Five Steps to Building a Successful Content Strategy

By Laura Rives — Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 at 11:00am

Five Steps to Building a Successful Content Strategy

Building a successful content strategy is a multi-step, cross departmental effort that takes time. But it also is a core driver of applications, donations, and much more.

We’ve all heard that content is king, so clearly the importance of content creation is well understood. But is the king receiving the respect he deserves?

With empowered consumers turning to the Internet for information, organizations are being challenged to create more and more high-value content. So how do we stop the scrambling and take a more strategic approach to content creation.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common missteps organizations make when developing assets, as well as a multi-step approach to creating a rock-solid content strategy.

Common Mistakes

Lack of accountability. In many organizations, the responsibility of creating content like white papers, newsletters, case studies, and more is spread across several departments. Unfortunately, this can lead to people viewing content creation as a second priority—or worse, a distraction from other priorities. Remember: if it’s everyone’s job, it’s no one’s job.

Lack of strategy. Stemming from a lack of accountability, the absence of strategy leads to ad hoc content creation, leaving curators constantly flying by the seat of their pants.

Lack of measurement. Without tracking, it’s impossible to improve. And the thought of underperforming content piling up should scare us all into putting goals and KPIs in place.

How to Build an Effective Content Strategy

For some organizations, it makes sense to close the gap between what content its target audience wants and its ability to produce that content by hiring a Content Strategist, Content Marketer, Inbound Lead Specialist, or a similar role. Benefits include centralized accountability, increased oversight and authority, and comprehensive reporting.

But if that isn’t realistic for you, don’t fret. The steps to building an effective content strategy are the same. You’ll just need to name the person(s) accountable for creating and managing the content strategy.

If you understand that content is king—but maybe that king is more of a figurehead right now—there are five steps you can take to help meet growing content demands.

Step One: Assign ownership. Either one individual or a small committee should direct the entire content community. They don’t necessarily have to create everything, but they should maintain responsibility and accountability for the strategy.

Step Two: Define the personas within your target market. Who are they, what motivates them, and how do they make decisions.

Step Three: Define what content they need at each stage. An accepted but unconfirmed prospective student requires different messaging than a high school junior, for example. Map content to engagement via the channels they are paying attention to.

Step Four: Conduct a content audit. Oftentimes, existing content can be reused and repurposed to meet the needs of different audiences. Additionally, reusing content alleviates the burden to consistently create net-new material.

Step Five: Create required content. The content audit will likely reveal gaps in your current content library. At this point, it’s time to hunker down and create assets that will resonate with your target audience and decision-making stage.

Wrap Up

Content is king. So let’s show him the respect he deserves. Assign accountability, build a strategy, get to know your audience, audit existing content, and fill content gaps. And don’t forget to measure content effectiveness against goals and KPIs.

All this being said, it’s important to understand that no one person can possibly act as a well-oiled content marketing machine. And if you recognize the potential of content marketing but have been unable to mobilize your ideas—you are not alone.

Our recommendation is to start small and create a living document with your content plan. Do what you can, review regularly, and learn as you go, and you will do great!

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