Content Strategy: What is it, anyway?

Content strategy is a fancy term that baffles people. Quite probably you can’t tell me what the components are, either. This article tells you everything that a content strategy covers.

Content strategy is not content marketing

Content marketing is the buzzword of the moment. When you start searching for material about content strategy, you find yourself running into material that turns into a piece about marketing.

Content strategy is not content marketing. It is not digital marketing. It is not social marketing. It is, equally, not copywriting.

Nor is content strategy Search Engine Optimisation, on-​page optimisation. Nor is it editing, nor is it architecture.

Frustrated yet?

If content strategy is a lot of Not Being, what the hell is it?

Content strategy is exactly what it says: It is a strategic analysis and plan for your content. It is not necessarily an overall publishing strategy, encompassing print, though it can be. Nor is it a public relations or branding strategy, although it contains elements of both.

Content’ properly is short for the content of a website. However, don’t be mislead by this. Digital is the easiest way to understand it. Brutal Pixie works across all formats to align all messages, not just what is on your website.

Some Components of a Content Strategy

The method by which different strategists undertake their jobs will necessarily vary. But there are typically three phases — analysis, strategy design implementation.

Depending on the stage of your project, the elements of each stage may vary. For example, if you currently have no content, then you wouldn’t do a site audit… because you have no material to look at. Instead you might spend your time in audience analysis and profiling.

Analysis Phase

All of the possible elements of content strategy phase one (analysis) are:

  • user research and audience profiling
  • interviews of users and content creators (if possible)
  • full content audit
  • full SEO audit
  • full qualitative audit
  • traffic analyses
  • examinations of current analytics and identification of patterning, for current metrics and future success benchmarks
  • content management system requirements
  • examination of existing communication plans
  • usability and/​or accessibility reviews
  • mini competitive review audits
  • resource reviews: people, workflows, tools
  • examination of existing publishing workflow
  • review of existing taxonomies
  • gap analyses
  • reporting

Clearly, if you are bringing a strategist in at an early stage, you would have no material to examine in terms of content, SEO, and qualitative analysis. But you would want to undertake user research, competitive analyses, audience profiling, and talk to creators and team members about their work and their place.

If you don’t do this, you have no idea of how to assess resourcing and proposed workflow.

Strategy Design Phase

The design phase is the most exciting part of a job for a content strategist. It’s where all of the following is developed (not necessarily in this order):

  • Benchmarks
  • Communication plans
  • Content sourcing plans (in addition to content creation plans)
  • Creation of user personas and audience profiles
  • Creation of user scenarios
  • Creation of wireframes, if the developer is not doing this (and working with the developer if one is already involved
  • Editorial Calendars
  • Feature descriptions
  • Guidelines: accessibility, style, tone of voice
  • Production of example content
  • Recommendations on meta data creation and use, workflow, publishing workflow, resourcing
  • Strategy for channels, communities and social engagement, and moderation policies across channels
  • Strategic calendars
  • Templates for all content
  • Tools for tracking meta data
  • Workflow and resourcing recommendations

It may also include recommendation of tools for team communication and collaboration, which is important if team members are spread out.

Implementation phase

The final phase of a content strategy is implementation. Typically it involves training, workshops, change management, provision of tools and guides, and support.

In some cases, clients realise what a huge job managing content actually is, and ask for the strategist to consult in content creation until teams are au fait with how it all works. This is where having a strategist skilled in copywriting can be of enormous benefit.

Content strategy looks like I need content first though?

No. In fact, if you are at the beginning of your journey, that is the best time to create a content strategy.

Let’s look at the difference. Without any content, you go straight past all of the time and effort of auditing what you already have, and go head-​first into audience and user profiling, workflow and resourcing, and end up embedded in strategy design much more quickly.

Developing a strategy design at the start means you don’t have to worry about the cultural impact of change, either. Depending on the size and age of your organisation, some people may feel threatened by the implementation of a strategy.

Get in touch for details about how you apply it in your business.

This post was last updated on 27 May 2014.

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