How to Create a Content Strategy

Whether you have a strategy or not, your organization is probably creating content—and a lot of it. Yet, nearly 80% of organizations report that they do not have a content strategy when they first come to us. This often leads to inefficiency, inconsistency and ineffective content. Read on to learn what a content strategy is, why you need one and how to get started.

What Is a Content Strategy?

A content strategy is a documented plan that outlines the ideation, creation, delivery and governance of an organization’s content. It covers everything from blogs, webinars, emails and social media to conferences, press releases and videos. Your organization’s content strategy identifies who creates content and when. It sets standards for all content creator to follow, so your content brand is unified and consistent. It is goal-oriented so that every piece of content has a purpose and can be evaluated on its success.

Why Every Organization Needs a Content Strategy

A good content strategy ensures that your content is engaging for your audience and impactful for your organization. Everyone from the marketing team to the foundation to customer experience and beyond is communicating about your brand every day. And in most businesses, those messages are not unified. A thoughtful content strategy both makes your content production more efficient and your output more effective. It gives every content creator across your organization a set of guidelines to stick to and a line of sight into your content archive and new content plans.

Components of a Good Content Strategy

There are five key components to a solid content strategy.

Competitive Analysis

A competitive content analysis is just a fancy term for scoping out your competition. It never hurts to look at what others in your industry are doing to see how your organization compares. Use the competitive analysis to find out what’s working and what’s not for your competitors.

Getting a good sense of your competitors’ content allows you to:

  • Determine whether they’re providing your audience with something that you’re not. Don’t lose traffic because your audience has to go somewhere else for what they need.
  • Get ideas for new angles or approaches to different types of content. (Just make sure to make your version even better.)
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses within your industry’s landscape, so you know what to amplify and where you need to fill in some gaps.

Content Audit

Similar to a competitive analysis, a content audit is a deep-dive into content that’s already out there, but this time, it’s taking a look at your organization’s content. Types of content you’ll want to include in your audit are:

  • Your website
  • Your social media channels
  • Emails and e-newsletters
  • Videos
  • Publications (such as a provider-focused magazine or community newsletter)
  • Your blog or online content hub
  • Your podcast
  • Communications put out by other groups in your organization (such as your foundation)

Audience Overview

A crucial aspect of content strategy is understanding the needs, wants and everything in between of your audience. You should research and learn your target consumer’s demographics, responsibilities, challenges, influence and goals. If possible, find a unique focus point about your target audience that others often overlook.

Goals and Objectives

The point of content creation is to help achieve your organization’s goals and objectives. Your organization might have goals to:

  • Grow a certain line of business
  • Generate new leads
  • Introduce a new product or service

Documenting your organization’s goals will help you justify each piece of content you create and keep your content creation lean and efficient. You should also have content-specific goals, such as:

  • Grow your subscriber list
  • Grow your social media following
  • Improve the conversion rate of a certain type or piece of content

Measurement Framework

The final component of a good content strategy is developing a content measurement plan. You need to be able to determine when your content has succeeded and when it hasn’t, so you can continually optimize. What you measure matters just as much as the results. Choose metrics that will indicate whether or not you have met your goals. Using analytics tools will help you validate your content strategy and identify gaps you need to fill. Use tools such as Google Analytics, Sprinklr, MailChimp and more.

LEARN MORE: Check out our blog on How to Use Content Marketing Metrics to Measure Business Success

How to Create a Content Strategy in 6 Steps

Now that you know what makes up a good content strategy, you’re ready to execute.

1. Conduct a Competitive Audit

To conduct a competitive audit, make a list of the competitors in your space, based on the products/services you already offer, as well as those you’re hoping to grow into. You likely have competitors that immediately come to mind, but do some research to find direct and indirect competitors you might not know about. Interview stakeholders within your organization (and even clients if you can) for their view of the competitive landscape.

Once you have your list, it’s time for data gathering and analysis. Assess the types of content they offer and how they make use of their content channels. Ask yourself:

  • Are there opportunities for you to emulate their successes or learn from their shortcomings?
  • How does your content differ from your competitors’, and how can you frame that as a competitive advantage?

GET STARTED: Download The Ultimate Guide to Conducting a Competitive Content Analysis guide.

2. Conduct an Internal Content Audit

With your competitive analysis in hand, you know what you need to go head-to-head with others in your field. Now it’s time to determine what you already have in your content arsenal and how it’s working for you.

After taking inventory of your existing content, categorize your content into type, channel, topic category, audience type, service line, timeliness—whatever best gives you a handle on your content’s value. For digital content, include performance metrics.

Identify both your top-performing content and your weak spots. The goal is to get a complete picture of your content ecosystem. This will help you identify any areas where your brand or messaging is disjointed. You’ll also be able to identify areas where work can be deduplicated. Your best-performing pieces will stand out as opportunities for amplification. And don’t worry, if you’re lacking in some areas, it could be easier than you think to make up for it. Here’s how to creatively repurpose, refresh and reuse the content you have to fill in what’s missing.

3. Create Audience Personas

The most important part of developing a content strategy is figuring out who your audience is, what they need and how to deliver it. Creating audience personas will help you visualize who you’re speaking to when you create your content. Develop hypothetical representations of the people who engage with your brand. Include details around their demographics, likes and dislikes, purposes for engaging with your content and user behaviors. Personas can even include psychographic information, like lifestyle and belief systems.

You’ll need to make some assumptions, but you can also base personas on real data you have about your clients, patients or customers, as well as search and traffic data.

Want to learn about your audience? Just ask! Download our FREE reader survey template, and learn what your audience craves.

4. Set Goals for Your Content Program

Before you begin putting a plan in motion, it’s essential that you clearly define your goals. You should have a clear reason for every piece of content you create: to help achieve one or more of your goals. Align your content goals with your business goals, and prioritize. Identify the channels and content mix best suited to accomplish each goal.

Make sure your goals are measurable and define what content “conversions” mean to you. Are you hoping to recruit more members, gain patient referrals or secure clients? Do you want to close more sales, rack up more registrations or gain more social media followers?

5. Set a Measurement Framework for Your Content

The best way to determine if you’re successfully accomplishing your goals is to benchmark your results. Establish a framework that allows you to track your progress, both from a content and a business perspective, so you can pivot as needed.

Set a schedule, and review your results regularly. Some metrics, like email open rates or web traffic, may fluctuate frequently, while others like QR code scans or downloads may grow more slowly. Give your content enough time to show results, adjust, then measure again at the next interval.

Use tracking mechanisms to identify which content pieces are driving the best results. UTM codes, QR codes, vanity URLs or unique phone numbers can help you distinguish which campaigns resonated with your audience.

6. Create Your Content Plan

You know what your audience needs, what your competitors are doing and where you need to make up some ground. Now it’s time to put information into action.

Create a content plan with a holistic, purpose-driven and forward-looking approach, ensuring that all stakeholders are at the table for efficient and impactful results. Map your content to your customer journey, ensuring you have material at every phase. Use your measurement framework to adjust as you go, and identify any barriers that are creating silos or redundancies along the way.

STAY ON TRACK: Download the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Content Calendar and get a FREE template.

Ready to Create Your Content Strategy?

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