Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the importance of content strategy, let’s start by clearly defining content. In its most basic form, the term content refers to anything that conveys meaningful information. Content can be text, graphics, images, video, or even audio. When you take a moment to look at the world around you, you’ll see content everywhere.
This blog post you’re reading now is content. The website you used to discover it, also content. The art on your wall, that’s content. Road signs on the highway, more content.
Content is not defined by what it is as much as by what it does.
Content is about communicating meaningful information. And information is meaningful when it transfers an idea beyond the basic words or image. How we derive meaning from content depends on a person’s context, the language used, culture, upbringing, and many other personal and subjective factors.
For example, when you see the word “banana”, you understand it’s a reference to an object that looks and behaves like the common fruit. If you see the words “banana pudding”, the meaning becomes more complex, implying the state of the banana after it is prepared in a pudding. But there’s more to it.
When I see the words “banana pudding”, I immediately think of a bowl of custard with banana flavoring. After all, this was the banana pudding of my childhood in Canada. But since moving to Florida, I now understand banana pudding in another context. That is, I now know the trifle-like layers of vanilla pudding with banana slices, vanilla cookies (wafers), and whipped cream. Same content, totally different meaning. The content “banana pudding” transfers information, but not enough of it to perform a successful transference of the complete idea. At least, not without context.
Facilitating Meaningful Communication
That’s where content strategy comes in to play. It’s about the facilitation of successful and meaningful communication. Without this, your content may be completely irrelevant and ignored.
“Content strategy is the art of bringing the right content to the right person and the right place at the right time and in the right context.”
Morten Rand-Hendriksen, Instructor and Author at LinkedIn
Content strategy is the natural evolution of content publication. It became a discipline because people saw the need for a planned, contextual, and organized body of content published digitally. Writers learned quickly in the digital age that they needed to give their audiences the content they wanted and in an easily consumable format. It’s just not the same as writing content for a printed newspaper, printing the paper, then walking away from it and starting anew the next day.
Keeping the Message Alive
Content today has longevity, whether we want it to or not. Strategic content is living, growing, and on-going communication through the delivery platform. This strategy is about making sure the information is correct, current, and appropriate using ongoing engagement.
This means creating a plan for ongoing updates, and continuously providing relevant information. Sometimes it’s as simple as daily blog posts (a task where I’ve failed miserably!), but other times it’s as complicated as researching your audience, learning what supporting information they need, analyzing the trends of your content, and updating it with emerging and relevant information.
Curating the Message for your Audience
Researching your audience isn’t isolated to maintaining the relevance of your content over time, but it’s also about understanding your audience enough to provide value. For content to be truly meaningful to your audience, you must have an in-depth understanding of who they are, what they need, and how they communicate and consume content. To create a successful content strategy we have to understand these people, their motivations, and their goals.
When researching your audience, consider what messages are you communicating? Who are you trying to reach? What’s the best way to meet the needs of your audience?
Building Bridges to Usability
Content strategy overlaps with existing disciplines like information architecture, user experience design, usability, content management, and marketing. Anyone in these roles may be responsible for developing the content strategy for your project.
Content strategy may be the most important part of your project—it can make or break the product you are “selling.” The underlying message of your project is your product; it’s what you want to say to your audience, your users, your customers. It’s your product’s identity. It’s what you want them to consume.
The role of the content strategist is to be an advocate, for the company, the content, and the content’s audience. It involves aligning communication channels, prioritizing the content, planning, and aligning to the company strategy. Following through on a well-planned and well-implemented content strategy can help you exceed all of your company’s goals.
TLDR: Content strategy is planning and executing an ongoing and meaningful conversation with your audience.