Recently, I was chatting with the partner of a boutique financial services firm who was looking for some advice on brand storytelling. He shared how the firm got its start by serving a specific type of high net worth client with a very specific type of investment strategy. The business was growing, and through referrals, it had expanded its offering to a much broader roster of clients — from high net worth individuals to (in his words) “the little old ladies” who wanted a more conservative investment plan. But the high net worth investment strategies were still the firm’s area of specialty.

His firm believed in content marketing as a way of establishing credibility (good!), and he had hired a journalist with experience writing for financial publications (great!). But despite the investment they had made, he felt his brand story wasn’t being clearly communicated.

Although they were well written, the articles his firm was producing were simply too generic — they focused on the financial planning fundamentals that every firm shares. (In fact, the CEO found them boring.) Because they lacked insight, the content felt re-purposed, like they could have been written by anyone.

That was because they were being written for everyone. Instead of offering content that was focused on his area of specialty, it was written to appeal to his growing mass audience — which is the same audience that every other firm is trying to reach. Sure, SEO research had indicated this type of content was popular, but his content was being lost in that clutter.

If your message is for everybody, it’s for nobody. That’s the trick to good content — in fact, that’s the trick to effective marketing, period.

So how do you focus your content? The easiest way to start is to remind yourself what every editor knows: that everything you write should focus on a specific audience. And there can only be one.

Then ask yourself:

  • What do they need?
  • How will the content you publish help them?
  • What unique value proposition or perspective can you offer them? What is your expertise?

Once you identify your audience, you can devise a content strategy that addresses their specific needs and ultimately write content that highlights your unique perspective on those needs. Then it’s about being ruthless and scrutinizing every article to ensure it links back to your expertise. (This is where an editor is critical for ensuring your content stays on strategy.)

According to the Content Marketing Institute, most organizations don’t develop an editorial statement (also known as a content marketing mission statement). And that’s where they fail. Because not only does your editorial statement define your focus, it helps filter what topics aren’t going to work. Got a suggestion for a topic from your CEO that doesn’t align with the idea? Then you can easily say no.

An editorial statement contains three parts:

  • Your core target audience
  • Your expertise
  • How your audience is going to benefit from your expertise

Now, some businesses aren’t comfortable staying zeroed in on a specific audience or niche (although the brand strategists on our team do think that’s a wise idea). But remember, your editorial strategy isn’t the same as your brand value proposition — although it’s always more powerful if the two are aligned. Instead, your editorial strategy is about identifying a particular area of expertise your brand is focused on and that will engage your audience. Your editorial statement can even evolve as your audience evolves.

If, like our financial services friend, you’ve already embarked on a content marketing program that is spread across multiple audiences, or isn’t specific enough, that doesn’t mean your efforts have been wasted. All you have to do is adjust the strategy based on the answers to the focus questions above. You can even go back and edit existing content with a more focused lens. (Spoiler alert: we can help!)