Steps Toward Developing A Content Strategy
Columnist Rebecca Lieb details the critical steps organizations should take to map out a clear content strategy to govern their content marketing.
My research (at Altimeter Group), corroborated by that of several other studies, indicates that currently 70 percent of companies practicing content marketing lack a documented strategy. But thankfully, this is slowly changing as the need to align content with actual goals, processes and procedures comes into focus.
What are the steps to outlining that documented strategy? The following is a list of my asks the moment I’m brought into an organization to help them develop a content strategy road map.
The first, and most critical part, is goals. What is content trying to achieve? What are the business reasons for creating and publishing content, and how are these goals aligned to broader company priorities?
This critical first step is determining the big “Why” of content. Without the why, there can be no strategy.
Part 2 may be secondary, but it’s of equal importance. It answers the question “How?” People, process, governance, tools, technologies, assets — all of these and more must be present and accounted for, aligned and communicated to numerous stakeholders. How is ongoing, but adheres to a broad procedural schema.
In order to determine Why and get to the How, these are my “Day One” requests when beginning a content strategy engagement.
List Of Tools & Technologies
What tools do you use to create content? To publish it? To store, archive, share and retrieve it? To optimize and measure it? What other tools do these tools have to play nice with?
This list might include Web or social analytics tools, SEO or SEM software, CRM solutions, marketing automation, even intranets and telephony software.
No tool or technology is an island anymore, so a holistic, 360-degree consideration of technology — what’s used today and what’s planned for deployment in the future — is essential.
A content audit is a painstaking, exacting exercise that many would be only too happy to skip. But you can’t.
If you don’t know where you are, you can’t chart the journey forward. A content audit is both a quantitative and, more importantly, a qualitative analysis of all the content for which your organization is responsible.
In order to conduct an audit, you’ll need a list of all your public-facing online properties, from websites to social media. When I conduct an audit I want to see your email marketing, your ad campaigns. I even (this surprises many of my clients) want to examine offline collateral, perhaps that big annual report or research study undertaken annually or semiannually.
It’s not enough to just have at the content itself. I’ll also request access to analytics software (Web, social, email, and so on). The purpose of an audit isn’t just to evaluate whether or not I like your content. I want to see if it’s being seen, found, used, shared and amplified — or not.
A good audit (they vary by purpose and type of engagement) is a 50-point diagnostic. They’re very deep and reveal often-surprising insights, not just about the content itself, but also requirements for the processes and technologies to create and sustain the flow of content. The goal is to define gaps and problems, as well as to identify strengths, and develop specific recommendations for improvement.
The stakeholder interview is the most interesting part of developing a content strategy.
I’ll ask for a list of 10 to 15 stakeholders for in-depth interviews on content needs. What are their goals? Their wants and needs? Their vision of process? It’s usually up to my client to identify the stakeholders I’ll interview, but I don’t want all of them to be senior executives. I also want to speak with the techies, the creatives and tacticians to get a pragmatic, from-the-trenches perspective.
I don’t want to interview groups larger than two to three people (otherwise some will clam up), and I don’t want a senior executive present at all my conversations (self-censorship can be an issue).
While stakeholder interviews aren’t a democratic process, really asking people what they want and need around content can be incredibly revealing, and unveil very interesting levels of consensus.
There are, of course, other asks dependent on the size, scope and purpose of a content engagement strategy. But for anyone approaching their organization as a client in need of a content strategy, these three starting points are mandatory.