You’ve probably heard the term “content strategy” being thrown around a lot recently. It seems to be incredibly important to practically everyone, regardless of industry. But what exactly is it? How does it work? How can organizations and businesses use it effectively to translate into real sales? How does it affect the bottom line?
Here are the basics of content strategy to give you an understanding of how it works and why it’s important.
What Is It?
Perhaps the best definition describes content strategy as a “high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective.” The main thrust of the definition is that content strategy is just that–it’s strategy. While that of course means that it is related to deliverables and publication dates, the focus is on defining requirements and user needs. Then a plan, or a strategy, is created and implemented to meet or address those requirements or needs.
“Content” refers to images, words (blogs, advertisements, long-form copy), stories, and videos–any kind of material that can be posted online. The strategy dictates when, where, and how these individual pieces get posted. Through analysis (and sometimes trial and error), the content strategists determines the optimal timing, layout, and platform for each type of content, while maintaining a strategy that promotes visits, clicks, likes, and ultimately sales.
How Does It Work?
As mentioned, content strategy is the process that ensures content is written, edited, published, republished, repurposed, and archived in the right places, at the right time.
It works on two levels: front-end and back-end. Front-end content strategy revolves around the customer experience, from buyer personas to customer journeys. It involves determining what topics need to be addressed in published content and coordinating the creation of that content.
The back-end is technical in nature: it involves scalability and future-proofing to make sure processes, if not content itself, will be relevant or useful in the future. This level focuses on finding technologies that organize, store, retrieve, and automatically publish content across platforms.
Looking at it another way, there are four elements to content strategy: substance, governance, workflow, and structure. Substance has to do with the message, voice, and type of content– basically, the message the content should get across. Governance refers to the hierarchy within the team–who are the key decision-makers and who are the executors. Workflow has to do with the processes and tools used to create and archive content, and structure refers to the selecting of appropriate technology for publishing.
While these terms cross over front-end and back-end, you could say that the first two are largely front-end related (related more directly to the customer experience), while the latter two are back-end related (more technical).
Why Is It important?
Content strategy is extremely important because once you analyze what your needs are and create a strategy that guides your efforts, your content will deliver ROIs.
To use an analogy, creating and publishing content is a lot like using a bow and arrow to hit a target 100 yards away. There are a million directions the arrow could go in without hitting the mark, just as your content could be seen by a million different eyes (or none at all), but not the right ones. Content strategy is the guiding force that aligns your arrow on the right track to hit the target. While an archer takes into account the wind, the weight of the arrow, and velocity, a content strategist considers the audience, the quality of the content, and many other factors to make sure your content hits the mark.