What it is
Delivering a consistently high-quality service to your users through the content they consume is all down to your content strategy.
Content strategies are different from marketing or communications strategies. Communication strategies promote your organisation's messages across many channels, and marketing strategies focus on using behavioural insights to effectively sell products or services.
But content strategies have a much broader scope. They guide how you plan, create and maintain all content created by your organisation.
Why it's important
A good content strategy will provide better outcomes for users by:
- providing the right information at the right time
- creating services that are inclusive and accessible
- making sure information is consistent, accurate and trustworthy
Having a strategy means everyone's clear about their roles and responsibilities, and how they fit into the wider content production and management process or 'content operations'.
Your users will find what they want quickly because content will be up-to-date and tailored to their needs. It also means you know what you're producing, how, why and where (so your content is presented in the most effective format and channel).
Importantly, you'll meet legal requirements and avoid publishing unnecessary content or creating duplication.
If your content strategy is implemented successfully, you'll be able to show cost-savings through efficient content management and publishing practices.
How you do it
What your strategy looks like will depend on the scale or size of your project, the problems you're trying to solve and the maturity of content operations in your organisation.
Generally though, you should cover:
Have a clear idea of what your organisation or service is trying to achieve, and show how good content practices can help create the best possible user experiences.
Describe what this strategy wants to change about your organisation's content operations. For example, is this strategy to:
- introduce content design and standards
- scale the use of content design and standards to more content types or into more areas of your organisation
- change your current content design approach or standards
Use summaries for objectives that should be described in detail under the more granular headings that follow.
Objectives should be measurable and time based.
Measures for success
Describe how you'll confirm that your strategy is working and the objectives have been met.
Content strategy needs revising and updating as your organisation's goals change, other teams better understand content and your content operations mature. Set out how long this strategy will apply for and when you plan your next strategic review.
Ways of working
Describe how you'll deliver the work, so include delivery principles that will help teams work together.
Consider all the people and processes that have an impact on your content through all stages of its life - from planning to archiving.
Think about what your content needs to do and how your information architecture will support this. Mapping your content onto the different parts of your organisation may not necessarily be the best way. Users may not be familiar with how your organisation's set up, or it may not reflect their thought processes about what they're trying to do.
Set out clear definitions for the different content types you'll be producing to meet those user needs.
Content types are categories for groups of content items with shared attributes (for example, news items or service listings). In your model you should explain:
- what each content type should cover
- who they're for
- how they relate to each other
- any other specific difference in ways of working, stakeholders, process or governance
If you do not have a content model yet, describe how you'll work it out as an objective of this strategy.
Outline the workflow you expect those responsible for content to follow to make sure decisions are based on evidence. Be specific about:
- who is responsible for certain tasks
- the processes for planning, creating, reviewing and archiving content
- which systems and tools should be used
- how you will document your design decisions and the risks your published content still carries (we call this 'design debt')
You should agree on a governance structure which clearly states:
- how the main decisions about content are made
- who makes certain types of decision, such as factual accuracy, style or sign-off
- how changes will be communicated
- any standards you are working to and where they can find the guidance
It's important that everyone understands the impact of your strategy on their work. Stakeholder mapping is a good way to work out who your strategy affects, what influence these people have and their level of involvement.
Leading workshops will help to explain what you're asking people to do and the benefits of having a strategy.
A content strategy does not need to be complicated and should be continually reviewed and updated. Regular demonstrations of how you are implementing your strategy will help show progress and highlight good work.
- the content strategist's reading list
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