“Why do I need a content strategy for my website?” You might say to yourself, “I know what’s on there; I know what I’m doing.”
Maybe you do. But that’s not the point of a content strategy. In fact, that’s just the set up. The real benefits of a content strategy aren’t experienced until after all the planning, meeting, collaborating, discussing, rehashing, revising, disseminating, and education have been completed. All of this is crucial work, but it’s just building the platform, or stage if you will, that the real show plays out on.
An effective content strategy reaps the biggest returns in the day-to-day management and production of content, and specifically in content decisions. Discussing what content is needed, how it should be phrased or formatted, who edits it, what auxiliary media goes with is, all becomes easier with a solid content strategy in effect.
Whether it’s a small or large website, full on digital presence, cycling or static content, every content project has stakeholders—people who have a vested interest in the content and will be affected by any changes thereto. Revamping the website of your local teensy tiny coffee shop may have a stakeholder of one (if, say, the owner runs everything himself. Poor guy!); but any ecommerce store, non-profit org, white collar firm, or university is likely to have a larger team, or even several teams, resulting in a large population of stakeholders.
In the process of building the content strategy these key stakeholders are identified and prioritized according to the goals of the organization and of the project. I know it seems harsh to say A’s opinion is more important than B’s, but when the goal is to spend as little each month as possible then the finance team carries more weight than the graphic design team, and that’s just a reality of… well, reality. Once you’ve nailed down who the key players and objectives are, you start a process called stakeholder alignment—which is a fancy way of working through the needs of each stakeholder in accordance with the project priorities. In other words, get everyone affected by this project to agree on the major issues, both what they are and how to respond to them. This can be long and painful process depending on the size of the team and the level of politics in play.
So, you have achieved stakeholder alignment and gone on to fashion a world class content strategy. The next stage of implementation is done—the part with (usually) the biggest headache. Now the long haul begins: maintenance. The content lifecycle will demand daily decisions about edits, tweaks, bugs, unforeseen opportunities, and even crises. Many of these decisions (we need to produce a new series of web collateral for the event the boss is speaking at in two days! Ack!) might normally involve parties from various departments: marketing, finance, graphic design, copy writing, editing, web editor, and information architecture. Let’s face it, the more people who are involved in making a decision, the longer that decision takes. Unless the decision is already made…
And that is the magic of a content strategy. Done right, the strategy will tell you—and the rest of the team—what’s what, who’s doing it, and what power they have to requisition help without rehashing the issue every single time something a decision needs to be made. The hashing has already been done once and all parties have agreed to follow it. No arguing! No endless meetings! No days of waiting before production or go live for yet another person to sign off on some detail. It’s done! Voila!
So, what daily headaches will your content strategy save you from?