How to build a sustainable content strategy
Formulating a successful strategy always starts with knowing the answers to the basic why, what, when and how questions. Here are five things you need to ask yourself in order to begin developing a content strategy.
1. Why do I want to create content online?
2. Who are my target audience and how will they benefit from my content?
3. When should I publish and how can I continue to deliver useful content regularly?
4. How can I help my target users to find my content?
5. How can I keep improving the service I am providing?
The purpose of a content strategy is to provide users with the highest possible quality at a sustainable cost. The challenge is to find the sweet spot, where producing quality output within budget meets the right volume of output to keep your users engaged.
How do you strike the right balance? I like to imagine hot air balloons floating over a crocodile-infested quagmire.
How low, or high above the quagmire you fly is up to you, so long as you don't sink too close to the biting jaws and the quicksand. Your food supply is your ballast: to fly higher – i.e. to create more content - you need to toss out a few sandwiches, but you also have to make sure that you don’t starve.
How regularly you publish depends on your headcount and the platforms you are prioritizing. Just as important as the size of your team is that you have the right mix of skills and knowledge.
A web content team must cover several distinct roles. Smaller teams are no different, but they can only function properly if you employ people who are capable of multitasking and covering multiple roles.
A very small organisation I know does a great job of creating relevant and compelling content for their website and social media pages with only three people. One very talented lady writes press releases and articles in two languages, as well as making videos.
She also covers the role of social media community manager, which requires not only sharing content on Facebook and Twitter, but also interacting with followers.
Her boss, who also has other duties, covers the editorial role, assigning topics and providing guidance as necessary. She checks and subs all output to make sure it’s on topic and error free.
The third member of the team is a webmaster-developer and graphic designer, who also keeps an eye on the web analytics. Between them they manage to publish four blog posts a week, as well as producing video and other material for twice daily social media updates.
It may not seem like much, but they have a growing number of followers on social media, a healthy number of page views and good engagement rates. They are able to maximize their talents and resources because they have the right people in the right roles.
The most important thing is that they are listening to their audience on social media to ensure they are covering the right issues in a relevant way. It helps that they have a very good understanding of who is their audience.
They follow the five golden rules of content strategy:
1. They have clear objectives: they have answered the question, "Why am I creating content online?
2. They know their target audience: they have answered the question, "Who are my target audience and what do they want to know?"
3. They have created an efficient workflow and division of labour: they have answered the question, "How can I regularly deliver useful content to my target audience?"
4. They are promoting their content via SEO and social media: they have answered the question, "How can I help my target users to find my content?"
5. They continuously review their performance: they are answering the question, "How can I improve the service I am providing?"
This brings us back to the question of what is quality and how to measure it? An online content strategy is about serving the interests and needs of your stakeholders and other target visitors.
If your target users are spending time reading your stories, watching your videos or listening to your podcasts, then you are delivering a quality service. I deal with metrics in a separate post.
Sustainability is the number one priority for any project. Strategy is about making choices to safeguard the excellence of your output.