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This site is currently under construction. We are, however, pleased to say that the SMU 102 Digital Copywriting Unit is now open. We've also added Marketing Principles and an Intro to Public Relations. Our Content Marketing Unit is currently in development.

SMU 105 - Session 3: The Art of Cross-channel Storytelling Through Content

an image illustrating transmedia storytelling

Purpose/Aim of this session

In this session you will be exploring developing brand stories, in the the form of content, that is delivered across different messaging and service channels. You will also learn how to align content to The Buyers Journey, a subject we first covered in SMU 102; Digital Copywriting when we explored the concept of a funnel.

More and more, those responsible for creating, developing, launching, maintaining and monitoring brand message campaigns have to think like media companies.

Why? Marketing interruptions no longer hold audiences captive.  The battle for an audience's attention is only won with a compelling narrative told over the right channels, at the right time- and on a continuous basis. This requires organizations and brands to become adaptable storytellers where consistent stories and experiences are created and shared across many channels to the right audiences.

As we have extensively explores in SMU 101 and SMU 102, the best brand stories communicate the underlying value of brands in a meaningful, emotional and compelling way. This study unit will explore strategies for creating and implementing effective communication across a variety of channels to harness the new people-powered communications landscape.

Learning Aims for this session:

  • You will explore critical aspects of providing content that's useful to your audience and that advances your business / organisation / service objectives in a measurable way.
  • You will explore the process of creating audience engagement by building and maintaining a community around your content.
  • You will learn how your content delivers on these essential requirements across all relevant traditional and digital platforms.
  • You will develop a professional understanding of the challenges marketers face in developing a content strategy - and the importance of creating a realistic and sustainable content plan

Learning Outcomes for this session:

At the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic principles of content marketing and how it fits into the overall marketing mix
  • Outline and discuss effective approaches to creating compelling content that reaches the right target audience at the right time and place
  • Understand the customer decision journey; and the context for providing the right content at each stage of the journey
  • Create effective cross-channel strategy and plans
  • Understand the importance of measuring the success of your content marketing plans

How this Session Works:

  1. Read through the "Session Overview" that accompanies this session. This provides an overall context for the session
  2. Work your way through the items on the "Preparatory Activities" section that accompanies this session
  3. Listen to the lecture materials in the "Lecture" section
  4. Work your way through the scenarios in the "Scenario" section.  Scenarios are practical activities to develop your critical thinking and apply your knowledge to a specific component of CM
  5. Work your way through the template in the "Template" section.  The template will support you as you take the first steps in developing your own content
  6. You can browse through some carefully selected material in the "Reading Room" tab.

SMU 105 Session 3 Study Activities

  • Session Overview
  • Preparatory Activities
  • Lecture
  • Scenarios
  • Template
  • Reading Room

Cross-channel, Cross-media, Multi-channel, oh my! These terms have been used like they are one in the same thing. So it's no wonder many struggle with what each term actually means. They are not one in the same thing. They should not be used inter-changeably. Each describes a specific communication process.

Understanding these concepts is crucial for cross-channel user experience design and taxonomy creation.

So, before we move forward with content marketing, let's break these terms down for you.


Multi-channel is a way of delivering services that allows users interact with a system through any number of different channels or platforms.

Let's use a banking example. You can transfer funds by using a home banking system via the Internet, or a phone banking channel, through a mobile phone or landline or App, or walking to the closest branch. In each case you can complete the entire transaction inside one unique channel, without necessity to move toward another channel.

Here's a working example:

Cross-media (or transmedia)

Accepted doctrine says that cross-media products can only ever truly be experienced as a whole when experienced across a number of environments, media, and channels. Contrary to a multi-channel strategy,  cross-channel encourages (or forces) the user to migrate from one channel to another. This is necessary to complete a task or experience a product.

Movie like The Matrix or tv shows like Lost are excellent examples of this strategy: TV or movie fictions, video-games, websites, spin-off and so on all constitutes a system where each part / channel is deliberately designed to allow only a partial experience of the whole. With constant (and more or less explicit) references and links to  other channels to pick up more information, go more deeply into an experience or add to an immersive experience. In other words, cross-media is specifically designed to be experienced fragmentarily: no single medium provides the full information or experience.

The video below further highlights the transmedia process. It serves to further explain what this communication approach is and how it works differently from multichannel and cross-channel. Transmedia is something we will be covering in Level 2 of this course.


Cross-channel is the use of one marketing channel (such as direct mail or twitter) to support or promote another channel (such as a website or retail outlet).

As the title of of this session suggests, our focus for this session and this study unit is solely on the last of these three communication strategies: cross-channel. We can now explore some fundamental aspects of cross-channel messaging in the Preparatory Activities section.

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Cross Channel storytelling

A Quick Storytelling Recap

  1. OK. Before we delve more deeply into the world of cross-channel messaging and storytelling...let's have a reminder about the importance of storytelling in relation to audience engagement. We've covered this extensively in SMU 101 and SMU 102 - but it never hurts to revist the subject.

    Remember, storytelling is not intended to be a "selling" tool. It's a method of building strong relationships with a customer, an audience - and a thriving community of loyalists over time. Our brand messages identify what our passions are and serves as the foundation for all our future content developments.

  2. While the video below is a sales pitch from Experian, we're using it to open our exploration of cross-channel messaging. Why? It offers a brilliant example of just how seamless and effective cross-channel communication can be when used correctly. This can be a very effective approach to establishing audience engagement and deepening audience relationships (audience retention, in other words).

Applying Storytelling Across Channel

Now that we've taken a whistle-stop nostalgia tour of storytelling, and dipped our toe into how effective cross-channel messaging can be...let's combine the two. Let's look at how storytelling and messaging across channels works.

  1. Read: Simone, S. 2009. Why Content Marketing and Social Media are a Powerful Match, copyblogger.
  2. Read: Thomas, J. 2013. 4 Secrets of Effective Brand Storytelling Across Channels, SayDaily.

Audience-focused Content & Cross-channel Storytelling

Content marketing serves a twofold purpose:

  • To deliver a unique value proposition that is based on, and delivers, our core business strategy; and
  • To engage an audience through the creative delivery of our unique value proposition through content

The content that we plan, develop and produce should always be focused squarely on our audience. It's our audience who is at the core of our content marketing activities. As the Capgemini paper will expand upon, understanding our audience's needs and requirements - their pain points - is critical to the process of content marketing.

  1. Read: Content Marketing Framework: Audience, Content Marketing Institute.
  2. Read: Rose, R. 2013. Brand Storytelling: 10 Steps to Start Your Content Marketing Hero’s Journey, Content Marketing Institute, 1 March 2013.
  3. Read: Channel Strategy: Framework for Success: How to Maximize Internal and Customer Benefits Through Effective Channel Management, Capgemini Consulting.
  4. The video below stresses the importance of audience-focused content. It also highlights the importance of creating and publishing stories and messages (content) that is measurable (through analytics)..and more. And while his focus is on video stories, this study unit will teach you how to begin a conversation on one channel and finish it using a completely different channel (e.g. using Twitter or Facebook to open the story narrative and using a website or a blog or a retail outlet to finish that story). Think about that last point as you watch this video:

Mapping Content & Channels to the Buyer's Journey

You developed an understanding of the buyer's journey when we explored the concept of the marketing funnel in SMU 101 and SMU 102. The resources below cover how specific content assets are more relevant to an audience member at specific times during the his or her's buyers journey

  1. The video below describes the causes, effects and strategies of cross-channel marketing. A high number of exchangeable brands are struggling for relevance. Atomization of media and the parallel use of multiple devices are leading to the need for cross-ichannel marketing approaches. The video shows in clear steps how to analyse the customer journey and numerous possible touchpoints between retail companies and end consumers.

  2. Spatola, J. The Marketer’s 3 Step Content Roadmap: Aligning Content to Your Buyers
    , Hubspot.
  3. To illustrate what a hot topic this is - aligning and delivering content at the right point during the buyer's journey, read:

    Cross-Channel Marketing: Hot, but Not Happening: Just 10% say their messaging, execution and delivery are aligned across touchpoints, eMarketer, 4 September 2014.

Forming A Content Marketing Strategy

The previous preparatory activities have been building to this last preparatory concept: content marketing strategy.

  1. Organizational structure is a challenge for many cross-channel marketers, but the barrier to overcome is more than just integrating marketing teams. Or organizing this process as a one (wo)man band. Organizations, business and solo brand holders must center their entire business around a clearly understood business strategy - and the customer.

  2. Now, we don't agree with email harvesting - you know, 'give us your email and you can download something for free'. It's either free or it isn't. This isn't best practice - and it's so last decade in terms of online marketing and audience engagement. Let this be a lesson to you: if your content is good, chances are, a goodly percentage of people will give you their email in order to receive more great stuff. So, with this in mind, you don't have to download the article that appears below. It is excellent(we've downloaded it and reviewed it). However, we fundamentally don't agree with this practice. You won't be penalized for not downloading it and reading it.

    The 2014 Digital Marketer: Create Intelligent Interactions with Your Customers Every Time, Experian.
  3. Read: Wu, R. 2012. How to Find the Right Medium and Channels for Online Storytelling, Nonprofit Technology Network.
  4. The video below covers how to align cross-channel messaging for better results. With all the new channels available to marketers, managing multi-level marketing campaigns effectively is more important than ever.

Now that we have taken a look at some of the fundamental aspects of content marketing, it's time to proceed to the lecture.

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The three videos in this section form the basis of the overall lecture for this session.

The video below features Joe Pulizzi, the leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing and social media. He touches upon key aspects of content marketing in general. he also touches upon some basic aspects of cross-channel marketing.

With 350 official social media channels, 500 websites, numerous audiences ranging from B2B to B2C – the digital realm of Bosch encompasses a wide variety of digital initiatives across the globe. How do you ensure consistency throughout a fast growing number of digital activities and social media channels and use them to increase the reputation of a "connected company"?

Similar to script teams in the TV, film or games industries - the digital community within Bosch works with a storytelling and content marketing framework to orchestrate its work. The framework helps the people involved to co-create and share content, ensure consistency and perform joint campaigns across countries and business divisions. The video below will take you through content marketing strategy, the lessons learned within the Bosch Group and touches the following questions:

  1. How can you adopt storytelling methods for Corporate Communications and Marketing in the social media age?;

  2. How can cross-channel storytelling work as framework for content strategies?;

  3. And what can we learn from online games when it comes to digital?

The video below presents effective strategies for audience development and tribe development, crafting a goal-based customer journey, and finally, cross-channel campaign execution. With the rise of social media and mobile devices, consumers are hyper-connected and more empowered than ever before. For businesses, it has become more critical than ever to have a strategy for managing every part of the customer journey.

Learn some of the best practices for engaging consumers with content and a personalized message, delivered at the optimal time on email, mobile, social, web, or even Internet-connected devices.

The speaker mentions the word 'silos' quite a few times. This is more applicable if you work in a marketing department that is fragmented by a specific marketing activity: PR people in one corner, website people in another, marketing colleagues in yet another corner and digital content and social media in their own little corners. These different groups exist within their own little environment with little cross-communication - or in their own silos, in other words.

The overall concept of silos can, and does, also apply to one (wo)man bands. I you don't connect the dots between different marketing functions - and join them up - you've placed these activities in separate silos. The point being is that all marketing functions must work seamlessly together; organically, holistically and seamlessly.

Don't worry about the technicalities of customer relationship management (CRM) software or how to capture customer data at this point. We cover this in the Analytics study unit. Just realize there is a need to capture this information. However, if you would like to examine some free open source Customer relation Management (CRM) tools, we've provided some excellent free options below the video.

If you would like to check out some free CRM services, you can access them via the link below:

Free open source CRM:

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The activities in this section have been designed to prompt you to think more deeply about:

  1. The different forms of content you might produce
  2. How you will use content as part of your delivering your brand messages
  3. How you might use different social media channels to deliver your brand messages
  4. The keywords and metadata that you will use for your content
  5. How you will ensure your content is linked to a marketing strategy - which is itself linked to a business strategy
  6. The main contact points your customers have with your business - both online and offline - and to think about the kinds of content you can use at those contact points
  7. Following on from 5, getting you to think about the question(s) a prospective customer might have at each and every one of these contact points...and how you might create content to answer those questions. And to think about which social media channels you would use to publish that content that answers customer questions at each one of these contact points.
  8.  What is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand (this is referred to as 'The Customer Journey')? Instead of looking at just a part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer.

We will explore each of these 8 areas in much more detail in the next study session. For now, apply what you've learned so far in this study session to explore potential answers to the 6 thinking points listed above.

Preparatory Activity:

The Content Marketing Institute's excellent small business content marketing report was written to answer the following questions:

  • What distinguishes effective content marketers from their less effective peers?
  • What tactics are content marketers using most often? Which do they find to be the most effective?
  • What social media distribution channels are marketers using? And do they consider them to be effective?
  • What is the biggest challenge most marketers are facing?

The information contained in the report will help you in answering to 6 thinking points given above. It will also give you an initial insight into which social media channels might be provide a good fit in terms of delivering your brand messaging content.

Please read: B2B Small Business Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America, Content Marketing Institute.

Scenario Activity

Savvy marketers understand that you don’t always seal the deal with a single message, image, or advertisement. A user may see a display ad, click on a link from a friend, or do a search before buying something from your website or making a donation (e.g. answering your call to action) — and all of these interactions can play a role in the final sale. It's important to understand the entire customer journey so you can measure all of the elements that contribute to your campaigns, attribute the right value to them, and adjust your marketing budgets where appropriate.

That’s the philosophy behind Google tools like the one below. It's a nifty tool that will give you a basic glimpse of your audience's experience journey.

Google insights - the Customer Journey

The screen grab above gives you an idea of the kinds of powerful insights you can gather about the typical customer journey for any major industry. even better, this information is also categorized by size of company. And even by a number of countries.

It even breaks trends down by the degree to which a prospective customer is influenced by brand messages when they are at the beginning, the middle or near the end of their journey.

Tens of thousands of Google's largest advertisers are gaining valuable insights from Multi-Channel campaigns every month.  Google has collected these insights using aggregate statistics to develop this benchmarking tool. This interactive tool lets you explore typical online buying behavior and see how different marketing interactions affect business success.

Explore the tool - and begin to use your critical thinking to gain insights your audience's journey with your brand. Think about the kinds of content you can create for each of these contact points.

Goggle's The Customer Journey to Online Purchase:!/the-us/jobs-and-education/small/direct

Now it's time for the Template activity for this study session.

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Content Mapping Template

A Content Mapping Template is a visual representation of the specific pieces of content to send to each buyer persona at each stage of the buying cycle. Using the  pain points –  customer acquisition, limited time, and limited budget, three buying stages identified are discovery, consideration, and decision.

You can map out the content for each persona at each buying stage. After viewing the example, you can recreate the mapping template for each persona, identify the pain points, customize it for your buying stages, and outline the different content the prospects will receive at each stage.

You should have enough information at this stage to create your own content map. You will need this insight and this information before proceeding to the next study unit.

Template exercise

We're providing a simple-to-use content mapping template created by Hubspot. It is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet.

Complete as much of the template as you can - with as much information as you can. Again, you will need this knowledge and this insight for the next study session.

Indeed, you will need this insight and knowledge for the remainder of the course. So do make every effort to gain us much knowledge and insight from this exercise as you can.

Content Inventory Worksheet from HubSpot

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The Reading Room for this session provides carefully selected resources for you to further explore content marketing concepts, elements, issues and practice.

Bhagat, V. Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing Where Nonprofit Organizations are Today & Key Success Factors Moving Forward, Convio.

Bronto and Retail Touchpoints. Taking a "Crawl, Walk, Run" Approach to Cross-Channel Marketing.

Halvorson, K. and Rach, M. 2012. Content Strategy for the Web (Second Edition), New Riders, Berkeley, California.

Hubspot, How to Use Pinterest for Business.

Instagam, Instagram for Business Strategy Guide.

Marketo, The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing.

Pratten, R. 2011. Getting Started with Transmedia Storytelling.

Rockley, A. and Cooper, C. 2012. Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy (Second Edition), New Riders, Berkeley, California.

Symmetrics Group, A Go-To-Market Strategy Primer.

YouTube, The YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands.

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