In an age of AI and tech for everything - don't forget the human touch.

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My mission at the end of 2020 was to consider how I can automate more of our HR processes in order to work in a more efficient and effective way.

As you’d expect in a business like ours, my mind jumped to deciding which tech could be used to take some of the grind away from, not just my role - but from everyone?

I’ve actively been looking at new performance and appraisal systems, fresh ways of processing 360 feedback, emerging platforms to run our benefits and innovative ways of measuring my teams KPIs and performance metrics. On top of this, I’ve been looking at lots of engagement platforms that turbocharge internal comms and keep everyone in the loop whilst we are all working remotely.

I have listened to what feels like a thousand sales pitches, with the promise of transformational technology that can provide me with all the data I could possibly need - and all with the promise of delivering a happier, more productive team with baked-in performance improvement strategies that even highlight areas for personal development and improve the acquisition and retention of talent.

Obviously, this alchemy comes at a price and quite often a high one!

As an agency, we have weathered the COVID storm in 2020 by cutting back, giving up offices, making some redundancies and asking the whole team to take a 6-month pay cut. We weren’t in a position to invest in new systems and given the timing it was far more respectful to use what little spare budget we had to do the little things that make people’s lives easier. The preference was that no matter how small, it had to be a tangible benefit that demonstrated our appreciation of all the hard work and additional hours the teams put in over the last 12 months.

We started considering what was really important to people? What had really made a difference and what could we do more of?

We use the Employee Voice system (a bit like internal NPS scoring) to collect anonymous feedback from employees about how they are feeling and giving them a platform to make suggestions about how the business can support. Acting on this insight has proved one of the most important tools during an ongoing scenario of continuous remote working and lockdowns. We’ve improved engagement and demonstrated support in the ways that staff need, as opposed to our own ideas. Simple things like sending out post-it pads, buying heaters so people can work in spare rooms without heating the whole house and introducing virtual social events.

We listen hard and we act fast. The speed of execution can fuel random acts of kindness, but it’s simply that we are truly listening and above all else, we care. Spreading a little joy in difficult times is a really powerful thing for the team. We also paid for better home setups for people including buying office chairs and desks so that our people didn’t have to work at their dining room tables. We were realistic about the mix of family circumstances at home and started welcoming children on zoom calls. It’s important to make team members feel relaxed so they don’t get too worried about the background noise of home-schooled kids killing each other.

Early on we insisted on a “cameras on” for all zoom calls policy and encouraged diverse virtual backgrounds! But most importantly we tried to foster human relationships at all times. In the digital sector, working remotely is not unusual, and for many who were together before the pandemic, we already felt that we were “in it together” and building on existing relationships. But for new people who joined our teams during lockdown, they had never met any of us and never been to our offices so extra effort is required to accelerate those early conversations.

This human touch and the interaction you have (virtually) face to face is so important. In trying to recreate the “water cooler” moments that people said they were missing, we arranged short social zoom group Q & A sessions, just to get to know our new employee’s and introduce them to colleagues in a less formal way. These have worked fantastically. Learning about people outside the office context.

Everyone must keep front of mind that we haven’t all suddenly decided to start working at home through choice. We are now “At home, during a pandemic, trying to work” and that mustn’t be framed as normal as that undermines the strain.

For many brands out there the biggest lesson they’ve learned is that they need to be more digitally enabled. For us, it's been the opposite. In essence, What we learnt throughout 2020 is that it is not all about the tech. Make no mistake, we are leveraging digital tools and services and AI and data has its place, but nothing replaces the human touch.

Listening and reacting to an individual's needs will always have the biggest impact. That’s the essence of personalisation. We should all use tech to stay human.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
Claire Battle Thumbnail
Claire Battle
Head of Talent
Claire is the agency's Head of Talent and is responsible for employee recruitment. Claire has a long history of working in recruitment and IT and enjoys working in a dynamic agency environment!
Claire Battle Thumbnail

Claire Battle

14 Jan 2021 - 10 minute read
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