An introduction to content strategy for beginners
Are you worried because you've heard the phrase "content strategy" but haven't a clue what it means or if you "do" it right? You're not alone.
Content strategy is about answering questions. Questions about your content. How it's organised. Who takes control of it. How it fits your business aims.
Having a business strategy means having a plan for your business. Guess what having a content strategy means? Yep, that's it: a plan for your content. In the days of the Google maxim "content is king", you probably don't need me to tell you who needs a content strategy. You guessed it: everyone (or at least everyone who wants to be found on Google – is that you?).
Without getting into the semantics and pedantics of what content strategy is and isn't (that's for a follow-up blog), basically it means the manner of knowing what content you have and the reasons you have it. When we do a content strategy audit, we implement a three-part plan. Each part sets out to answer some questions. Here is a sample range of questions from each part:
Part 1: The present
- Where is the list of all content kept?
- Who updates this list?
- What do you mean you don't have a list of all the content on your website? (presuming it's a web content strategy audit)
- What are the current content types on the website?
- Who "maintains" each piece/page/section of content?
- What does "maintaining" content mean?
- How often is each piece updated/reviewed?
- How often is new content added?
- Why do we add new content so often?
- Why do we add new content so rarely?
- How does each piece fit into the overall business aims/objectives?
Part 2: The future
- What are our aims/objectives for the new website?
- How can content meet these aims/objectives?
- What content types do we need for the website?
- How are these content types related to each other?
- What "type" of content/media goes into each content type (image, video, embedded social media post, text)?
- How often are we going to update it?
- Who is going to update it?
- Is there offline collateral to go with this?
- If so, are our offline message and online message singing off the same hymn sheet?
- Are we going to use social media?
- If so, what are our aims? (more followers, more newsletter subscriptions, more donations?)
- If so, what are our social media themes (topics for each platform)?
- If so, how often are we going to post (daily, hourly, weekly, ad hoc?)
- If so, who is going to post? (the content manager, the marketing manager, the intern?)
- Do we have a newsletter?
- If so, why?
- If not, why not?
- Who controls the newsletter?
- How often do we use it?
- Is there a reliable structure to it?
- If so, why?
- If not, why not?
- Who wishes to get serious about organising this mess?
- Where are the pens?
Part 3: Teamwork
- Who would we like to work on the content team?
- How do we set up the team to make sure that what we are doing right remains and what is are doing wrong is rectified?
- What measurable goals can we set? We need short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
- It's two months since our initial content strategy audit. Have we achieved the goals set?
- What went well?
- What didn't work in the manner we thought it might?
- What have we learned?
- Everyone ready to rinse and repeat?
- This article was initially published on 16 October 2014, but was updated in August 2023.
Mark Conroy Director of Development
When not promoting sustainable front-end practices at conferences across Europe, Mark leads our development team to create ambitious digital experiences for clients, so they, in turn, can have success with their clients.