I recently moderated a panel for RVA Content Strategy about the what's, why's and how's of content strategy. Our panelists represented a variety of roles within the content realm, from brand management and marketing consultants to search engine optimization (SEO) managers; they were:
- Deanna Lorianni & Meghan Codd Walker, Owners, Zuula Consulting
- Heidi Lasalata, Brand & Content Consultant
- Harris Schachter, Senior SEO Specialist at Capital One
Our discussion was spirited, and we talked about everything from the lifespan of content online (roughly equivalent to the lifespan of a housefly, according to Harris) to user personas to a RVA Content Strategy's crush on Mailchimp's Voice and Tone guide.
"The average piece of content lasts about 16 hours. That's like a house fly" - panelist at #rvacontentstrategy meetup
— Christina Dick (@ChristinaMDick) September 25, 2012
Check out the wisdom they shared, as well as resources and tips we can all use to kickstart our content strategy.
What is content strategy? Why is it important?
content strategy is the blueprint; content is the house. (deanna & meghan)
All your content--from website to brochures to social media posts to the things your salespeople say on the phone--needs to be consistent and compelling. Everything you say/write/publish should tell your brand's story, use your brand's voice.
If content strategy is the blueprint, content is the house. A content strategy ensures that your brand and your content align and work together. Content strategy guides your action.
You can have content that's well written, but it's not effective. Content strategy helps you find that sweet spot: content that looks great, sounds great and makes people take action.
content strategy helps you balance your brand's needs and your audiences' needs. (heidi)
Your company has to think about content from two perspectives:
- Brand Perspective: What does the company stand for? What do you want people to say about you?
- Customer Perspective: What does your audience need or want?
Your task as the "content person": figure out how to give people what they want and strike a delicate balance between internal and external demands. You must find a way to develop content that keeps your brand message consistent while delivering tailored content to different audiences across different channels.
Content strategy helps you create a plan of action, and it gives people guidelines they can follow. They know what to say/share on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/blog/website. With content strategy, you can coordinate multichannel messaging.
content strategy helps you achieve your SEO goals. (harris)
Having a solid content strategy in place helps you achieve those top results in Google. An emphasis is placed on creating high quality, useful content.
Good content earns you links and mentions without you having to try; people want to share your content. That's a better situation than having crummy content that you're begging people to promote. It becomes a pull strategy rather than a push strategy.
In content strategy, you look at the data (i.e., website analytics). You can use the numbers to see what content works (or doesn't work) for people. You can experiment with different types of content, see the results each type produces, and hone in on what works well for you.
If you think about it, that's kind of what the Google algorithm is about--Google's trying to find out what content works for people.
What tools or resources do you find helpful?
content archives. (heidi)
It's extremely helpful to keep a central content archive that is easily accessible by everyone. The archive holds pre-approved key messages, content samples, content guidelines. The content archive give people a resource that they can refer to again and again, and it shows them what's okay and what's not okay.
editorial calendars + other governance documents. (heidi)
They spell out what the message should be, what the piece of content should be (e.g., image vs. blog post), where the content will be shared, who makes the content, who approves the content. Everyone knows what to do, when to do it, who to talk to.
collaborative draft process. (deanna & meghan)
Take a team approach to creating content. Make sure that someone other than the writer reviews the first draft. You'll be able to spot whether your content adheres to SEO guidelines, brand standards, and so on...as well as grammer, spelling and those sorts of things. You'll catch and correct errors early.
basecamp / project management software. (deanna & meghan)
Project management tools like Basecamp are a godsend. They keep project details in one place. Team members, clients and vendors all have access to important documents.
content audits. (harris)
Content audits help you catalog existing website content and identify areas for improvement. Audits tell you what content works, what content needs to be updated, and what content should go away completely.
A quantitative audit is objective. You create an inventory of your pages, and identify things like the URL, page depth (is it one page deep? two pages deep? three pages deep?), page title. You also pull in data from your analytics, like bounce rate or conversions.
A qualitative audit assesses how "good" or "bad" your content is; in a qualitative audit, you're taking an in-depth look at how well your content fits your brand and your overall strategy. Is the content old? Outdated? Does it contradict your brand's message?
What is one thing we can start doing today to make our content better?
get a collaborative draft process in place. (deanna)
Get two sets of eyes on everything!
use plain language. (meghan)
There is a global plain language movement. Content should be easy to read, easy to understand.
Use short sentences; avoid jargon.
This also extends to the design of your content.
Keep it simple. (But not boring!)
know your brand and your audience. (heidi)
You need a deep, intimate understanding of your brand and your audience. You need to know your goals; you need to know what motivates your customers. Only then can you start working to connect the dots.
get in the mindset of long-term content. (harris)
Content creation isn't a "set it and forget it" model; you don't just do it once. You need to think about evergreen content--content that stands the test of time.
Is content strategy baked into your company's practices? What resources do you find helpful? What tools do you use?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Shannon is a Content Specialist at Rick Whittington Consulting