Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content. In other words, content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
The purpose of content strategy has been described as achieving business goals by maximizing the impact of content.
Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we are publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy is not strategy at all: it is just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants.
Content strategists strive to achieve content that is readable and understandable, but also findable, actionable and shareable in all of its various forms. Content strategy development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content.
A content strategy defines:
- key themes and messages;
- recommended topics;
- content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements);
- content gap analysis;
- metadata and taxonomy frameworks and related content attributes;
- search engine optimization (SEO);
- implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance.
Content strategy may include:
Editorial strategy defines the guidelines by which all online content is governed: values, voice, tone, legal and regulatory concerns, user-generated content, and so on. This practice also defines an organization’s online editorial calendar, including content life cycles.
Web writing is the practice of writing useful, usable content specifically intended for online publication. This is a whole lot more than smart copywriting. An effective web writer must understand the basics of user experience design, be able to translate information architecture documentation, write effective metadata, and manage an ever-changing content inventory.
Metadata and taxonomy strategy
Metadata and taxonomy strategy identifies the type and structure of metadata, also known as “data about data” (or content) and taxonomy. Smart, well-structured metadata helps publishers to identify, organize, use, and reuse content in ways that are meaningful to key audiences.
Search engine optimization
Search engine optimization is the process of editing and organizing the content on a page or across a web site (including metadata) to increase its potential relevance to specific search engine keywords.
Content management strategy
Content management strategy defines the technologies needed to capture, store, deliver, and preserve an organization’s content. Publishing infrastructures, content life cycles and workflows are key considerations of this strategy.
Content channel distribution strategy
Content channel distribution strategy defines how and where content will be made available to users.
The content life cycle is a repeatable system that governs the management of content. The processes within a given content lifecycle are system-agnostic. The processes are established as part of a content strategy, and implemented during the content life cycle.
Aspects of a content life cycle
The content life cycle covers four macro stages: the strategic analysis, the content collection, management of the content, and publishing, which includes publication and post-publication activities.
The content lifecycle is in effect whether the content is controlled within a content management system or not, whether it gets translated or not, whether it gets deleted at the end of its life or revised and re-used.
The analysis quadrant comprises the content strategy. The other three quadrants are more tactical in nature, focusing on the implementation of the content strategy.
In the analysis phase, the content life cycle is concerned with the strategic aspects of content. A content strategist (or business analyst or information architect or writer) examines the need for various types of content within the context of both the business and of the content consumers, and for multiple outputs on multiple platforms.
The analysis has a bearing on how the content strategy is implemented in the other quadrants of the content life cycle. On a new project with new content, this is the beginning of the process. Much of the time, the process will start somewhere else in the cycle; a lot depends on a multitude of factors involved in changing content from a current state to its future state.
Content collection includes the garnering of content for use within the framework set out in the analysis phase. Collection may be through content development - creating content or editing the content of others, content ingestion - syndication of content from other sources, or incorporation of localized content, or a hybrid of content integration and converge - such as integrating product descriptions from an outside organization with prices from a costing system, or the convergence of editorial and user-generated content from social media for simultaneous display.
The publishing quadrant deals with the aspects of content that happen when the content is delivered to its output platform and ensuing transformations, manipulations, or uses of the content. Publishing the content is only a point in the first life cycle iteration; there are post-publishing considerations such as re-use and retention policies that require attention.
The management quadrant is concerned with the efficient and effective use of content. In organizations using technology to automate the management of content, the management aspect assumes use of a content management system (CMS) of some sort. In organizations with smaller amounts of content, with little need for workflow control, and virtually no single-sourcing requirements, manual management is possible.
However, in large enterprises, there is too much content, and there are too many variations of content output, to manage the content without some sort of system to automate whatever functions can be automated. The content configuration potential is enormous, and builds on the information gathered during the analysis and collection phases.
The solutions will be highly situational, and revolve around the inputs and outputs, the required content variables, the complexity of the publishing pipeline, and the technologies in play. The most basic questions are around adoption of standards and technologies, and determining components, content granularity, and how far up or down the publishing pipeline to implement specific techniques.
At its core, content strategy is a way of thinking that has direct impact on the way we do business. And the way we do business must include a clear focus on how we create, deliver, and govern our content. Because more than ever before, content has become one of the most valuable business assets.