“Channels” — what are they?
You may have heard marketers talk about their “channels” and wondered what that meant. In a time when “every brand is a publisher,” channels are pretty important for everyone, not just marketers.
A publication channel is a platform that brands use to put content into the world. For example, WillowTree publishes our content on several channels, including:
- our Twitter feed
- our website
- display advertising, and more
For each channel, someone at WillowTree has to plan content, create it, get it approved, publish the content, and then maintain it. For example, that includes archiving old ads or web pages that no longer contain relevant information for our users.
Why channels matter
So how does this apply to you? I can think of two scenarios where understanding your channels would be especially relevant:
- Perhaps your organization has accumulated so many channels that you’ve completely lost track of how many you have. If that’s you, be encouraged—it happens more often than you might expect! The problem is that if you’ve lost track of your channels, you can’t tell whether the content that you’ve put into the world is helping or hurting your brand. Yes, outdated information can erode users’ trust in your brand or worse, expose you to legal liability.
- Alternatively, your organization may just be getting started launching a brand, and you aren’t yet sure which channels you’ll use (including sites, apps, social media, ads, etc.). This makes it difficult for you to hire the right number of people, or plan for the data you’ll want to collect from each channel. (The data you decide to collect will help you make decisions about your business in the future.)
These are big problems, but they are solvable.
How to map your publication channels
We have a couple of tools we use to help clients wrangle their channels; feel free to adapt them to your organization.
Tool 1: The Content Landscape
You can lead your stakeholders in a workshop that helps map your channels, so you know what content you have. A sample Content Landscape spreadsheet (see the full document)
The output of this workshop is simply a spreadsheet that identifies each channel’s location, owner, data to be collected, and other useful information. It’s not pretty, but it’s a good start at helping you assess and improve the effectiveness of your content.
Tool 2: The Content Ecosystem Diagram
For some organizations, it might be helpful to go a step further and visualize the landscape to show how the channels feed into each other. Notice that you can also categorize each channel by its intended place in the user journey (see the user journey stages at the top of the diagram): A sample Content Ecosystem Diagram
These tools help by:
- Clarifying who your team might need to collaborate with when creating content. (“The social media team is already doing this—let’s repurpose their content!”)
- Surfacing content channels that some people on your team might not yet be aware of. (“I had no idea we already had a YouTube channel!”)
- Helping you keep content useful and up-to-date. You can’t maintain what you don’t know about!
- Bonus: These activities can also inform your Analytics strategy. Once you understand your content channels, you can figure out what you want to measure. You can proceed to define Key Performance Indicators for each channel, like app opens, time per session, conversions, and more.
Getting an accurate view of all your publication channels takes time and energy. But if you start with the right tools and input from your stakeholders, you’ll uncover lots of useful information.
Have your own methods for keeping track of your publication channels? Leave us a comment below. Want to talk to us about running a workshop with your team? Contact us.