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Five Practical Tips for Building a Content Strategy

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by Lauren Hart Piper , Vice President, Product Management and Marketing,

Content marketing continues to be a hot topic for digital marketers. Organizations that prioritize content as a part of their marketing and community efforts   need to build a content strategy to put structure around the creation, aggregation, governance and expiration of content while ensuring the best content is readily available when needed across its digital properties.

But what do you need to do to get started building a content strategy that ensures you’ve laid the foundation for success?

Margot Bloomstein , founder and principal of Appropriate, Inc. and a seasoned content strategist sat down recently with The Community Roundtable and shared some of her key insights for building a successful content strategy. We’re excited to share the top five insights with you!

1. The Content Strategy Process Begins with Buy-In

The first step in developing a content strategy is to evangelize it within your organization so people understand what it is, and why it should be funded as a part of their department. As you undertake this process it’s important to remember that a good content strategy helps the entire organization work in a more efficient, effective, responsible and most importantly, sustainable manner.

Why sustainable? To illustrate, Margot sites a section from “A Book Apart: The Elements of Content Strategy” by Erin Kissane: “Sustainable content is content you can create—and maintain—without going broke, without lowering quality in ways that make the content suck, and without working employees into nervous breakdowns.”

Once you’ve secured buy-in within your organization on the importance of creating and maintaining a content strategy, it’s time to get cracking on hammering out the strategy itself.

2. Start with a Message Architecture

The message architecture plays a vital role in aligning communications efforts across the organization and serves as the hierarchy of goals that reflect a common vocabulary for the organization’s communications regardless of channel.

To build the message architecture, begin by gathering your key stakeholders involved in defining your communications initiative. Start by laying out and organizing the key terminology your organization uses to describe your brand. Think in terms of who your organization is, who you aren’t, and how you would like to be perceived.

For example, British company Moo.com likes to call themselves, “cheeky.” Everyone within the organization and everyone who communicates on Moo.com’s behalf understands what that means – and knows how to convey that sentiment. Moo also wants to be perceived as very responsive, customer-oriented, approachable, helpful, and accessible. These concepts come through loud and clear in everything they produce, from their product collection to the nomenclature they use to describe it, their calls to action, their photography, even their typeface. They work hard to maintain this carefully crafted “cheeky” image – and in doing so manage to project a fun and engaging brand identity.

Their message architecture also guides how they decide which comments to feature, which they respond to, the tone of their response, etc. As a result, their content and their interactions remain unwaveringly on-brand and consistent with how Moo wishes to be perceived.

3. Conduct a Content Audit

Before an organization knows what content it needs to create, it first needs to take inventory of what currently exists and assess (at least at a high level) whether or not it’s worth using. As you begin your audit process, you should be looking to answer a variety of questions:

For each section of your site:

  • Who owns this portion of the site?
  • When was it last updated?
  • What is the purpose of this portion of the site?
  • What are the different types of content found there?

· What are the different elements of a particular content type or within a page?

  • What is the call to action for the reader?
  • Is anything missing?

For each piece of content:

  • Is it current?

· Is it relevant to the section of the site where it’s currently living?

  • Does it fit into the message architecture you’ve defined?

· Is the quality of the content sufficient to warrant keeping it in rotation?

· How does the content perform? (Check analytics! Do people like it?)

  • Does it need to be translated?
  • Is it tagged appropriately (or indeed at all)?

4. Implement a Content Curation Process

The recipe for success in many other areas of community management holds true here as well: Set your strategy and your process first, then choose the tools/platform to support the strategy and process. Once your message architecture is in place, build on it to figure out what high-quality content already exists, and then begin to curate content to fill in the gaps.

Thoughtful curation filters the content so that the audience can extract meaning. It helps answer the following questions:

  • How can I engage with my community?
  • What five things should I read first?
  • What can get me up to speed on the news?
  • What’s most important about this topic?
  • How can I improve the work I do?

5. Own the Strategy

Surprisingly, having gone through the first four steps, many organizations falter at the final step: charging someone with ownership of the content strategy itself. With no identified owner and champion whose job description includes stewardship of the content strategy, the effort becomes passive and ineffective. A content strategy is a living thing – it should grow and change as your organization responds to industry influences and customer feedback and matures.

Keeping these tips from Margot and The Community Roundtable in mind when defining your organization’s content strategy will help ensure you’re making the most of your content and communicating your brands message clearly and consistently. A clear and sustainable content strategy not only steers the creation and development of new content, but also strengthens your brand identify and helps you connect with your community in a more meaningful, engaging way.

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