Content Strategy: Sharing Your Story Digitally

Posted: Apr 1, 2015

Our world is abuzz with storytelling. Once an afterthought, the story has taken center stage in communications—stories are memorable and meaningful, and they’re everywhere. Now, more than ever, we must be strategic in cultivating and sharing our stories, especially digitally.

Content strategy quad, developed by Brain Traffic

That’s where content strategy comes in.

Understanding content strategy

Content strategy is the tactical process of planning, creating, publishing, and managing useful content. Said another way, content strategy asks—and then answers—four core questions:

1.    What goals do we want to achieve with our content?
2.    What are our users’ goals and needs?
3.    How will we structure and prioritize our content to achieve those goals?
4.    Who will create and manage the content?

Content strategy is nothing new, but when you think about the rapid expansion of digital communications vehicles and channels, it becomes imperative. Before you can begin to answer these questions, it’s important to understand what these questions are trying to tee up. Let’s look a little closer at what these questions really mean.

1. What goals do we want to achieve with our content?

Like any element of a communications strategy, whether it’s a website, a social channel, or an email newsletter, you must start with firm goals. We’re often fond of saying “To what end?” at Pyramid—at the end of the day, what do you want your content to help you achieve? For example, your website’s top two goals might be explaining how to access your organization’s services and driving online donations. In that case, a successful website makes it quick and easy to read about services and features a prominent, easy-to-use donation tool. Your goals may differ between your website and your Facebook page, and that’s ok. Once you’ve identified goals for each online channel, you can act on them.

Content strategy Venn diagramWhen thinking about your approach to content, you want to look at two core questions:

2. What are our users’ goals and needs?

It’s important to remember: it’s not all about you. People seek you out for their own reasons. It’s just as important to prioritize their goals—maybe they need to know the office phone number or a deadline to apply for a grant. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, you won’t make a great impression.

3. How will we structure and prioritize our content to achieve those goals?

That’s where organization comes in—it’s not just about what you say but where you say it. For example, suppose that on your website, you have to navigate to the “About” page and scroll down to the “Donate Now” button. That’s the only way to donate online. Many people will give up searching before they ever find the button. That’s certainly not going to help you achieve your goals, now is it? Setting clear priorities allows you to structure your content accordingly.

4. Who will create and manage the content?

This one’s often the most forgotten, but it’s probably the most important. Today, we need to think beyond the printed experience. Digital content is dynamic and constantly evolving, so it requires regular TLC and clear guidelines on who’s responsible and accountable for revising and contributing new content. Are you the sole person (or a team of five) dedicated to posting on Facebook, Twitter, the blog, and more? Do you have 40 hours a week or 5? It’s okay to be realistic and set goals you can manage; in fact, that’s something we can’t advocate for enough. There’s no sense in setting yourself or your people up for a disappointing experience, like a Twitter page that’s gone dormant, or a site that hasn’t been updated since 2011. (Quick tip: an editorial calendar can help you manage consistent editing and publishing online.)

Distinguishing content strategy from content marketing

And what about content marketing? It’s essentially a component of content strategy: it dives more deeply into that strategic approach by focusing on content optimization (that is, using metrics to improve your digital presence through analytics, SEO, and web writing). Once you know who your audience is, content marketing asks: "How do we get them to actually read it?” To answer that question, focus on what your audience wants to know and learn.

Your answers to these questions will be the basis for the thoughtful planning and production of the content your organization creates. After all, your online presence is made up of many parts: your website, your social media pages, and your email newsletter. All these pieces ultimately serve one purpose—to help you achieve your goals. Just like your annual report, brochures, or your elevator speech, these new channels give you even more ways to share your organization's message.

Why take the time to build a content strategy? Because it will help you ensure that your content is clear, timely, and useful to its intended audience. It will help you create a consistent, fluent integration between messages offline and online. And, it helps you plan for a digital presence that you can actually manage and that will grow with your organization. Now that’s a powerful story.

Thinking through your own content strategy? We're always here to answer questions. Reach out at connect@pyramidcommunications.com. And stay tuned for part three in this series, where we’ll explore effective ways to share your awesome content online.