Content Strategy – more than just a buzzword!
Content strategy as a buzzword has been around for some years now and professionals inside marketing and communications globally have swiftly adapted to the fact that without a clever content strategy, you run the risk of spreading your core messages uncoordinated, unaligned with your brand and simply not as effectively. The main reason though why content strategy is not just a buzzword is the simple fact that it makes good sense – the idea of not being able to coordinate, plan and distribute your content according to strategic decisions and using the tools provided to us by our digital age, for me, is just outdated and absurd.
For professionals in the industry, it is redundant to discuss the importance of having a content strategy. But for the management teams outside the uninitiated spheres of the marketing and communications departments, it may seem as a pure waste of time and resources. Will a content plan increase sales? Will it drive innovation and business development?
It might do just that, provided you handle it the right way. But first and foremost, it will make you a relevant content contributor for your target audiences. It will tap directly into your purpose and brand identity, and it will actually save time and resources for communication and marketing as it increases both coordination of communication activities, brand alignment and your ability to listen to your customers or clients.
But in order to make a proper content strategy, you need to first put emphasis on the word strategy.
A Strategic choice
Working with a content strategy involves much more than the exercises related to production, planning and distribution of content. It entails a far more focused way of thinking content in terms of relevance and accessibility. For B2B marketers, it is much more than just creating thought leadership and sharing it with the organization’s network. And for B2C organizations it implies more than marketing a product to a specific segment or by using mass communication. Content strategy is a strategic choice that should support the overall business goals and help shape and design the perceived persona of the brand/organization the specific content piece represents.
In order to achieve this it is important to take the right preliminary steps towards a content strategy.
Usually, organizations tend to think content marketing and, subsequently, content strategy isolated from other strategic tools that may or may not have been developed already. Too often, we want to start with sharing content without having worked out the basics.
The journey to an effective content strategy could look like this:
First: You need to lay a strong foundation, and ideally this is your brand strategy. This comes first as it defines your identity, purpose and target groups. Without this you are nothing and have nothing to communicate. An empty shell without a soul.
Second: The strategic choices about how to unfold the core story into messages that support the purpose and reach the defined target groups, are the elements that make up the communications strategy. This sets the direction.
Third: Now, it could be tempting to start sharing your content on the basis of the core messages, but there is just one more step to be aware of – your channel strategy. Your goal here is to prioritize your channel mix and, most importantly, describe a clearly defined dedicated purpose of each channel. For instance, we use newsletter X to sell product/service A to segment 1. Or, we use our LinkedIn company profile with the unique purpose of elevating our employer branding (and therefore we do not try to push our products/services through this channel).
Then comes the content strategy itself, sitting on a strong and clearly defined foundation of well thought-through strategic choices.
This is the only way to create an effective content strategy, that fully supports your business goals and overall strategy while having a customer/client-centric focus that generates real relevance.
What is a content strategy NOT?
A content strategy is not the same thing as content marketing, although often used simultaneously. A content marketing strategy is, just like the communications strategy, an initial exercise that defines a strategy around using content as a strategic tool. A content strategy is the implementation of this.
Also, a content strategy is not an expensive strategic exercise that swallows resources. Rather, it is an exercise in coordinating, aligning and creating awareness around how you communicate to your target audience. Used the right way, it will actually release resources and create synergy and relevance in your communication activities. Furthermore, it is a great tool for sharing core messages internally in your organization.
Finally, a content strategy is not there to boost sales! This might sound wrong when trying to sell it to your management team, but the key word should always be relevance. The employee responsible for your content strategy should never be measured on commercial success or KPIs in any way related to sales. The person in charge should be measured on relevance alone. And should be just as focused on listening as producing effective content to the target audience.
In your content strategy – relevance is king. And it is not just a buzzword!