Content strategy: What is it and why should you care?

By Shai Coggins, Digital Specialist | Content

May 18

Whenever people ask me: “So, how can I make my organisation’s website and social media work well?” I often reply with the query: “What is it that you’re trying to get out of your website and social media? What’s your content strategy all about?”

Sometimes, I get a very enthusiastic list of things that relate to getting more visitors, gaining more fans, and expressing creative ideas on how to engage with their respective communities. Often, I get a shrug and a confused response.

Content strategy is one of the things that a lot of people don’t seem to think about too readily. People often think that just setting up a blog, Facebook page, website, or Twitter account is good enough. Everything will flow once the accounts are up and running. While many accounts do succeed just going with the flow, there are many more that fizzle out when there are no firm plans in place.

So, what is content strategy?

In a nutshell: “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” (via Kristina Halvorson). Basically, it defines why you or your organisations wish to develop content in any form, how you plan to develop and maintain the content, and what are the ways that you are going to measure the success of your content.

Why is it important to have a content strategy?

Some people might think that content strategy is just another way of over thinking or over planning a work flow. But, in reality, without one, content becomes difficult to manage in the long run.

These are some of the things that a good content strategy can do:

  • Defines what types of content you need – Can your web presence be a simple one-page information to your organisation or cause – or do you need a fully developed content management system (CMS)? Do you need blog posts, and how long will each one be? What types of posts are you going to share on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook? These are just some of the basic questions that you can answer with a content strategy.
  • Identifies the type of tools you need – If you need a blog or website, do you need a custom-built CMS or would one of the open source or enterprise CMS be suitable? Do you need the ability to post videos or post via email? Do you need a social media client and/or dashboard – and which one?
  • Enables consistency with approach – Who’s accountable for the blog? The social media? Do you need volunteer bloggers? What about the use of freelance writers? If you do, what are the topics that need to be covered? Will you be posting external links, and what kind?
  • Gives the ability to set goals and measure their impact – This gets people to think of what’s the purpose of the content to be developed and how it’s going to help you and/or your organisation.

What should be included in a content strategy?

Different organisations would have different needs and resources, so it’s a challenge to come up with a standard template. However, some of the things that would be good to have in a content strategy include:

  • Objectives of the overall organisation and communication plan – This enables people to see how content can achieve the overall objectives and messaging of the organisation.
  • Content goals/aims – Why do you want to have a website / Twitter account / Facebook page, etc? What types of messages do you wish to put in these platforms – and for what reason? How much traffic and how many supporters do you need?
  • Highlights of content audit – What are the existing content available for the organisation? Who created them and how are they currently being maintained? Which ones need updating / archiving / deleting? What’s the content architecture like? Does anything need to be restructured?
  • Content gap analysis – What types of information does your organisation want posted that are currently not being shared on your website/social media/blog? Do you need more photos/videos/charts? How are you going to create those content pieces?
  • Work plan and content calendar – A list of tasks that need to get completed and a general timeline – including creation, update, and maintenance of content.
  • Assessment / Success Measure – This may list some key content metrics and possibly a template for tracking statistics.

Different individuals and/or organisations may choose to have more or less of what’s listed here.

6 Content Strategy Resources*

To learn more about content strategy, the following resources have been proven to be very valuable:

1. The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane – I really liked the simplicity and brevity of this book. It’s a great little “starter” book for anyone thinking of understanding content strategy better. It doesn’t have a lot of how tos/templates on getting a content strategy up and running, but it’s a good way to get an overview of the topic without feeling overwhelmed.

2. Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson – This book is both an overview and an in-depth look on content strategy. It has some really great insights on why there is a need to have one, and what may be the necessary steps to create one. It’s more comprehensive than “Elements…” so it may be overwhelming for people who are still trying to get their heads around content strategy. But, if information overload doesn’t put you off, then this book is definitely a good resource to work with.

3. The Web Content Strategist’s Bible: The Complete Guide To A New And Lucrative Career For Writers Of All Kinds by Richard Sheffield – Another great, comprehensive resource on content strategy. Some useful insights on different aspects of content development, such as design, matrix, and even translation.

4. Chief Content Officer – This is a print and/or digital for content specialists. While it’s not primarily on content strategy, the articles in this quarterly publication are very useful for anyone interested in the topic. There’s an Australian version and a U.S. version, I believe. The one linked here is the Australian version. Oh, and as a bonus, I just found out that Contents Magazine is also coming out soon, which is a publication on content strategy and related topics.

5. Content Strategy Group on LinkedIn – Moving on from reading material, I thought I’d also share a network/community resource. On this front, I highly recommend the Content Strategy Group on LinkedIn. There isn’t a lot of activity, but I always find something useful in the discussions and resource sharing within the group. So, it’s definitely an online community of content strategists that’s worth connecting with.

6. Who can sort out your content strategy? – This flowchart/infographic from Firehead helps you to consider the best person (people) to manage your content.

* This section of this post was originally published at Studio Notes


About the Author

Shai Coggins is the Manager and Chief Digital Media Specialist at Vervely, an Australia-based agency serving local and international clients. One of the company's main clients is Microsoft. Shai has been featured in a number of media due to her online work, including being named as one of Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list (2009).

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