Content strategy: a definition

The War Room

How do you define ‘content strategy’?

At a recent meeting of the Brighton Content Strategy Meetup (BCSM) the assembled writers, editors and strategists discussed the meaning of ‘content strategy’.

The chat was fun, but I resolved to try to define content strategy myself, if only so I have a handy definition to offer anyone who asks. Here goes…

Content strategy is:

A process used by organisations to define and plan how words, pictures, audio and video (content) are used to achieve objectives (such as increased sales or a reduction in support calls).

A content strategy provides a framework for the creation, publication and curation of content, and aligns those activities with the organisation’s wider strategy.

But this is how I explain content strategy to clients…

Content strategy is a response to the challenges posed by website content. Words, sounds, pictures and videos are all expensive to produce, difficult to maintain and easy to get wrong.

The best way to produce useful content is by taking a structured, strategic approach to content production, publication and curation.

A structured approach to content creation means…

So rather than just writing copy for your website, we take the time to think about what you are trying to achieve and how your copy can help you achieve it. Rather than just sprucing your existing content, we audit your content so we can judge it. Rather than letting your website drift along, we plan for future updates and ongoing maintenance.

Content strategy takes away the pain of…

As a copywriter I’m compelled to relate content strategy back to the problems it solves. In my experience, content strategy helps organisations avoid:

  • wasting money on content that doesn’t do a job
  • wasting time on haphazard content creation processes (rather than planning and structuring the work)
  • wasting company time on the content sign-off process (which can be a highly political process)
  • letting a website fall into disrepair with outdated or irrelevant content
  • letting a website become a corporate dumping ground for information.

So that’s my take on what ‘content strategy’ means. What do you think of my definition? How would you change it or improve it? All suggestions are welcome!

8 Comments »

  1. Leif, I love this post. It’s short, straight forward and to the point. This is exactly how I see content strategy, but I think some in the industry are determined to make it sound far more complicated.

    For a top-down perspective, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head!

    Comment by Jen — April 15, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

  2. Interesting post. Thank you.

    Personally, I’m none too keen on the term at all. I recently wrote a post on digital copywriting skills that someone suggested was closer to “content strategy” skills. But like yourself, I’ve found substantial confusion as to what “content strategy” means. Many people think it means blogging.

    In practice, it’s very much about taking a holistic approach to websites — of which copy is an important part. If you believe “content is king” it’s the most important part, and everything else should serve the message the copy delivers. Focusing on the design of a site before considering the content is a little like deciding on a frame for a painting before looking at the picture — or worse, painting a picture just because it fits inside the frame.

    I spend ages trying to convince clients how important it is to consider copy at the design stage — glad to see I’m not the only one!

    Alastaire

    Comment by Alastaire Allday — April 15, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  3. Hi Leif,

    Nice definition. I’ll stick my current favourite here too, for posterity’s sake.

    “A structured approach to ensuring that organisational communications are timely, interesting, relevant and objective-orientated”

    #fwiw

    Comment by David Lockie — April 15, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  4. Is that the war room from Dr. Strangelove in the picture?

    (Hey man, I’m just making sure that the comments can only improve in intellectual value from the first…)

    Comment by Chris Billett — April 15, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  5. @Chris Billet : Yup! I think it’s a version made by a superfan for an online world.

    Comment by Leif Kendall — April 17, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

  6. “Gentlemen… You can’t fight in here… this is the War Room!”

    Comment by Dr Strangelove — April 19, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  7. Great definitions Leif.

    I keep going back to Kristina Halvorson’s definition:

    “Content Strategy plans for the creation, publication and governance of useful, usable content”.

    Your triad of “production, publication and curation” tick the same boxes for me and “useful and usable” are the two commandments I always try to etch in clients’ minds.

    I’ve been using these 5 things to create a 3×2 matrix and use it as a quick, mental checklist to make sure we’re covering all the bases.

    The grid reminds me to ask questions like “how will this be governed after publication?”

    e.g. if its a blog post I will ask “will it need updating?” or “when will it be stale?” and adding a note to a calendar.

    Or asking; “is what’s been created here useful?” and making sure every word is ‘on message’ for the brand or helping the user achieve their goals.

    Comment by Michael Rose — April 19, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  8. [...] I noted in my post defining ‘content strategy’, words and pictures are messy things, and organising and approving them is often a tricky process [...]

    Pingback by Content strategy applied: 5 tips for getting web content approved | Freelance Copywriter | Web / SEO Copywriter | Brighton/London — May 3, 2011 @ 10:17 am

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