What is content strategy?

Content strategy is the phrase of the moment. Every web project needs one, but what exactly is a content strategy? This post gives our definition and a whistle stop guide to our process.

We’re putting the finishing touches to our ‘How to think like a content strategist’ workshop for UX Bristol 2013, and have been thinking hard about the best way to explain content strategy.

‘Content strategy’ seems to be everywhere right now. With the phenomenal rise of ‘content marketing’ as a tool for generating inbound leads, ‘content strategy’ is now the phrase on everyone’s lips. But its definition is often unclear.

We’re clear on what content strategy isn’t. It’s not filling in the Lorem Ipsum on your website with some copy. It’s more than just adding a blog. It goes much further than twiddling around on Twitter.

A content strategy is the means by which you make website work for your business. It’s your road map to success. A way of ensuring your website meets your goals, engages your audience and pulls in leads.

A content strategy starts with objectives & ends with results. It’s a plan to get you from A to B using the content on your website and beyond.

So what’s the content strategy process? How do you go about creating one?

Basic content strategy process

Here’s a basic plan to follow:

  1. Understand the business aims and goals
  2. Understand the audience’s needs (really understand, by asking them)
  3. Create story that meets business aims and inspires audience
  4. Decide what to talk about – use story to create valuable content that answers audience’s questions
  5. Build website around content/amend existing website to make sure it’s up to the job.
  6. Pick right tools – a mix of content creation and distribution channels (social media + traditional)
  7. Add and integrate valuable content – useful articles, guides, videos, infographics
  8. Create publishing calendar for the year
  9. Engage, have conversations
  10. Keep up the content creation – measure, refine and learn

Think wide

The key thing to remember is that a content strategy goes far wider than the content on your website. A good content strategy will give you a plan for the blogs, videos and white papers you need to create over the coming months, and plan for who in your team is responsible for creating them.

Because the content strategy process has helped you to understand your audience so well you will be clear on the best places to engage with them.  Your people will know what they should be doing on Twitter, Google+ or Instagram so social media becomes a purposeful and manageable activity. If you’ve got your content strategy right, then content marketing will work for you.

Now we just need to demonstrate the process with a real Bristol business in an hour long workshop on Friday. Wish us luck!

[Update: the workshop went great! If you’re interested have a look at this summary – Think Like a Content Strategist]

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  1. Tim

    I wonder if there are several kinds of content strategy, just as there are marketing strategies?
    1. dabbling – engaging with others in a playful, serendipidous way, happy to learn and react
    2. affirmation – posting content good enough to affirm to those you’ve met offline or on, that you’re the real deal
    3. connecting – publishing micro-content in small bursts, intent on meeting new individuals, and getting the necessary proof up there
    4. authority – pushing all the family silver out there and claiming it as your own, to defend against others claiming it
    5. thought leadership – really broad approach challenging the world

    I feel like I’ve done (1), and now I’m about to start on (2) so I can quickly reach (3). What about you, S&S?

  2. Sonja Jefferson

    Hi Tim. I love that idea – content marketing: from strolling to sprint speed. I feel a blog post coming on! Your idea reflects the ‘start small and grow’ approach we talk about in the Valuable Content Marketing book. You put it very well. Good luck with progression up the content ladder! And thanks very much for the comment and inspiration. Sonja

  3. Tim

    Oh good. I own your FANTASTIC book (won’t lend it to ANYONE!) and I liked the practical aspects of starting small in step 3 of your 7-step approach.

    But actually I was trying to get my head around what the content strategies might be, how they would differ, and apply to different circumstances. For instance, I’m currently working up topics for my content plan, and considering the best approach for which – in your book it suggests using multiple content formats – very much agree with this. But I have a vague feeling that there are real strategies lurking behind blending topic choices with format choices.

    Looking forward to your next blog, and to ANYTHING on strategy! Amazing stuff, S&S!

  4. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks! Hmm – that’s making me think. Will get back to you with a blog article Tim.



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