Content strategy isn’t a document but…

sledgehammer nutWhen Genghis Khan wanted to invade somewhere he went looking for his Mongol horde. He didn’t brush off the folder labelled “Invasion Strategy” and make sure his spreadsheets were in order.

But there is need for content strategists to produce supporting and defining documentation, even it it does take them away from the battlefield. Hence this blog.

When it comes to consultants and freelances, these document deliverables are often in support of project pricing, defining delivery scope and isolating the success measures by which they will be judged.

In the case of inhouse teams, the requirement to produce documentation may additionally be driven by the need to attract csuite attention and curry budget favour, as well as help raise the importance of content and its strategy internally.

The neeed for content strategy documentation

Content, particularly digital content, can seem amorphous to those not directly engaged in its oversight and creation; happening somewhere out there in the wild and woolly internet, while other business departments, such as sales or HR, operate more evidently and with a more direct link to business profitability and KPIs. Paperwork, like it or not, helps make content strategy more real.

Underneath it all there may be some fairly hefty spreadsheets and Word docs, but keep in mind your document readers, their interests and attention spans when it comes to who gets to see what (and why). A 10 page document may have more impact if its top level recommendations are actually delivered using a few punchy slides.

A lynchpin content strategy document can then pull together the top, top level overview, key recommendations, major resource impacts and the BIG risks from the underpinning documents, research and analyses. In terms of what the structure for this might look like, I’ve created the graphic below, along with a glossary of content strategy deliverables to help you Carol Vorderman your approach.

Content strategy documentation – graphic

CS documents

 Content strategy documentation – a glossary of document types

  • Business plan/objectives Content strategists should be familiar with the business plan and objectives for their organisation and have a version of this document, which maps the objectives to content initiatives and ambitions.
  • Calendars An ongoing content or editorial calendar should list key dates and events and what content is required and when, as well as where and how the content should be used. A good calendar rolls over 13 months so that learning from the current month can be captured and adjusted for a year hence (many events are annual, such publication of annual reports and accounts).
  • Card sorting A usability specialism but can be carried out more simply using Post-it notes and a blank wall. Often content projects founder because organisations have not reached real consensus about what content is required, where it should go and user friendly naming structures for navigation and headings.
  • Content audit/inventory A good way of assessing existing content before embarking on a new content project or existing content refresh. There are crawling tools that will allow you to catalogue web pages etc but you also need qualitative (human) evaluation.
  • Content gap analysis Can form part of a content audit or card sorting exercise. Based on your understanding of your users and their needs, what are you not facilitating for them with your content? A really good tool for developing this is the Core Model from Are Halland.
  • Content management system guide This is a CS produced document designed to give a top level guide, under which sits more detailed CMS documentation. It acts as a bridge between machine and human content creation processes.
  • Content ownership/ responsibilities Who does what and why? Chain of command and where the buck stops.
  • Content style guide Easy to use and to the point; covering style, tone of voice, key messages… Should work for all delivery platforms – web, email, social media; be very aware of ‘mobile first’ and content management systems, as well as internal processes, such as compliance.
  • KPIs/success measures What we measure and why we measure it. Should cover more than Google Analytics and should join the dots between content, profits and resources.
  • Personas & Scenarios These use pictures and pen portraits to look beyond the data, bringing to life audiences/audience segments and understanding what they want from your content.
  • Stakeholder surveys/ interviews As with user surveys/interviews listed below but applied to internal stakeholders such as sales teams and external stakeholders such as partner organisations and referrers.
  • Timelines Well developed timelines for projects should include duration, start and complete dates and time required for specific activities such as writing (one activity) and sign off (another activity). Should be constantly reviewed.
  • User surveys/interviews These can be anything from a quick down and dirty online survey composed of a few questions, to a major incentivised questionnaire and focus groups.

I’ve also created a guide to my Top 5 Content Strategy Deliverables –  with links to some good examples and templates. You can find this guide on the Emarketeers website