What is content strategy?

It’s a big part of what I do.

It’s how to plan the creation, distribution, care and feeding and retirement of your content. OK. So what is content? Text, images, video and audio that you provide to the people that interact with your organisation. It can be delivered offline and online. While it comes if all forms, the most prevalent is words. And content is an asset, not a by-product, of your business. All content has two purposes: what it does for the sender (you) and what it does for the receiver.

I came to content strategy out of dedication and frustration.

Dedication

Ever since I started as a copywriter I have seen myself as the advocate of the receiver. My commitment to this role has, at times, bordered on obsessive. I believe that if you’ve worked hard to get the attention of the receiver, the last thing you want to do is spoil it by being irrelevant, confusing, boring or rude.

Every “moment of engagement” or “point of contact” (or whatever buzzword you want to call it) is like a moment alone with someone. Maybe it’s a date. If you only talk about yourself, you’re sure to go home alone. Ditto if you’re boring or vacuous. Be interesting, express interest in the other person – you get the idea. Or maybe it’s mentoring a student. If you lack authority, don’t master the subject, can’t get their attention, the moment is wasted. I could go on. Since you can’t physically be there at each moment, content takes your place – it speaks for you.

Frustration

With people confusing content and copy. With web projects that see content as a last-minute afterthought. With designers asking me for “some content” to replace the lorem ipsum. With people telling me that no one reads anymore, especially on the web, and then watching them post on Facebook, catch up on email, research on Wikipedia and get all weak-kneed for the iPad. With web professionals not allotting enough time to content. With agencies running web site developments like a campaign, when it’s more like gardening (more on this later).

Content strategy, with a twist

So content strategy is about the “who, what, where, when, how and why” of the words you use to communicate with your customers. All these words support the way you interact with your customers and other audiences. The degree of interaction varies. The relevance, power and purpose of the words change over time and depend on when and where they are delivered and who delivers them.

Content strategy is an emerging field and nothing is set in stone yet. But I’m sure of one thing: my vision of content strategy isn’t that of a librarian or a grammarian. Yes, I want to bring order and harmony to it all. Yes, I want all the words to written well. But I never lose site of the bigger why: the why of the content strategy. Content doesn’t exist for content’s sake. It’s there to support your organization’s purpose. The goal of content strategy is to align your content with that purpose.

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