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Ten steps to building a successful content strategy

6 Mins

You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints. Yet every day businesses undertake content activities that cost time and money without a content strategy.

Get these ten foundational elements of content strategy right and you’ll be ready to run a well-oiled content machine!

1) Page tables

Page tables, also known as content outlines, define content requirements for web pages, social channels, and other media. They separate the content and content objectives from the style. Subject matter and messages can be approved without distractions like style and tone.
A page table allows everyone to agree on content before creating it.

Here’s a template:

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2) Editorial calendar

An editorial calendar establishes what content is created when, in what format, and for which channel. A digital editorial calendar also tracks the connections for that content, including how the content will be amplified in social media channels.

The editorial calendar should address these questions:

● How much content?
● How often is the content published?
● When will the content publish? And how does it fit into an overarching content schedule?
● What are the content requirements?
● What keywords will each piece of content focus on?
● Where will the content publish?
● Who is responsible for each step, from creation to publication?

3. Style guides (writing and design)

In terms of the content strategy, style guides outline rules and guidelines for the creation of branded artifacts. Create these both for writing and visual design.

Writing guidelines include rules for grammar, usage, style, tone, and voice. Note if style varies by channel (e.g. social vs. mobile vs. website) or wherever you frequently publish. Writing style guides are often based on standard sources, e.g. the Associated Press Style Guide.

Design guidelines are the visual counterpart to the writing style guide. It should include rules around the treatment of photos, images, embedded videos, fonts, colour schemes, attribution, and text-image relationships. Again, consider differences in visuals from one medium to the next.

4) Personas

Personas are fictional characters based on customer data. Each represents a segment of the target audience(s). Personas help you and stakeholders understand whom they are producing content for so they can more easily select topics, define themes, and tailor the message to relevant customer interests.

Data sources to leverage in persona creation include:

● Website analytics
● Market research
● Social conversations
● Conversion data
● Demographic data

Each persona has different behavioural patterns, preferences, predilections, social traits, hangouts, and more.

Sample content persona:

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5) Keyword list

This is the list of words and phrases most critical to your business, products, and services when it comes to being found online – and is crucial in your content strategy. Anyone and everyone involved in content creation should receive foundational training in SEO and how to appropriately use keywords (and other SEO principles) in content creation.

Free SEO services like Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool aid in generating a robust and comprehensive keyword list.

6) Brand brief

Corporate brand briefs are one-page descriptions of the corporate brand that all content strategists can reference to ensure consistency. Brand brief narratives encompass:

● Brand values
● Brand mission
● Key products and services
● Brand impact
● Target customers
● Brand “personality”

7) Editing guidelines

Editing guidelines are a checklist to ensure only high-quality content is published in brand channels. These guidelines complement existing writing and graphic style guides.

It’s the editor’s job to uphold all the style guide requirements. They are also responsible for checking facts, ascertaining that content is original, validating hyperlinks, proofing images to ensure they’re properly labeled and tagged, and a variety of other critical housekeeping tasks.

8) A graphics and/or digital asset repository

An accessible collection of ready-to-use and commonly used images such as logos, executive portraits, and product shots saves the content team time and effort. Many software solutions exist to assist with the storage and classification of such assets, though a company intranet or server may be able to do the job in the interim.

9) Submission brief

A submission brief is a written outline of expectations and concepts for outside content contributors. This helps speed up the editing and production process, as they align contractors on all content style guidelines.

10) Maintenance plan

Not all content is evergreen. A maintenance plan outlines guidelines assessing content for removal, recycling (reuse on other channels), and archiving. A maintenance plan addresses the content lifecycle.

Rebecca Lieb is the author of Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing – The definitive guide to content marketing strategy. It is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £19.99

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