve customer relationships and results. This brand content analysis can help facilitate that.
Brochures and white papers: Analyzing these for the brand helps you understand how you are constructing your more formal conversations. Are there some values you think you communicate well although you have received feedback that you could do better? This provides a more objective review of your material to determine if you are as on-brand in your materials that you think you are.
Event presence: It’s always a great time to analyze if your events are on brand. There are many elements to review and evaluate for an event experience – from booth design to booth worker attire to demo scripts to speeches and talks to giveaways to the software experience. A logo on a shirt doesn’t mean it is branded, and consistent attire among everyone working at a booth doesn’t make your team look like they are part of your company. Branding is about the spirit being communicated through conversations, attire, the environment, and the software, or the booth experience. By evaluating the elements of an event booth, you can better understand what is working and what isn’t to communicate your brand.
Social media posts: Like the pages of your website, each social media post is a stand-alone item and needs to be individually analyzed as well as analyzed as part of a collective for each social media platform. These smaller messages and conversations can have amazing impact on your stakeholders and can be measured by loyalty and engagement metrics through the comments, shares, and conversations generated from a post.
Email communication: Analyze this as well to determine how your company is communicating to its audiences. We often devalue newsletters, but they are great ways to communicate with any audience. A welcome email is highly effective. The challenge with email is to make sure that the reader welcomes it. Sadly, some companies over communicate with their customer through email and they become a spam statistic, or someone unsubscribes. This brand analysis could help improve how you communicate using this medium.
Why is SEO content hard to measure for brand consistency? SEO content is created for people to find you. If they aren’t familiar with your brand, you need to use words and terms that may not 100% correlate with your brand values because you need to use the words that your audience use today to find you. They will search using their words; not yours. However, what you can discover from reviewing your SEO search terms is how people find you and what they think about your company and product before they meet your company or product. You could compare that with your brand values to see if you need to change their perception about your product or if it is aligned.
This type of analysis can provide insight into where customer conversations and communications may not be accurately communicating your brand. If you are able to have a more objective perspective of what your brand represents and how it works, it may help you better understand what you are saying and how you are saying it in conversations to build relationships. You may not be communicating your brand as well as you could, or you may even be communicating a different brand that doesn’t adequately complement the product or service your company sells. You may be creating a confusing experience for customers that will result in an inadequate customer relationship. This analysis will help you identify how you can improve your communications, their consistency, and expressions which will result in a better customer relationship with increased engagement and loyalty which will ultimately improve revenue.
If you’d like more information or help to do this in your organization, let me know. I can help set this up for you so you can more objectively understand how you are communicating in your conversations to customers and prospects.
I hope this was helpful. Thanks so much and have a great day!
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