I'm sure you have heard the phrase, "content is king." It is a nice thing to say, but making content "king" takes a dedicated strategy and team to implement. We have written about content strategy before, but haven't gotten into the weeds to explain what that process really looks like.
We've had the opportunity to develop content strategies for clients with varying needs and budgets. One of our most robust content strategy documents covered the details of a new software application for a national home improvement chain. The application would be used by the chain's internal team, by construction and renovation professionals and by homeowners.
Once live, the application will require a fully dedicated team to create and manage internally developed content and to manage user-created content.
A detailed content strategy was critical to the success of this project. So we started with the two steps that form the foundation of any good content strategy: a core strategy and clear goals.
To begin with, we declared our core strategy – a couple sentences that laid out what we wanted to accomplish. Our core strategy focused on how we would target just one of the client's core user personas, and why this approach would best support and grow the business.
Once the core strategy was established, we didn't make a single decision without asking the following two questions – and being sure the answer was a solid "yes."
This simple test provided context whenever we encountered friction in the decision making process. It kept everyone aligned with what we were trying to accomplish.
Another key piece of Integrity's overall strategy for content, which applies to all of our projects, is that every word or sentence must always do two things:
Focusing on only business goals leads to content that users don't care about. Focusing on only user goals won't help the business grow.
In our home improvement chain's content strategy document, we outlined the business goals and user goals we needed to accomplish to be successful. The business goals were tied to key performance indicators (aka metrics) by which we could measure our success. The user goals came from lots of research into what users would need to accomplish, and how our system would help them.
We focused on as few goals as possible, prioritizing to ensure we knew what issues needed to be addressed most urgently.
The core strategy and goals made up the foundation of our strategy. After that, we broke the strategy down, outlining a plan for content creation, maintenance and growth.
Content and Structure
This section focuses on what kind of content is needed and what type of messaging we want to use. In our example, we covered primary and secondary messaging, channels (for example, social media platforms) and microcopy. We also described how we would map the content to our wireframes.
Roles and Governance
Any brand new platform requires new roles and governance to support it. For our home improvement client, we covered specific staffing recommendations, workflows for content sourcing, creation and maintenance and processes for supporting user generated content. We established a hierarchy of roles, each with a defined set of responsibilities.
This part of the plan drills down the details. In our example, we laid out content policies, voice and style. We also included SEO, SEM, email marketing and social media processes. Knowing how important it is to account for change, we ensured that these processes were flexible enough to adapt and grow with the business.
Follow on Plan
No strategy is complete without a plan for implementation. Here, we identified a timeline for hiring, content creation and support. We created a detailed plan for the year before launch and another for the three months after launch. We established that plans for the following months and years should be reviewed every six months.
We have worked hard to refine our content strategy processes over the years, but there are two resources we rely heavily on.
First is the little red book, Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd Edition by Kristian Halvorson. It really is the bible of content strategy.
Second is usability.gov. This website has collected some of the best resources covering web design and development. A large section of the website is dedicated to content strategy, and it is a great (and free!) starting point for content strategy.
If you want to learn more about how content strategy, usability or web development can help you build your business, let us know.
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