All the talk of storytelling. All the key hammering of content marketing. Marketing is reaching fever pitch. We’re all becoming publishers and to celebrate there’s a big digital publishing party going on right now. The invite will drop into your inbox soon enough. You’ll be welcomed to read a blog, asked to attend a webinar, escorted in the direction of the nearest infographic. The party is in full swing and you can guarantee there will be a few sore heads in the morning.

First of all read the instructions
When I buy an electrical gadget I rarely (by rarely I mean never) read the instructions. Microwaves, irons, lawnmowers, the list goes on. When you think you know how to operate something, you don’t have the time to read the apparently obvious. Really, an instruction manual for an iron?

Then, you feel like a prat when you melt the plastic tray, burn your favourite shirt or shred the back garden. The instruction manual was thrown out with the packaging. You continue to learn as you make mistakes.

Mistakes are good
Most serial entrepreneurs will tell you that they wouldn’t be the success they had become if it wasn’t for the mistakes they made. So, I guess burning a few holes in your shirt isn’t such a bad thing?

…and mistakes are bad
When you assume too much your mistakes are more dramatic. More avoidable. The biggest mistakes you make aren’t the inevitable deviations that occur when you’re heading in a particular direction without instruction. They’re the fatal mistakes you make when you set off in the wrong direction from the outset.

Let’s talk content marketing strategy
Well, let’s remove the word ‘strategy’ and just focus on content marketing for the time being. It’s all a bit ‘free’ isn’t it? The plaftform? Yes, WordPress is free. The content? No worries, the internal memo landed on the desk inviting everybody to write… the content will be free too.

So what happens? Lo and behold, you’re now the proud owners of a company blog. Driven by the idea of populating Google with the musings of your sales team and pulling in new customers left, right and centre.

There is no manual is there? This is pretty simple stuff. Word documents, but now you click ‘publish’ rather than ‘save’. An abundance of opportunity ignored because businesses don’t have instructions to follow.

Who writes the instructions?
This is the task that lies fairly and squarely on the lap of the marketing department. You don’t need an instruction manual if you don’t know what the machinery is meant to achieve for you in the first place.

The instructions for your content marketing plan don’t reference the buttons to click or actions to take. They involve answering one key question – What use is your content marketing to your audience?

Introduce a content manifesto

A manifesto offers the reader a ‘public declaration of policy and aims’. How good does that sound? A open letter to your online audience telling them about what you stand for and your ambitions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup, one man band, or a multinational business. You require a manifesto. Stay on message. Discuss your policy. Exceed your aims.

When you create a manifesto you’re not simply typing, for typing’s sake, you’re sharing the reason why your content exists in the first place. This is for internal use as much as it is for your new reader.

People take notice when you refer to a document as a manifesto. They listen. Just like we did when Locke, Searls, Weinberger and Levine unleashed ‘the end of business as usual’ through The Cluetrain Manifesto on marketers and business leaders 15 years ago.

This was written 15 years ago;

What if the real attraction of the Internet is not its cutting-edge bells and whistles, its jazzy interface or any of the advanced technology that underlies its pipes and wires? What if, instead, the attraction is an atavistic throwback to the prehistoric human fascination with telling tales?
Five thousand years ago, the marketplace was the hub of civilization, a place to which traders returned from remote lands with exotic spices, silks, monkeys, parrots, jewels — and fabulous stories.

Sounds very familiar doesn’t it?

Call it what you will, a content manifesto needs to exist within your business. Tell your audience why you’re sharing the information that you do. Tell them why they should be fascinated by your tales.