Core elements for a rock-solid content strategy
Updated: Nov 30, 2019
As a digital strategist I have worked on many different content strategies in various industries. When I analyze the existing materials or previous strategy documents in new projects I often realize that clients do have large chart collections with lots of strategic information. However, they lack an overall structure and storyline and are complicated to handle. The following core elements of a content strategy are the results of my extensive experience and provide an easy-to-understand content strategy structure and relating core elements.
First of all, I subdivide a content strategy into three meta phases: discover, define and develop.
In the discover phase it is core to get an overview of the brand's current communication. The phase aims at evaluating the brand's position in the market. To find out about that, I always start with the analysis of relevant competitors - not with the brand itself. This guarantees to assess the brand in a more relevant way (as one already has comparison points). When analyzing the status quo and competitors I apply the same set of criteria (e.g. content formats, content mix, cross mediality, brand presence, performance, user experience etc.) to enable a comparison. Additionally, in the discover phase a benchmark analysis can be conducted to identify market leader and to learn from them. Ultimately, this phase results in a summary of communication challenges, e.g. relationships to brands do not only result from products and promoting them but also through storytelling.
The define phase outlines the basic elements required for future creative and editorial work. It includes six different elements:
Brand Translation: Often existing brand identities and guidelines are a collection of various terms and values that are hard to grasp and very subjective. Hence, I utilize the 12 common brand archetypes and the limbic map to cluster existing brands. It is a good tool for brand positioning but also allows a more specific description of the brand. A quick overview on the archetypes can be found here.
Audience development: Based on the existing clientele, customer groups and prospect groups can be identified. This segmentation needs to be further developed and condensed. Therefore, personas are a common approach. In my article about personas I describe how to develop good ones.
Objectives: This is a very important element that is often finished too quickly. Objectives need to be derived from existing sales and marketing goals. In addition, they need to be SMART. Particularly the operationalization through KPIs is something that requires attention.
Content House: Based on the brand and the topics that it can authentically utilize and the topics that the audience (personas are interested in), the guiding principle, strategic content pillars and sub-topics are derived. It is important to match that strategic content pillars fulfill both requirements: A. they fit to the brand and B. the audience is interested in them.
Channel strategy: Based on the audience and their media behavior as well as from a strategic business perspective the relevant channels need to be selected. It is important to choose the right channels and consider the budget in the selection process. Less is more. If the budget does not allow for content production in all social media channels, it is good to focus on some (e.g. Facebook and Instagram).
Distribution strategy: This elements clarifies how the content is distributed and activated. In this element it is also important to talk about paid media.
The develop phase is about bridging a seamless transition from strategy to concept, community management and performance management. Particularly important in this phase are regular workshops with disciplines that will execute the communication in the future. It is key that everyone understands all elements within the define phase. Based on a common understanding, various content formats or even campaign approaches can be developed in cross-disciplinary workshops. Besides, it is important to outline all relevant implications the strategy has as well as who is responsible for them. In the following I list some exemplary implications:
Selection of tools for research, content production, performance tracking and monitoring
Please let me know if you have any questions or if you want to discuss your opinion on the right elements of a content strategy.