Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. It officially emerged as a web-based discipline several years ago, but is a practice that has been in place for decades amongst copy and technical writers. It’s a means of making sense of the content we create, whether it’s for websites, pamphlets, publications, or technical documents.
There are four components in content strategy, within two main categories: content components (substance and structure), and people components (workflow and governance). As you might suspect, content components relate to the written content within a site, while people components relate to how people create that content.
The first content-related component is Substance. This asks what kind of content we need, and what messages does the content need to communicate to our audience? If we are looking at an existing website, what content is already published? Commonly in this component, you engage in activities such as:
- content auditing
- stakeholder interviews
- reviewing analytics
The second content-related component is Structure. This component asks how content is prioritized, organized, formatted, and displayed. This might relate to how you prioritize editing content on the site (for example, does older technical content take priority over more recent marketing content). You might also look at your body of content and ask if you can provide a better structure for it, to make it easier to search, display related content, and reuse content.
Typical activities in this component are:
- information architecture
- creation of sitemaps
- identifying taxonomies
So that’s the content side - in short, what content and messages do you need to convey to our users, and how is that content structured?
From here, we move on to the people side.
The first people-related component is Workflow. Here, we ask what processes, tools, and people are required to maintain your site’s content. For example, you might want to start documenting your style and identifying content-related roles and editorial workflows. In this component you might want to ask questions such as:
- who is allowed to contribute or publish to the site?
- who needs to review a piece of content before it is made public?
- is content written directly in the CMS, or using a word processing tool?
Finally, the last component is governance. This relates to policy and process that affects the creation and maintenance of content in your organization.
Here you might ask questions such as:
- How do you make decisions about what content goes on the site?
- How do you discuss and decide how these changes are made?
- What is your editorial process, and how does content flow from creation to publication?
Governance works to answer all of these questions with a documented set of policies and procedures. During this stage, you would create documentation such as style guides, responsibility matrices, and content calendars.
Bringing it together
All of these components are ultimately defined by the core strategy. The core strategy is usually a multi-page document, that covers all of the above components along with a core strategy statement. Ideally, this is summarized as a short statement that defines the content-related goals that matches five criteria: It’s flexible, aspirational, memorable, motivational, and inclusive. For example, the core strategy statement for a site that documents an industry’s history might be something along the lines of “The History of the Widget Industry provides the most comprehensive and objective history of widget development in Canada for industry members and academics.” This would be broadened within the core strategy document, and outline in each component how to achieve this.
Content Strategy is only the first part of a greater content lifecycle. This is a model for how content is planned, created, and maintained throughout the life of a site, and is ultimately guided by what is put together in the core strategy. The content lifecycle helps describe the various stages one goes through when building and maintaining content within a website and within smaller components. It is a continuous process of examining, planning, and improving.
At Shipton, we can help you define an effective content strategy that supports your business’ needs. Contact us today to get an initial content audit and recommendations.