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What is a Content Strategy? [A Quick Guide]

The number of businesses getting engaged in different types of content activities, principles and creations is increasing continuously. Discussions are going on about how to adopt content marketing in a way that improves the bottom-line of companies, across various industries. Though you may already be engaged in strategic content planning informally, what you essentially need is to formalize the process into a well-organized discipline.

Before answering the question – What is a content strategy? – and delving deep into the topic, let me first make you quickly aware of why you really need this strategy for your content marketing now.

Creating a content strategy answers –

> Why you should create content
> Who you should talk to
> What they want from you
> What it will take to get it done

Though you’ve been employing various free/ paid marketing techniques to get the word about your business out there, they’re no more sufficient. Both the game of SEO and the behavior of online users (across web, social and mobile) are rapidly changing. Today’s consumers like to engage with those companies that consistently offer them ‘custom content’. Though advertising still exists, its results are not long-lived. On the other hand, content that fulfills the consumers’ day-to-day needs is something that can become an asset to your business for the long term, if you’re ready to make the investment it requires.

In order to develop a content strategy that helps your content efforts escalate profit margins, it’s crucial to understand what the term actually signifies so that you can practice it with the right approach.

Here’s a quick look at what it means –

content-strategy-definition

On the web, you’ll find many other good definitions of the term ‘content strategy’. Many experts look at it as a culture or mindset of presenting customers with information they’re desperately seeking. No matter how one phrases or rephrases what a content strategy actually is, all the definitions point to a similar conceptual framework that this process consists of. It’s also been made quite clear that it’s a process that should always go on for long-term value.

The process of content strategy can be divided into –

Research

This is where your strategy starts to take birth. To develop a result-oriented content strategy, you should conduct competitive analysis and identify the gaps (i.e. opportunities). The focus of your research should always remain on the needs of users pitted against your business goals. Interview the stakeholders, which may include people across your own organization as well as those in your partner agencies, and ask them as many questions as you want. Once you’ve the answers, validate and test them. An adequate amount of your time should be devoted to search engine optimization or keyword research as well. If you already have a lot of content and plan to give it a new lease of life, you should evaluate the same to get a clear picture of the existing content environment.

Further Reading:
How to conduct competitive analysis
Tips for effective content research
SEO/ keyword research [Infographic]
Tools for content research

Creation

Once the research part is complete, it’s time for the development of content ideas and editorial guidelines. With the help of your content team, you should plan to work out relevant topics, messages and themes in the light of the findings of your research. In your plan, you can also include third-party content, apart from owned content which forms the backbone of your content creation plan. Moreover, you should utilize the skills of talented people in your content team to create specialized content pieces like videos, infographics, podcasts etc. Be ready to take more skilled professionals on board as advised by the content team or according to specific requirements.

Two things you’ll always need – a content calendar and a style guide. The digital calendar is the go-to resource for each one of the stakeholders for scheduled content release and further planning. The style guide helps you build a consistent voice for your brand.

Further Reading:
Tips for quality content creation
Different types of content
Qualities of great content [Slide]
Tools for digital content creation

Delivery

Next is the distribution of content. You need to think of all the possible delivery channels (organic search, paid search, syndication, content partnerships etc.) and their role in terms of the brand-consumer relationship. It’s extremely important to understand why your consumers access those channels and at what time. It helps you efficiently match specific pieces of content with specific delivery channels. Think also in terms of structure, as it will enhance the scope of re-use and distribution. Very often, content marketers ignore using every relevant space available to a brand. Intranet and employee communications should also, therefore, be a part of your content delivery network.

Further Reading:
Content distribution channels
Tips for content distribution
Content delivery ideas and platforms
Content syndication

Governance

This is the stage which requires the most attention, endlessly. Though governing the content online might appear to be a hell lot of task, having a few good tools (for authoring, publishing and measurement) in your toolkit makes the job a lot easier. It includes crucial tasks like managing the content workflow, roles, risks and periodical auditing. The editor-in-chief, editors, authors, SEOs and publishers should all work in close collaboration with one another and fulfill their responsibilities in an effective manner, right from content planning through to content publishing.

Most importantly, you need to determine whether the published content hits the target when measured against your strategy goals. Depending on the current performance of the content, you have to set new benchmarks to improve the results further and achieve the desired targets.

Further Reading:
Content maintenance and governance
Why content governance is imperative
Social media content management
Tools for content governance and workflow

There are different content strategies to fulfill different goals. A content strategy which focuses on ‘customer acquisition’ is obviously not similar to another which has ‘link building’ as its goal. But always remember that it’s the lack of a strategy which makes most of the content marketing campaigns fall flat. A formalized strategic content plan makes it easy for you to deliver your core message to the target audience, rise above the clutter, enhance brand credibility, and help you achieve the desired business goals while saving you both money and time.

Have you created a content strategy for your business yet? Please feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts on this topic.

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Patty Scheeler September 22, 2014, 12:41 am

    This is an excellent article! It has a very in depth view on how to create content with a specific strategy in mind. Thanks for sharing this!

  • obaidul September 23, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Thank you for your visit and comment, Patty.

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