Everybody’s talking about this-ism, that-ism … and content strategy. The phrase has entered the mainstream marketing vernacular, and many companies are waking up to the idea that content strategy can lead them forward and help them solve many of their marketing and communication, even business, challenges.
We have one thing to say about this: yes. We couldn’t be happier that companies understand they need to better align their brand stories, serve their customers with clearer and more valuable content, and clean up their messy content processes. Obviously we are believers, and we want companies to be believers too.
But before we march ahead, we want to give you a glimpse into what exactly “doing content strategy” means for you and your company — and to help you assess if you’re truly ready for this.
Be careful of the bandwagon
We hear companies talk about wanting to embark on content strategy typically for a few common reasons:
- They’re about to start (or are in the middle of) a major brand initiative, such as a website redesign or a brand refresh.
- They want better organic search results, and know that (thanks to Google Panda) original content is the key to success.
- They have been hearing and reading about using content for lead generation and nurturing, and believe that content marketing is a good fit for them.
The above reasons are solid reasons to undertake content strategy. But let’s clear up a couple of misconceptions before you start diving in.
First: content marketing is not the same thing as content strategy. A strategy comes first, and content marketing (essentially defined as creating original content to boost SEO and customer engagement) happens as a tactic of that strategy.
Many companies are ready to jump in to content marketing without thinking through the tough questions, like where the content is going to come through, who’s producing it over time, what you’re actually trying to say and who you’re saying it to, and what your standards are for what content should represent your brand.
With the flurry around content marketing, producing more content sometimes becomes more of a priority than producing the right content. Yet, the latter is more important for helping you meet your goals, and companies aren’t ready to spend the time and do the thinking upfront that can make your efforts a success.
What are you getting yourself into?
A content strategy project or initiative will help your company focus on why you’re using certain content for different reasons, for whom you’re creating it, where and when it appears, what you’re actually communicating, and how your organization will create, edit, optimize, design, manage, publish and archive it. It gives you a solid framework for content, as well as a detailed plan for publishing.
You may be considering a content strategy just to govern your website, or to manage a content and social marketing initiative. Or maybe you’ve decided you need a content strategy to govern all content at a segment or enterprise level.
Either way, your organization needs to be prepared before you decide to go down this road in 2014. If you go down the content strategy road, you need to be ready for a few realities:
- You will need to change. Departments will need to start working together in new ways. You’ll need to organize and label content the way customers look for it, not the way your company is structured or using internal terminology. As uncomfortable as change might be, your content strategy will probably dictate it.
- You will need to invest. You’ll need to spend time and money to do the content strategy right: delve into your business, thoroughly understand your content, get to know your market position. And you’ll need to invest in what comes after: new tools, resources, people, time. Which leads me to the next point …
- You will need to think ongoing, not one-time. You can’t do content strategy and then call it done. It’s a long-term commitment. You lay out your strategy, you flip the switch, and that’s the beginning, not the end, of the project. It’s a living thing, and it needs care and feeding every day.
But the results of content strategy can be incredible, a long-term payoff for the short-term discomfort of pain. You’ll be most successful if you go into the process with eyes wide open, expecting things to be a little messy for awhile while you work on your beautiful new content house.
Think you’re ready? We’ll spend the next few weeks looking at various facets of content strategy and some of the activities you might be delving into as you start your initiative. But as always, if you’re ready to start chatting about how content strategy can benefit your organization, reach out to us.