What Is Content Strategy and Why Do You Need It?
You might be reading this, confident that you’ve already got your content strategy on lock.
You’ve got a plan to post to LinkedIn on Tuesdays and Thursdays, share on Facebook and Twitter every morning, publish a new blog post on Wednesdays and even write a new e-book each quarter. Cool!
But I hate to break it to you — that’s not a content strategy.
That’s an editorial calendar, which should be developed as a result of a content strategy.
Here’s a scary fact: If you created an editorial calendar without developing a content strategy first, there’s a good chance that whatever you’re fervently posting day in and out isn’t very effective.
That’s because you’ll only know which content truly resonates with your audience and drives them to act after you first understand what messaging your organization is putting out there, for what purpose and for who.
Otherwise, you risk publishing content that goes completely unnoticed, or even worse — annoys the living daylights of your audience with information they don’t need or care about. Yikes!
Okay, but why would content strategy help you?
It’s hard to know where to start when it comes to content.
There’s SO much information out there about what, where, when and how to create and share content.
Not to mention the crushing pressure to pump out new, flashy SEO-optimized stuff faster than a barista at 7am on a Monday. UGH!
Let me clear up the stress and confusion right now: It all begins with content strategy.
Like any major goal in life, creating effective content comes from a well-researched plan. You must understand why you’re doing it and how to do it correctly.
Think about content the same way you would think about getting in shape, learning an instrument or starting a business.
You could jump right into these things with no formulated plan for success. And you could keep it up for awhile. You’d learn some new things and probably see a little progress.
But ultimately, if you don’t have a clear purpose for why you’re doing it, you’ll eventually stop seeing progress.
And because you have no clear direction for how to move forward, you’ll become frustrated or overwhelmed and give up.
Content strategy helps you formulate a clear, actionable and adaptable plan that you’ll stick with for the long haul.
What exactly is content strategy?
There are lots of buzzy, jargon-y ways to describe content strategy, but you’re busy and ain’t nobody got time for that.
So here’s the simplest definition:
Content strategy is all about clearly defining your organization’s vision — what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and for whom.
Once you’ve established that, you can confidently decide on all this stuff:
- A clear, strong message that guides every piece of content you create (“branded content”)
- How your content will resonate with your target audience and get them excited and involved in what you sell/do/promote (“user experience”/“move them through the sales funnel”/“drive conversions”)
- What formats (blog post, video, infographic, etc.) to use when developing your content (“content curation/creation”)
- Where it’s most appropriate to distribute the content, based on your users’ preferences, habits and behaviors (“content distribution channels and platforms”)
- How often you’ll share that content (“editorial/content calendar”)
Content strategy makes sure ALL of your content follows the same cohesive message: The one that your audience finds most valuable, is motivated to share and wants to act on.
Because, let’s face it. That is literally your content’s ONLY purpose.
If you only remember one thing from this post, it should be this: Content without strategy is just stuff.
Content without a strategy to resonate with your current and potential clients becomes the same kind of useless “stuff” that’s crammed into our closets and garages at home — rarely accessed and pretty forgettable.
A content strategy turns your content from “stuff” into valuable storytelling that engages your audience at every juncture.
There’s just no getting around content strategy
Still unconvinced of content strategy’s importance? Maybe this will help.
Here are my answers to some of the most common excuses I hear for avoiding the content strategy process (that you might be thinking right now!):
“We’ll just hire a digital marketing firm that knows how to place strategic ads and run amazing inbound marketing campaigns”
Great! And when prospects visit your website, if they can’t find information that resonates with them in less than one minute, they’ll leave and probably never come back.
Paid advertising only generates brand awareness insofar as letting the world know that you exist. That’s it.
You have to do the rest, and a strong content strategy will cover every aspect of that.
“We’ll hire the best writers to create excellent content”
Don’t get me wrong — as a writer, I am a zillion percent behind this.
You should always seek out strong writers who are well-versed in SEO and have solid experience writing for the web — preferably in your niche.
But even the most well-written web content or blog post will get you nowhere if it isn’t content that your audience finds valuable.
If it’s not highly targeted to your target audience’s needs, habits, desires and emotions, the piece could win a Nobel Prize for Literature but still have near-zero effect on engaging audiences and generating business.
“We already know who our target audience is”
Most organizations know the demographic information about their target audience.
But they don’t know who their audience IS.
To create content that matters to your audience — and remember, this is the whole point of your content — you need to have a superior understanding of your audience’s behaviors and habits, including:
- The times of day they’re online and the types of content they want to consume at those specific times
- The platforms they’re using to browse (tablet, laptop, phone, etc.) at specific times of day
- The types of media they prefer (video, text, image, etc.), and how that changes throughout the course of the day
- What emotional triggers (pain points) will drive them to act on/share your content, and how to access those triggers in a nuanced way
- What subject matter and tone they want to consume at different points in the day
Remember, there are no mass audiences anymore. Trying to be everything to everyone, or assuming that you “just know” what your audience wants and needs without doing any research, will lead to creating generic, unfocused content.
“We already know what our organization is doing and why”
Perhaps. But having a written mission statement, vision and goals doesn’t mean that you’re actually following them.
First, things like turnover, conflicting stakeholder ideas and new industry trends can lead even the best-laid plans astray over time.
And second, upon closer inspection, many organizations find that their internal messaging — or “story” — isn’t consistent.
For example, their customer service department may be giving their clients a totally different experience than, say, the sales group. This leads to confusion and distrust among clients and employees alike.
It is always a good idea for organizations to regroup annually to review their collective “why” and make sure it’s actually happening.
“We don’t have the money to invest in content strategy”
Do you have the money and human resources to invest in creating and promoting content that’s getting little-to-no engagement?
Do you have the money to waste on employee turnover due to internal confusion and mixed messaging about your organization’s mission, brand, vision or purpose?
I’m guessing not.
Sure, like any valuable asset, content strategy is an investment of both time and resources. But it prevents you from making these other unnecessary, costly investments over and over again.
I totally get it. If you’re a social enterprise, you’re trying so hard to make a positive difference in the world — and usually without a whole lot of time or money to do it. You’re terrified of making a misstep that would waste either of these precious resources.
But let me say this: working with a talented content strategist is never a waste of time or money. In fact, it is one of the very best investments you can ever make in your socially conscious organization.
I can help you develop the content strategy you need to build trust with your audience, continually engage them and grow your purposeful brand. Drop me a line today to start on a content strategy that is perfectly you.