Organizations that traditionally focus on creating new content, such as news and publishing organizations have had a relatively easy transition when it came to developing web content; they were already adept at repurposing old content and identifying new opportunities, they had writers and producers on staff, and they had deep experience developing editorial calendars. But for digital marketers in traditionally non-content producing organizations (pretty much any business other than news or traditional publishing), content development and management have become part of their job responsibilities—and for the most part, they are failing at it.
However, their failure isn’t inevitable. All they need to do is to learn from the examples of those who successfully transitioned. There are a number of reasons that their path was easier, but one stands above the rest: Having a clear content strategy enables organizations to consistently and sustainably create useful, relevant, and engaging content. With careful planning and adequate staffing, these organizations deliver the content that their target audiences want and that inspires them to share their findings with others in their industry or community.
While establishing a content strategy can be an intensive process at the outset, a properly structured plan delivers efficiencies and value that far outweigh whatever resources or heartache it took to establish it. Still, most organizations have no content strategy, and to some it might as well be a foreign language. Many don’t plan or give much thought to governance; they aimlessly publish content without aligning their efforts with the organization’s business objectives; and they give very little thought to the overall user experience, hardly stopping to ask themselves what result they’re hoping for. If your efforts are scattershot, you results will not be what you’d hoped for. Sure, you’ll have a hit every now and again, but your success won’t be sustained.
Why should you care?
Your organization likely has a lot of moving parts to it already, so why throw content strategy into the mix, as well?
A well-thought-out content strategy will help your organization maximize its impact on your target audiences by focusing your marketing initiatives on what matters to them. This strategy then becomes a roadmap that guides an organization’s marketing efforts and provides guidance for publishing content that moves the business closer to its goals and objectives. Having a content strategy ensures:
- Consistency in your communications
- Coordination of your marketing efforts
- Efficient use of your time
How can you get started?
If your organization is serious about diving into content strategy, here’s where I suggest you begin:
Audit your existing content. Survey your assets and make hard, reasoned decisions about whether they are useful for the future. Get rid of everything that is outdated or redundant. Take the content that is useful and organize it. Taking inventory of your content can be time-consuming, tedious work, but you have to do it in order to define the problems with your content and then establish a plan to fix them.
Build internal support. If people outside of your team are involved in marketing the organization at some level, you need them to support your efforts. Like any stakeholder on any project, in order to get their support, you’ll have to show them how content management will benefit the organization in general and what they do in specific. If your organization is large enough, form a team of stakeholders from across the business spectrum in order to gain different perspectives.
Start with a simple content calendar. Map out the topics that your organization plans to cover and the frequency in which you can realistically publish content across all of the communication channels you plan to use, both online and off. Take a look at your marketing and events calendar and figure out what efforts you can support with content. Divvy-up content responsibilities across your team of stakeholders and establish weekly or monthly meetings with the group to make sure you stay on course.
Measure results and demonstrate success. To make content strategy an integral component of your organization’s marketing efforts, you will need to demonstrate that it is worth the time and sustained effort. Define what your organization’s key performance indicators are before you get started and measure against them, and you’ll know whether or not you were successful. How your organization defines success could involve a number of things, but ultimately this should be tied to your goals and objectives.
Content strategy isn’t a new science. It’s a modification of the approached newspapers and magazines have used for as long as they’ve been in business. Sure, there can be more channels – images, video, text content, Twitter, blog, Pinterest, etc. – but the method of management is the same. If left to stagnate, your website will not only cease to be relevant and useful to your customers, but it’ll fall down the Google search rankings (Google scores new and relevant content highly). Fresh content means that you stay top-of-mind for your audience, that Google will love you, and that you’re contributing something to the conversation – all positives. Sure, there’s a little more work involved, but as you can see there is definite upside to embracing web content strategy.