If you don’t have a fully documented and published content strategy you’re not alone, incredibly only a third of businesses do. The rest either don’t have a strategy at all or at best have only roughly outlined plans that aren’t known to the wider organisation. When you consider the value content delivers and the investment you make in it, it’s surprising that content strategy isn’t much more of a priority. 

Aside from it being a wasted opportunity, the consequences of not having a strategy mean you could be missing out on some real opportunities to get momentum behind your brand or mean that you’re scrabbling to support marketing goals. 

And preparing your content strategy needn’t be too hard. It might seem daunting to begin with but once you have it in place you are much more in control of your content and have something you can build on. So let’s take a look at it now! We’ll begin by breaking things down into some key steps.

Six steps to nailing it!

In this first of a two-part blog we’ll look at steps 1, 2 and 3. 

  1. Content audit 
  2. Marketing goals and strategy alignment
  3. Topic choice and format ideas
  4. Channel and measurement decisions
  5. Resourcing, budgeting & scheduling
  6. Periodic review and adjustment.

1. Content audit – what content do you already have?  

Start by doing a quick audit of your existing content and divide it into two main buckets – long term goal content and short term tactical content.

Your ongoing long term goal content is there to drive your thought leadership and brand, the sort of content that you can repurpose and the sort of content that’s at the top of the sales funnel. That’s the white papers, the case studies and the blogs, the broad strokes where you’re beginning to appeal to your audience, beginning to get their attention. Or the content that helps you to retain your customers, they know you’re good, they just need the reminder.

Then you have the other bucket, your short term tactical content, the type you might tie to a definitive campaign or to a short term objective, such as a new product launch. This might be an infographic, a webinar or podcast or perhaps an eBook that unpacks what the new product is all about. 

Who were your targets and what were your messages?

Then note down who these pieces of content were for, tie them to your personas or your target audiences. When you’re doing this you might identify a hole in your content, you may not have given one particular persona or target audience the attention they deserved! It’s worth considering that if you’d had a content strategy you’d have seen this…

Try and define too what the challenge your persona/target had that your content was addressing, the content title might give it away but if not skim the content and note the drift of it.

Add all of this into a spreadsheet and, if you have the data, add a column for the distribution channel you used and your measurement of success. Your measurement of success can vary widely depending on the type of content but it could be number of downloads, bounce rates, contact details entered or social shares.

If one piece of content was the stand-out performer why do you think that was? What was the powerful message that struck your audience, what did they really like about it? How can you replicate that going forward and build on it with your content strategy?  

So, now you have a picture of the past, a useful guide and reference, you can see what you’ve done, what assets you have and who you’ve reached out to and what the response was. All of this is really useful for helping you devise your content strategy going forward.  

2. Marketing goals and strategy alignment 

Next it’s time to consider your company’s current marketing goals and strategy as your content is going to be supporting it. This is your chance to consider your ongoing thought leadership messaging to deliver long term positioning goals and also to look at your campaigns for the year and the content you need to provide to support them.

If campaigns aren’t yet agreed, take the initiative and brainstorm with your team or talk to sales or other departments to see how you can support them.

If a marketing goal is to increase sales amongst a particular audience take a look at your content audit, what content have you already created for this audience, how successful was it? How can you build on it?

3. Topic choice and format ideas – what are the issues, what’s important to the market? 

Once you’re clear about ongoing messaging and forthcoming campaigns you can begin to think about content topics. This is where you identify topics of importance to your personas or target audiences. Take the time to brainstorm with your team and/or other departments to uncover the issues/drivers affecting them. Think like your customer, what topics are they searching for? What keywords are you trying to rank for from an SEO perspective?

As you begin to build your list of topics you’ll begin to recognise your priorities and you’ll also identify trends enabling you to categorise topics. This process helps you avoid having multiple pieces of content on the same subject, or it might identify that you need a series of content on a topic. You can also begin to connect and interlink similar themed content, the hub and spoke strategy, where you cluster topics around a main pice of content that’s your pillar and then have a cluster of topics that relate to it. For example, this is my pillar content and I’ll then produce a cluster of topics that get into the detail of content strategy.

As the topics emerge you’ll have ideas about the format you’d like to present them in. For instance, long form content such as white papers, blogs or case studies can be great for achieving thought leadership objectives. Something like a short video could help you communicate answers to FAQs that tie your customer services team up and stop your customers using your product fully. 

You don’t need to recreate the wheel

And because you’ve carried out your audit you may also realise that you have content that you can repurpose. Meatier pieces of content can be perfect for this, you could divide a white paper into a series of articles or use findings to create an infographic. Or if you need to highlight a particular feature you could take quotes from a video and write a case study.  Or perhaps revisit an old case study and give it a new lease of life?

There are multiple ways you can repurpose your content to meet new goals. And you can also use this as a way to test out different formats and see which performs better.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick dive into content strategy. In my next blog we’ll unpack further and look at the remaining three steps: 

  • Channel and measurement decisions
  • Resourcing, budgeting & scheduling
  • Review and adjustment.