Agile User Stories for Content Creation

One of the most common issues that crops up during content creation is starting to write content that's interesting, but not helpful. Content marketers aren't supposed to be adding to the sheer volume of stuff out on the internet.

We're tasked with actually helping people who read our content do something, learn something, and/or avoid something.

That can get tricky, but there's a simple agile tool out there that can keep us on track.

By employing agile user stories in your content marketing strategy, you’ll be able to produce content that’s precisely targeted at members of your audience and their needs.

Agile user stories were first used as part of agile software development; they were designed to help those writing code make sure that everything they were creating was something that a real user would actually have a use for, not just something that they thought was cool.

When we meld this idea with content marketing it becomes an extremely effective way of ensuring that all of the content that we create is actually providing our readers a benefit/fulfilling a need.

What is a User Story?

The general format for a user story is:

As a __________, I would like ________ so I can _________.

At MarketerGizmo every piece of content that we produce is required to have a user story attached to it. Ours are structured like this:

As a marketer (we often get more specific and add the type of marketer, e.g. content marketer, social media marketer, etc.), I would like to read an article about _______ so I can _______.

By mandating that our content creators incorporate user stories into their work we make sure that each piece will meet a need felt by our core group of readers: marketers.

User Stories Force the Focus onto Your Audience

It’s easy for content marketers to fall back on straightforward essay-type content, particularly during the most intense period of content creation. These pieces don’t usually require too much research and read like something you might submit for a marketing class in college.

The problem is that most people don’t care about college essays.

User stories prevent us from straying into this tempting zone by forcing us to consider what benefit our target audience could get out of reading an article.

For example, before we started requiring a user story for all of our articles I had an idea for a piece on hyperlocal marketing compared to global marketing.

As an academic exercise, it was kind of interesting to compare and contrast the two strategies, but after it was about halfway done I sat back and asked myself, “So what?”. Even without the demands of a user story I could tell nobody was going to improve their marketing output after reading that article.

If I had written a user story first, however, it would have done two important things:

  1. Helped me realize right away that there weren’t any good take aways or action items from my articles.
  2. Created a more focused approach to the topic that would have saved me a couple of hours of fruitless writing.

The user story is:

As a marketer, I would like to read an article about global marketing successes so I can apply them to my own local marketing campaigns.

Agile user stories (if you write them first, as you should) essentially demand that all of your content squarely addresses your reader’s needs.

Setting up a Content Marketing Strategy Using Agile User Stories

One of the great things about user stories is that you can deploy them not only for individual content pieces but as part of your overall content strategy. By doing so you’ll be able to create an overarching content marketing strategy that is designed to reach and help your audience.

Writing a user story for your strategy will work a lot like creating one for an article, it will just be more broadly applicable.

Let’s say you’re coming up with a strategy for a B2C content marketing campaign designed to help stay at home moms get into shape. This hypothetical campaign would be in support of a new workout system of some kind.

The user story might read something like this:

As a stay at home mom, I would like to learn more about how to add fitness activities into my day so I can get in shape without detracting from the quality of time with my kids.

With this user story as the guiding force for your content, you can then make sure everything you’re producing contributes to meeting this high level need (incorporating fitness activities) of your target audience (stay at home moms).

You might then create a user story for an infographic like this:

As a stay at home mom, I would like to see an illustration of different exercises that I can do while cooking so I can squeeze in fitness while preparing meals.

Notice that the audience is the same, but the “I would like” and “so I can” sections have been adjusted to reflect the more specific purpose of the unique piece of content, but it still fits into the bigger user story that is guiding our overall content marketing strategy.

User Stories Require Practice, But Payoff Quickly

As anybody who has joined our content creation team at MarketerGizmo will tell you, getting into the practice of writing user stories takes a little bit of work. It’s not a very natural way of coming up with writing topics (or content marketing strategies), but the focus it engenders is extremely valuable.

After a few tries you’ll realize how much more targeted your content becomes, and your readers will be thankful that you’re creating content that meets their needs.

If you’re struggling with the format, feel free to drop me a line in the comments and I would be happy to help you streamline your user stories.

This article originally appeared on MarketerGizmo. Photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo


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