Own your audience’s questions.
If you run a research-driven org, you need to seriously consider adopting that sentence as your content strategy.
“Owning” questions means not just in the moment, but over the long tail, through search. Building assets to do that, that attract your audience — and new ones — to turn to you for the answers to their questions that are in your expertise wheelhouse.
How does your org or institution currently try to own the questions their audiences have? It probably issues reports, or develops tools. That it launches, promotes and then links to, with decreasing frequency, until everyone internally agrees the report or tool’s expiration date has passed and it’s officially now embarrassing to keep on the website.
You can do better.
- You could do a resource feature on the question such as this Vox article by Kelsey Piper on the history of population projections and fears of population explosions, which will own long-tail search on the topic for years and which you can update again and again.
- You could do a table ranking solutions, such as Project Drawdown.
- You could do a series of videos with high search value, such as Vox and the University of California’s Climate Lab.
- You could blog, like UCLA’s Daniel Swain has for years at Weather West on the climate/weather interface in California.
- You could write a regular column for elite media, such as Zeynep Tufecki for Wired on digital culture or Aaron Carroll for The New York Times on how to interpret public health studies.
- You could send a regular newsletter on the question and build authority with an audience, like NYU Law School’s Just Security.
But you would definitely not do Stanford psychologist Greg Walton’s database of research on wise interventions.
As good as Walton sounds applying his expertise on that body of research to various problems, this database just takes us to papers. It doesn’t guide us to the solutions we need, as Walton might if we asked him directly.
Imagine the disappointment of someone who heard Walton talk about wise interventions, and then came to this database, inserted their problem and got a list of 20 academic papers to read.
Takeaway: Don’t just write reports. Don’t refer us to papers.
Instead, always be guiding us to insights and solutions.