I was in Atlanta last week to attend the content strategy workshop at An Event Apart. I fell in love with Kristina Halvorson’s book Content Strategy for the Web about a year ago, and finally having an opportunity to see her speak in person was inspiring and enlightening to say the least.
Since returning home I’ve been thinking about the workshop and what it means when the content strategy rubber really hits the road. Sure, there are deliverables like content audits, user personas, and page templates. You can even test content to ensure it has been optimally designed to meet user needs.
However, when you strip it down, I see content strategy essentially serving a single important function for businesses and organizations: it allows you to strategically build your web presence to solve the right problems.
So what’s the difference between a right problem and a wrong problem? All too often our website problems are actually content problems yet we to look every possible solution that has nothing to do with content to fix them.
For instance, you solve the wrong problem by:
- Revamping the look and feel of a website when the website’s info architecture is desperately crying out for attention
- Building a microsite or a mobile app solely because you secured the funding to do it
- Investing in a shiny new content management system instead of devising a plan for content governance
- Hiring a copywriter when what you really need is a content strategist
Ruminating on what was presented at AEA last week, I’d suggest that content strategy not only helps you define what right problems to solve, but also develop realistic solutions that make sense for your business and your content-consuming customers alike.
At its most basic level, content strategy makes this possible by allowing you to:
Know what business goals your content must support
If you’re producing content for your website (or to distribute through social channels) and you’re not clear on how it maps back to your business goals, then please stop… immediately. Don’t create another piece of content or write a single line of copy until you’re certain what it’s doing for your business. Content that is clearly linked to the positive side of a balance sheet is a business asset. Correspondingly, content linked to the other side of a balance sheet is indeed a liability, and thus a costly distraction.
Define your success metrics
Once you get clear on what business goals your content must support, you can then properly define success metrics for your content. Knowing what success looks like and determining how to measure it later on can be tricky. However, according to Kristina Halvorson, this is the most important question to ask when defining your metrics for success: how does your current state change when your content shifts? Grapple with this question first, then worry about your key performance indicators.
Refine and propagate your message
Whether there’s one person responsible for maintaining your web presence or dozens or people who regularly log into your CMS to add or remove content, a concise and meaningful primary message will work wonders in helping you prioritize your content over time. Let that single, memorable statement (and its supporting secondary messages) be the guiding light for determining the relevancy and priority of content.
Of course, this post only scratches the surface. Nonetheless, by distilling content strategy to this foundational level it becomes easier to see how it can play an important role in defining and solving web-based communication challenges—not just for Fortune 500 companies, but for large and small businesses and organizations alike.