The Elements of Content Strategy

By Erin Kissane

Done Well, Content Strategy

  • Helps companies understand and produce the content their audience needs
  • Allows development of realistic, sustainable, and measureable publishing plans for the long term
  • Cuts costs by reducing redundant publishing efforts
  • Aligns communication goals across channels (web/print/social/internal)
  • Prevents derailing of often underestimated time & efforts of great content production

Basic Principles of Good Content

  • Appropriate – content is right for the user and the business
    • "Content is appropriate for users when it helps them accomplish their goals. Content is perfectly appropriate when it makes them feel like geniuses on critically important missions, offering them precisely what they need, exactly when they need it, and in just the right form."
    • "Always give readers the option of seeing more information if they wish to do so."
    • "Right for the business and right for the user is the same thing: that which hurts your users hurts you."
  • Useful – clear, specific purpose for each piece of content; evaluate content against this purpose
    • For every chunk of content ask:
      1. What is this content supposed to accomplish?
      2. Who will benefit from this content?
      3. How will a customer benefit from this content?
  • User-Centered – adopt the cognitive frameworks of your users
    • Ensure user can 1) figure out what to do 2) tell what is going on
    • "Content that is self-absorbed in substance or style alienates readers"
  • Clear – seek clarity in all things
  • Consistent – mandate consistency, within reason
  • Concise – omit needless content
    • "Publishing everything often means ‘publishing everything we can,’ rather than 'publishing everything we’ve learned that our users really need."
    • Discover needless content with traffic analysis, user research, and editorial judgment.
    • "Ruthlessly eliminate (and teach others to eliminate) needless content at the section, page, and sentence level."
  • Supported – publish no content without a support plan

The Craft of Content Strategy

  • "Stories are the ultimate hack for communication"
    • 5Ws and an H – What is the product? Who is it for? Why should they buy/need it? How does it work or meet needs? When can they get it? Where can they get it?
  • Client | Core Idea | Rational Appeal | Emotional Appeal | Reputation-Based Appeal – “Rhetorical Appeal” breakdown for messaging that drives content decisions

Tools & Techniques

  • When adding/placing a piece of content ask yourself, “how does this help users?”
  • "User advocacy is simply a of ensuring a project meets its business goals."
  • Research
    • Users – Who are they and what do they want?
    • Content Inventory – Know all your existing content to determine what you have to work with.
    • Quality Audit – Determine what stays and what goes of existing content.
  • Validation – Once you have the main ideas you need to communicate arranged in a hierarchy, validate them with the client, revise, and move on.
  • Major Change Ideas
    • Substantial shifts in target audience
    • New content-related features (blogs, podcasts, wikis, other knowledge bases, editorial features, video tutorials, etc)
    • Voice and Tone
  • When designing a page do two core things
    • What is this page intended to do?
    • Create a Content Template
  1. List each piece of information that must be on the page (include optional pieces)
  2. Note what each piece of content is supposed to accomplish
  3. List specs for each piece of content (ideal word count, style, list vs. para vs. heading, can the description be replaced by a good caption and img – do it if so)
  4. Provide example content for each piece of content in the template