Every organization creates and manages content but what you don’t want to do is allow each department or team in your company to create and manage content in its own way. Why? Because most, if not all, the content you create is used in some way to support the customer. Without a centralized content strategy, you’ll wind up with an inconsistent customer experience and most importantly, unhappy customers.
So, what is a content strategy and how do you create one?
Defining Content Strategy
The simplest and best definition of content strategy:
“Content strategy guides the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”
When you break it down, a content strategy provides a few different things. It:
- Identifies the topics and types of content you create.
- Defines how the content is organized, formatted, and published (structure of the content).
- Describes the processes, tools, and people involved in creating and managing content through its full life cycle.
- Identifies who is involved in defining and adapting the content strategy; including key decision-makers, stakeholders, and influencers.
Some people confuse a content strategy with a content marketing strategy, but the two are not synonymous.
A content marketing strategy focuses on identifying the personas or audiences your organization wants as customers and outlining the content to create that supports the customer journey (from research to decision, to purchase, and post-purchase).
A content strategy isn’t only about marketing to customers. It about understanding all the content you create in your organization, how to organize it in a way that is understood and reusable by many channels and departments. It’s about marketing content, support content, sales content, and technical content. And it’s defined outside of any technology implementation.
“It’s a simple matter of knowing what our future should look like before we step into that future. We create with our strategy and our technology follows.” Cruce Saunders, [A]
Before we go any further, it’s important to understand that you can’t create a content strategy that supports the entire organization if it isn’t built on an intelligent content framework. Intelligent content is content created with a structure that enables you to reuse it for different purposes, channels, and in different formats. It allows you to mix and match content from different areas of the company to create a customer experience that works for each customer in their context.
How to Create a Content Strategy
There is a lot that goes into a content strategy; too much to outline in a single blog, so we’ll do our best to hit the key points.
If a content strategy is about the planning, development, and management of all content in your organization, then you first need to understand what content you are creating now. Two things you can do to understand current content is:
- Create a content ecosystem map.
- Complete a full content inventory/audit.
The Content Ecosystem Map
A content ecosystem map is an idea from Scott Kubie of BrainTraffic. It’s a visual representation of the content in your organization.
“A content ecosystem map is a picture of your content ecosystem. Your content ecosystem includes all of your products, brands, content types, teams, technologies, and/or channels. Finding the boundaries of what you think of as your content ecosystem is part of the point of creating the map. What’s in? What’s out? What matters in your content world?”
Kubie says that a content ecosystem map is the current state of your content. It’s not a content model or a content inventory. It simply helps you understand what content you currently have in your organization and the processes around the creation, management, and publishing of that content.
If you are creating a broader content strategy than what you need for marketing and digital experiences, you could build a series of maps that interconnect to give you a complete understanding of all the content in your organization and how it relates and overlaps.
The Content Inventory and Audit
This is a high-level view of your content, however. The next step is to go deeper and create a content inventory identifying all the content in your organization. Typically done in a spreadsheet format, each content asset would be a row with all the information about that asset in a series of columns. For example, you would include columns for:
- Content Asset
- Type of content
- Where is found in the organization
- Taxonomy (Topics/tags)
- Workflow rules
Once you have a complete inventory, you should spend some time auditing that content to ensure it’s still used in the organization. A content audit allows you to reduce ROT (redundant, obsolete, and trivial) content that is wasting space and management efforts. When you reduce ROT, you can improve the relevancy and findability of the good content.
When you are completing your inventory and audit, take into consideration digital asset management and brand guidelines.
Building an Intelligent Content Framework
With a current state defined, you can now take the next step and plan your go-forward content strategy. The plan will include information such as:
- The topics, themes, and areas of focus for your content
- Who owns each
- The taxonomy your content will map to
- The metadata your content will include
- SEO guidelines
- The workflow processes involved in creating, managing and publishing content types
- Voice and brand guidelines for public-facing content
- The content governance model.
- How you will ensure the quality of your content
- The channels you will deliver content to, including the format of the content for each channel
A content strategy must be communicated and shared with everyone in the organization. It should include tools and information that help others follow the strategy in their work.
Saunders also made a very important point on content strategy:
“...organizations need to build a regular muscle that not only builds a strategy once but can then optimize it based on the constant inputs they get from customers, the market, competitors and the industry.”