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Knowing your content strategy from your content strategy

Content is everywhere – and there is more and more being added to the digital landfill every day. The increased interest in “content” has resulted in the use of the term content strategy to mean content calendars for editorial content planning (brand journalism/content marketing) and social media content plans. “Content Strategy”, in my book, is something different. Here I explain how the discipline of “Content Strategy” is distinct from a content strategy for content marketing or social media.

As the web has mushroomed with more and more pages of descriptive content on websites as time goes on, the discipline of “Content Strategy” has evolved. It is a way to untangle the web of content that exists online and offline in organisations. I first became aware of the emerging discipline of “Content Strategy” in 2011 having read Erin Kissane’s book The Elements of Content Strategy.

Without realising it I was already doing some content strategy in my work as a copywriter. On reading Kissane’s book I knew I wanted to be a content strategist when I grew up. Fast forward three years and I’ve started seeing the term content strategy pop up more online. Frequently when I click on a link people are talking about content strategy in a way I hadn’t expected. To many, content strategy is a loose term to describe:

  • an editorial content calendar planning for blogs/articles
  • social media post planning

That’s not the content strategy I know.

Content strategy explained

However, it’s completely understandable that people have linked terms like content marketing, digital strategy and social media strategy, and have used the combination of the words content and strategy to describe planning content marketing and social media content. “Content Strategy”, in my book, is something different.

There’s an industry built up around it with international conferences run annually by Confab and CS Forum. I have attended two dedicated content strategy conferences: CS Forum 2011 in London and Confab Europe 2014 in Barcelona. To explain what I understand as “Content Strategy”, I’m going to quote the US Government, which in turn quotes Kristina Halvorson. “Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content.

Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website.”

Examples of different types of content

We’ll take The New York Times as an example of different types of content strategy because it has:

  • a corporate website which tells you all about the organisation (NYTco.com)
  • a website it publishes newsy/timely content on (nytimes.com)
  • a range of social media accounts

If you – yes you – in your role are focused on content marketing (the newsy content) and social media (what it posts and shares on social media) saw that The New York Times was embarking on a content strategy project you may assume it’s referring to its editorial content calendar, or its social media calendar. It would likely not. Mainly because journalism has its own language and content strategy isn’t what you’d use to describe how you plan out your news publishing schedule.

Getting to grips with the discipline called content strategy

A content strategy for a corporate is about the content that sits on that corporate site (or in brochures etc) separate to its editorial/content marketing or social media content. Doing a “Content Strategy” content strategy involves a lot of work in Excel, workshops with stakeholders and making a plan for that content. As the web is filled more and more with content “Content Strategy” is an area businesses need to turn to, in order to ensure that the content on their website meets customer needs and business objectives.

If you have your social media content strategy and content marketing content strategy in place, that’s all great. But what shape is the material on your website or elsewhere that your bringing your target audience to? This is where your “Content Strategy” content strategy comes into place. Maybe you’re doing it in-house without realising so (content governance).

This post first appeared on Congregation.ie as a blog ticket entry to #Cong14, a social media gathering.

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