Lao Tzu once said “Be content with what you have.” Sure, he meant content as in happy – but hey, it’s the 21st century. And it’s the other kind of content – the words and images you put on your website and marketing materials – that’s keeping you up at night.
Every business, big and small, needs a content strategy even though few actually have one documented. They might get by winging it, which means content is produced upon request and often at the last minute. While the job gets done this way, it’s grossly inefficient. Content is produced in a flurry, used once and then forgotten. Writers feel more stress and less ownership than they need to. Your best ones will yearn for strategy and progress. Your weak ones will be comfortable meeting deadlines without being challenged.
If you want something more for your team and your organization, you need a content strategy.
Your content strategy defines what you say, how you say it and who is responsible for each step in the process. And while most people think “marketing” when they think content strategy, a true content strategy is much broader than that. It covers all the content your organization produces, whether it’s webinars, speeches or technical materials. Ready to get started?
Sketch out the Big Picture
Your first step is to sketch out the big picture.
What do you want to say?
Every piece of content your organization produces should reinforce your brand. Define your brand and your overall brand message. Writers and editors love voice and tone guides; if you don’t have one, task someone with creating one. It doesn’t have to be elaborate.
To whom should you say it?
Define the different types of people who will consume your content. Use this quick personal formula to document who these people are and what you know about them.
How should the audience react?
Each specific piece of content should have an objective, but think higher level than that. Overall, how do you want your content to impact each audience? You definitely want to reinforce your brand personality, but what else? You might want to position your team as thought leaders or indispensable resources in your industry. Or, maybe you want people to get curious about your product and what it can do for them.
How will your business benefit?
You can get people engaged with your content all day long, but it’s a waste of time if you aren’t working towards a specific business goal. Most of the time, your content should move people along the journey from prospect to lead to customer. For your content to be effective in that role, you need to understand what motivates people to continue or end the journey.
What content are you producing today and how is that different from the content you will need tomorrow?
Get your arms around how your content production needs to change to fulfill your business goals.
How will you measure your content’s success?
Content is an investment. You need a means of measuring the success of your investment. You’ve already thought about how your business will benefit from your content machine. Now put some numbers and metrics to that. You will want to measure how many people see your content and then also how many people take the intended action from the content.
Say you have content that’s intended to get people to fill out a lead form. You will want to know how many people saw the content and how many leads were generated. That way, if the numbers aren’t what you expect, you know whether the problem is how you market the content or the content itself.
Assess Your Resources
Producing and managing content is resource-intensive. So before you launch a new content strategy, spend time understanding what you have and what you don’t. Identify who you have in your organization to: Develop and manage the editorial calendar Create content (writers and designers) Curate content Provide subject matter expertise Provide search engine optimization support Publish content Maintain content
Design the Workflow & Get Buy In
I will venture to say that someone who doesn’t edit or write probably underestimates the complexity of the content lifecycle. (If I’m wrong on this, feel free to call me out in the comments!) You can find many interpretations of the content lifecycle around the web, and most of them look like this:
But what does that really mean? Let’s zoom in one level and look closer at the details.
Depending on the size of your organization, a single piece of content may be routed through six or more people throughout its lifecycle. This is an amazing collaborative effort. But it will fail miserably if you don’t design a workflow that your people will support. Get your key players together and let them tell you what they need to make this work.
Get Started and Adjust
Once you have your production workflow sketched out, empower your people to get started. Get the team back together quarterly to talk about what’s working and what’s not. You will need to make adjustments to your content strategy along the way, and that’s OK. Lao Tzu may believe in being “content with what you have,” but I would add, not too content. If what you have is broken, step in, fix it and move on.