Home/Publications/CIDM eNews/CIDM eNews 09.18/Content Strategy—The ins and outs

Eeshita Grover, Cisco Systems, Inc.

“Strategy, content strategy, is ongoing. There is no start or finish.”

Your company is ready to launch their newest product, their latest offering. Customers and users are waiting in anticipation. Some team members are working on product content, for example, launch collateral, white papers, blog posts, videos, other marketing and sales content and of course technical, user documentation. Like you must’ve guessed, all this content was created in so-called silos, leading to inconsistencies at many levels, big and small, some may have or not impacted customer sentiment. So, how could this have been addressed better?

There is no start or finish to content strategy. No matter what point you are at in a product’s lifecycle, it is important to have a clear understanding of the content strategy. If there isn’t a content strategy, let’s create it.

What is content strategy? From Wikipedia—Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media. The term has been particularly common in web development since the late 1990s.

A successful content strategy thrives on understanding the product strategy, content ecosystem, content inventory, and audit. In addition, as a content strategist or a body of content strategists it is critical to focus on the deployment, implementation, and measuring of results of the content strategy.

Components of Content Strategy

To build a robust, scalable, and flexible content strategy, it is important to harness knowledge about,

  • Product strategy
  • Content ecosystem
  • Content inventory and audit

Successful implementation of a strategy is heavily dependent on how well it is communicated to the key stakeholders. Following that is the important step of how you build stakeholder buy in.

Product Strategy

Product strategy lays the foundation of a product and its life cycle and execution plan for further development. Product strategy is based on market analysis, customer asks, defining the user experience, and inflection points as they occur through the life of the product.

While the product managers are researching and establishing the product strategy, they are building a product requirements document (PRD). The PRD gives several clues for designing the content strategy like the product roadmap and the audience.

Content Ecosystem

The content ecosystem encompasses various stakeholders, including authors, designers, communication specialists, subject matter experts, tools experts, etc.

A realization, an observation, or just experience will make you see that you are one of the many content generators in your organization. Your content is one version among several being created by other content generators for the same product but with a different goal, for a different segment of the audience. Some of the commonly known content generators are marketing and sales, technical marketing, technical user content, support, and social media publications.

Content Inventory and Audit

I can’t say enough about the necessity of clean content-keeping techniques. It’s very easy to develop and publish new content but a skilled content strategist will keep a close eye on the inventory and devise methods for efficient audits.

For a content inventory, it’s important to catalog,

  • Unchanged Content—Unchanged content is content that should be kept as is. For example, conceptual and descriptive information.
  • Rewrite—Content that needs to be rewritten is in cases when it is incorrect or outdated. For example, new information or updates, re-initiate reuse of content chunks from a new content branch.
  • Archive/Removal—Content that is rendered irrelevant requires to be archived or removed. For example, end of life/sale product content, content applicable for a past release/version, content in file formats that are no longer in use.
  • Merge—Existing information that can be brought together by navigation or curation or even by rewriting existing pieces of content.
  • Gap Analysis—A gap analysis is a key step to figure out which content might be missing. For example, when a piece of content was first created did we pay enough attention to adding robust metadata? Probably not. Take the opportunity during a content audit to add that metadata. A gap analysis will also show areas where your content might be lacking in addressing a key customer ask.

It’s important to be conscientious that multiple knowledge portals exist, not just your organization’s website.

An effective content audit is based on:

  • Managing knowledge—Knowledge management must happen across all portals, including social media, user blogs, corporate/e-commerce sites, etc.
  • Timely support for readers. Making relevant content available as and when the reader needs it.

Content Strategy—Deploying and Implementing

A critical step and the lynch pin is deploying a content strategy. This depends on devising a clear process, establishing roles and responsibilities, and inserting frequent checks and balances.

Socializing the content strategy, making sure more and more stakeholders are educated about the goal and implementation is absolutely needed. You should leverage every viable avenue for sharing the content strategy with decision makers and the executors.

Creating roles and defining the responsibilities gives speed and momentum to a content strategy. Assign leads per CS component—for tracking product strategy, overseeing the content ecosystem, managing the content inventory, and the content audit. Even more important is to empower the leads to influence with best practices. And, of course implementing checks and balances helps keep the momentum and hence the constant evolution of the content strategy. Set up a frequent cadence of touchpoints to keep track of progress. Take stock of new and expected challenges. And, resolve issues as soon as possible. It’s very easy for the essence of any strategy to get lost if the required momentum is not maintained.

Last but not least, determine methods for measuring results. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as unique page visits, number of downloads, dwell time, number of shares, etc. will give you clear insights into the success of your content.

In my experience, it takes arduous understanding of product and process to devise an effective content strategy. And it takes diligence and method for implementing it.

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