Content Strategy Basics



What are the steps involved in content planning?

What should a content strategy contain?

In order to plan effective content you need a handle on the elements of content strategy and how they relate to each other. 

At a minimum, a documented content strategy should:

  • Define your business objectives relative to your marketing initiatives (Company)
  • Identify your target audience (Customer)
  • Describe your content plan (Content)
  • Measure your success and Include a plan to learn from your performance (Communication & Measurement)

The next 4 chapters will explore each of these areas in detail. The introduction to this guide referred to these four key elements of an effective content strategy as the four C’s of content marketing strategy.

Diagram showing the 4 C's of content marketing strategy: company, customer, content, and communication

How will a documented content strategy help me?

There are at least three ways you will see benefit from your documented content strategy:

  • Increased Productivity. You’ll be more productive as a marketer because it will help streamline your workflow.
  • Improved Results. You’ll achieve better results with better strategy and you’ll have a benchmark basis for incorporating feedback and improving over time.
  • Greater Alignment. You’ll increase alignment within your organization through more effective communication and reporting built from your content strategy.

How does Content strategy relate to Content planning?

Being deliberate about your content strategy provides the benefits we just mentioned because it enables you to plan content in a fundamentally better way than most marketers do today. In fact 87% of marketers are managing content in a manual or ad hoc way.

Source: 2019 Content Management & Strategy Survey, CMI

We call the way most content gets planned today the Common Content Planning process. It involves steps like:

START: Internal request or setting a goal for creating a certain volume of content

  1. Hunt for past personas, start from scratch, or SKIP this step
  2. Review past campaign performance IF TIME PERMITS
  3. Brainstorm content topics and formats; capture in shared doc; consider new channels, then STICK WITH status quo
  4. Assign dates to content topics, or AT LEAST to the first topic
  5. Create custom report docs if budget needs to be approved; OTHERWISE create one-off emails and project plans
  6. Share spreadsheet calendar with editorial and creative teams

FINISH: Store plan docs on shared drive, NEVER to be heard from again

In contrast, a documented content strategy sets you up to adopt a SMART Content Planning process:

START: Commit content to a specific business objective

  1. Review content strategy in central location for easy collaboration, alignment, and reuse
  2. Refer to standardized reporting to include feedback from past content performance
  3. Select content topics, formats, and channels tied to customer needs based on data
  4. Automatically assign dates to content briefs based on campaign timeline and objectives
  5. Communicate plan and performance reports in simple formats
  6. Share centralized editorial calendar and content briefs in consistent formats with team

FINISH: Integrate plans with the rest of your MarTech stack

Smart content planning means:

  1. You use a consistent process and simple templated documents to produce a detailed content plan such as an editorial calendar.
  2. Your plan is tied to the overall business objective and the target audience.
  3. The details of your plan are supported by audience data including customer preferences and past content performance.
  4. You have way more fun planning content and feel way less stressed about your marketing activities.

The result of a smart content planning process is a content calendar that is more relevant to what people are searching for and struggling with and is differentiated from the competition. At the same time, the calendar will be quicker to create and easier to maintain.

Now you know the four C’s of content strategy (Company, Customer, Content, and Communication). You’ve also compared the Common Content Planning Process with the Smart Content Planning Process. Which of these paths looks more like your process today? Never fear! This guide gives you the background you need to feel confident in transitioning your organization to a Smart Content Planning Process. Let’s take a closer look in the next chapter (Defining Your Business Objective) at the relationship between your content and your business objective by exploring the first C in Content Strategy: Company.