March 04, 2013

The Heart of Content Strategy

Jessica Hui
Guest Trainer

Content strategy is on enough lips nowadays that most people can call out ideas to sketch out the general borders of this area of discipline. User focus! Clarity! Reusability! Curated content! But where exactly is the heart of content strategy?

The Heart of Content Strategy

Content strategy's ultimately about aligning your organization's content (whether print or digital, written or shot) with its overarching business goals and objectives. Successful content strategies manifest themselves in several key ways: you see

  • clear communication that makes your customers' lives (and your lives) easier
  • a compelling and relevant body of content that helps customers learn and do what they want
  • repeatable cycles for evaluating, creating and maintaining your content and keeping it directed toward your goals It's a discipline that doesn't just add to but amplifies the value of all your organization's efforts.

    The Practice of Content Strategy

    Think about the three outgrowths of a successful content strategy and the questions you'd need to answer to achieve this for your organization. What are your organization's ultimate business goals? Who are your customers; what defines them; what are their goals? Are you helping your customers do what they want? What content and processes do you have in place now, and how well is it working for you? How do you ensure your evolving organization keeps pulling toward its shared but also evolving set of goals? The tactical practices of content strategy answer these questions with tools and exercises such as
  • brand personas
  • taxonomy frameworks
  • page tables
  • search strategy
  • content inventory and audits
  • user interaction and user experience analyses
  • content creation style guides
  • content governance plans and editorial calendars

    Why Is Content Strategy Important?

    If those practices above sound familiar, it's because they're often in the toolkits of neighboring disciplines. Marketers do user research and craft brand identities. An SEO specialist might have a detailed inventory of your website. Content marketers use editorial calendars to unleash tons of content into the social media universe every day. So why is content strategy so important? First, its goals are different, even if some of its practices overlap. Good content strategy brings your company's service-centered identity beyond a round-the-clock customer service hotline, even getting customers what they want from other retailers if you're out of stock. It goes beyond your website blog and carousel slides, anticipating what might break and how to respond to your particular audience. <img data-cke-saved-src="" src="" alt="Blizzard 404 Page" "="">Blizzard's 404 Error page uses the written and visual language of its target demographic, and points users back on track with an irreverently "broken" reproduction of its site menu. Second, it's holistic, a comprehensive, integrated plan for all these disparate efforts. Where does your organization have product information? Brochures? Excel sheets? Website? Facebook Page? Ads? Emails? A deliberate, unified strategy prevents scattershot investment of resources and content silos. Third, it evaluates and accommodates the ways your audience seeks and consumes content. It goes beyond the purchase of a snappy billboard ad for a New Gizmo — even one reused on the company website, blog or Twitter feed to "go digital". A content strategist evaluates the nuances of the different channels and plans for appropriate content: on Twitter, this might mean animated GIFs of people using New Gizmos in unconventional ways.

    Who Cares About Content Strategy?

    Your customers, your content creators, your project managers and more. Stay tuned for part two of this two-part effort to bring content strategy beyond the buzzword.