How strategic is your content strategy? Test yourself with five key principles

19 ways to tell… Top 5 signs that… What Bridget Jones can teach us about…

It will come as no surprise that these cliché, clickbait headlines are the focus of a lot of digital marketers’ frustrations.

While people aspire for the next piece of viral content, expecting to become internet sensations overnight, it needs to be understood that things like this don’t happen by accident.

Of course, there is some degree of luck involved in just how popular a piece of content is, but the process of creating the idea and building out the strategy behind it is the core to success.

Everybody needs content. As digital strategists, SEOs and consultants, and as consumers, we read it, write it, and sell it. It’s frequently what makes the difference between a sale, or a lost opportunity.

Yet as critical as content is to business success, it’s frequently treated as little more than a commodity. It’s often produced cheaply or by people who’re multiple degrees of separation from the product or the business – or it’s written instead of a broader strategy to make sure that it impacts the bottom line, and doesn’t just fill a page with words.

So how do you know if you’re doing it right, or if you’ve just jumped on the bandwagon?

What is a strategy?

The key to understanding the process behind selecting quality content ideas is first to understand what a strategy truly is.

One of the first things to learn is the significant difference between a strategic document and one which is simply a list of tactics.

By definition, a strategy needs to have an underlying mission; for our business we call it the Commander’s Intent whilst others will remember it as a mission statement. Regardless of the terminology used, this statement will provide an end-goal which all decisions thereafter can be based upon.

Once the strategy is decided upon, an array of tactics can be introduced which will enable that strategy to be achieved. These can be focused on the exact methods you’ll be using, with details of the content production process too.

To most of us, the above will seem like common sense. In isolation defining the process of a strategy is simple to do, its purpose clear. Yet still, it is easy to lose our way when it comes to the real production of a strategy.

Getting lost amongst creative ideas and caught up on a tangential story will prevent us from the creation of truly successful strategies.

With each content strategy you create, test yourself against these five key principles to ensure it will be meeting its purpose…

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1) What’s your vision?

  • What does success look like – for an individual post, for the visitor/reading, for the whole website?
  • What are your bigger objectives? To build brand familiarity and reputation? To convert visits? To educate?
  • Consider how your content ties together. Is there a theme? Serialisation? Or are you writing punchy, one-off pieces?
  • What are your competitors doing, and why? How should that inform or affect what you’re doing?

2) Are you data-informed?

  • Do you understand how content impacts the business (conversions, repeat visits, propensity to link)?
  • What are your metrics and KPIs? What’s the Next Best Action?
  • What can, and should (and shouldn’t) you track?
  • Do you understand what’s worked historically?
  • Do you understand what’s worked elsewhere?
  • Do you understand what has/hasn’t been done, and how well?

3) Are you connected?

  • Who’s writing the content? Are they a subject matter expert?
  • Do you understand what the consumer wants, what they need, what they’re scared of? Do you understand what motivates them?
  • Are you building on, referencing, or curating other content in or related to your space?

4) Are you timely?

  • Seasonality and serialisation
  • Evergreen vs. transient content
  • Trendjacking
  • Retrospectives

5) Are you actionable?

  • Can you implement this based on your resource?
  • Will this be signed off based on meeting objectives?
  • Is this just a dream and too difficult to achieve?
  • Does this compare to competitors strategy? Will it resonate better?

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