We’ve helped thousands of brands create content over the last decade, from small startups to Fortune 100 giants. In that time, we’ve seen all sorts of content strategy mistakes (and made a few of our own). We’ve also noticed a few issues that consistently cause trouble to brands of all sizes. Worse, these easy-to-overlook issues can sabotage or sidetrack your content strategy efforts without you even realizing it.
We want your content strategy to work—and work well—so today we’re sharing a few insider tips to help you avoid these troubles. From general strategy to team dynamics, here are the five most important things you need to make your content strategy effective.
1) A Documented Content Strategy
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many brands don’t have a documented content strategy—39% of marketers, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2019 B2B Benchmarks report. You may have a “plan,” but if it’s not on paper, it won’t be very successful. Make sure you have a comprehensive content strategy outlined, including:
- Goals and definitions: You need a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve.
- Measurement methodology: This includes KPIs, projections, and metrics to identify whether or not you’re succeeding. (Here are the metrics that will make your content strategy stronger.)
- Journey or lead mapping: Map your customer journey clearly to identify how you’ll move them from one stage to the next.
- Persona insights: Create personas to clearly articulate who you’re trying to target. (Here’s how to make them.)
- Messaging platform: Make sure your brand messaging is up to date so that your content is telling the right overarching story.
- Channel opportunities: Identify the best channels for your content to ensure you’re reaching the right people.
- Storytelling opportunities: Identify the content pillars (aka general topics) that will resonate with people.
- Editorial calendar: Keep your team on the same content schedule with a comprehensive editorial calendar.
- Keyword strategy: Know what you’re going to target for SEO before you start producing content.
Media planning: Consider your high-level media buys to get the placement you need.
Budget allocation: Know where your budget is going and look for opportunities to maximize it.
Tech stack: Make sure you have the capabilities to produce your content if you’re doing things like video or interactive.
If you haven’t created a content strategy before or think yours could use some revamping, here are the questions to ask (along with a free template) that covers all your bases.
2) The Right Team
To do content well, you need the right team that can execute your content strategy. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to hire a whole new crew of people. If you look at these responsibilities as roles instead of job titles, you can maximize your team’s capabilities. For example, one person may serve as your writer, editor, and managing editor, whereas another may be your marketing manager and SEO expert.
That said, these are the roles you want to have covered:
- Marketing leader to be the liaison between business development and marketing, and ensure content strategy aligns to business goals.
- Marketing manager to help guide content strategy, support content creation/distribution, oversee production, and ensure projects are completed.
- SEO expert to craft your keyword strategy and ensure content is optimized.
- Managing editor to oversee content production, manage the ed calendar, and curate a good mix of topics.
- Writer to communicate effectively in a variety of mediums.
- Editor to catch your typos and grammar mistakes.
- Subject expert to write or speak authoritatively on your industry subject matter (or collaborate with your writer).
- Designer to create all forms of visual communication, whether it’s infographics or detailed data visualizations, and preserve your brand’s visual identity.
- Media manager to execute your earned, owned, and paid distribution strategy to help you reach the max amount of people.
Email marketer to nurture and grow your leads.
Social media expert to publish, interact, and nurture your social following.
For more detailed breakdowns of these roles (as well as helpful resources for each), see our guide to building a content marketing team that scales.
Note: You may be able to handle all these roles in-house, but if you don’t have the knowledge or bandwidth to complete a task, it’s worthwhile to bring in a specialist (e.g., SEO or PPC) or a content agency to support your operation. Here’s how to know if you need a content agency, and what to look for if you’re on the hunt for one.
3) Buy-In From Higher Ups
The only thing worse than not having a content strategy is having one but not having the ability to execute it because you don’t have support from internal decision makers. To make things go smoothly, always get sign-off on your content strategy from the beginning. Whether you need extra budget, approval to hire outside experts, or tech stack upgrades, you’ll need leaders who not only approve but truly support your content strategy.
4) Resources, Infrastructure, and Processes
Too often brands create a content strategy that sounds great on paper but can’t be executed realistically because the team simply doesn’t have what they need to follow through.
Sometimes it’s because they don’t have a clear process to take their ideas from brainstorm to final deliverable. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the knowledge or technical skills to produce the content. Sometimes there’s an internal disconnect between departments, causing content to be bottlenecked or indefinitely back burnered. All of these issues can breed frustration and throw a wrench in your content strategy.
If you’re just starting to create content or hoping to increase the volume of what you create, we find it’s helpful to build a content roadmap before you even start brainstorming. Ask yourself:
- What is the production process for every type of content (e.g., articles, infographics, videos, etc.)?
- Who will approve content at each stage?
- Who “owns” the content/who do you go to if there are problems such as scope creep or unresponsive sources?
- Who will ensure content meets brand guidelines?
- How/when you will publish?
- What do you need before each piece goes live (e.g., assets for promotion)?
Things like checklists, FAQs, and brand guidelines are useful to keep everyone on the same page. You can also try working with content campaigns, which make it easier to budget and produce smaller content batches for specific groups. Oh, and make sure to bookmark these 100 tools and resources to automate, support, or streamline the content creation process.
5) Courage to Experiment
A content strategy is vital to help you achieve your goals, but it’s also a tool to help you take calculated risks. To increase your impact, you need to mix it up from time to time, whether that’s experimenting with a new content format (e.g., interactives), a new design style, or a new paid strategy.
Many marketers are hesitant to rock the boat, but fortune favors the bold. (When we revamped our brand and content strategy, we increased our leads 78% in the first 6 months.) Just focus on strategic risks, and pay close attention to your metrics to figure out the winning formula.
Don’t Get Stuck
Your content strategy is ever-evolving, depending on your goals, the people you’re trying to connect with, and the shifting media landscape. We recommend re-evaluating your content strategy every quarter to make sure it still aligns with your goals.
In the meantime, focus on telling fresh, unique, and relevant stories at every stage of the buyer’s journey. For more inspiration:
- Learn how to find interesting stories in your data and your people.
- Use these 5 prompts to brainstorm better ideas.
- Try a divisible content strategy to get more mileage from your content.
If you need help building out your content strategy, we’re here for you.