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Why Should you invest in Content Strategy?

Content produced and managed without a clear content strategy might be king, but it will be a king without a country.

Photo of Koen Platteeuw
Mon, 2014-10-13 16:07By koen

In the 4 years of Code Enigma’s existence, clients have traditionally turned to us for our technical expertise in designing, building, developing, hosting and maintaining Drupal websites. 

On a couple of occasions both the client and ourselves failed to deliver a successful product despite closely managing the project, building on specifications and staying within the agreed schedule and budget.

Everyone on the project was motivated and knew what they were doing, but nevertheless felt at the end that the resulting product wasn’t the game changer they expected at project start.

Describing what exactly went wrong wasn’t always easy, but with time we realised we could pinpoint the origin of the problem to the planning phase.

During this phase it’s easy to get excited about design patterns, or preoccupied with the technicalities of web development, leading to reactions like “that’s great, let’s implement it” or “we definitely want to try out that new javascript library”. 

Just as easy as it is to get carried away, so too is losing sight of the two main questions crucial at the beginning and throughout web projects:

  • What am I trying to achieve with this site? (unlike ‘what are all the nice things I can do with this site?’)
  • What will my users expect when visiting the site? (Unlike ‘How can I impress my users?’) 

These questions bring us back to the basics of Content Strategy. This discipline is by no means limited to web development or digital asset management. One of the key aspects of Content Strategy is that it must be applied organisation-wide. But for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on its impact on your web project. 

Content Strategy is the discipline that describes how an organisation will put it’s content to best use in order to both achieve it’s organisational goals and fulfil audience needs.

Your organisation's content strategy should describe:

  • how content will be created, published, managed, (and deleted);
  • through what channels;
  • to reach which audiences;
  • what user needs your content plans to fulfil;
  • which project/organisational goal this content will help you to reach;
  • and not to forget: who will be responsible for all that?

If you’re managing an organisation's digital assets, you’ll be familiar with tag-lines like “Content is king”, “Context is the new king”, “Content is king but context is God” etc. While they contain lessons to be learnt from a content marketing perspective, it’s also important to note that the use of content by an organisation without clear strategy will be counterproductive even if your content has good quality.

Content, produced and managed without clear content strategy, might be king, but it will be a king without a country.

Over the past year we have now become more diligent at project start, asking challenging (and sometimes inconvenient) questions to our client champion. This is to get a better idea of the role of the project within their organisation’s mission/goals and how they envisioned their site to help obtain these goals as well as fulfil their audiences needs.

Those sessions turned out to be real eye openers and definitely add value by avoiding the “something is not quite right” feeling at project end. 

We must confess that in a couple of cases this has also caused project delays as clients realised they weren’t actually ready to start building their new site. Even in these situations clients feedback indicated that the delays were balanced out by the enhanced value of the end result.

Content Strategy isn’t exclusive to the conception of a project; it should be present during the full lifecycle of a content asset, and there are a number of reasons to invest in it. 

Content is used in a number of fields within an organisation. Sales, Marketing, PR, Customer Service, Accounting, Legal... Each of these fields will use content for their own needs, which can vary significantly with what another departments of the organisation are trying to achieve with their content. 

Content Strategy will only work efficiently if there’s one common strategy for all. If each of the departments come up with their own plan, failure will be written all over it. This ideal “one strategy fits all” approach is probably the hardest challenge but at the same time the most rewarding outcome of the process of designing your organisation’s strategy. 

The value of having staff from different areas interacting and looking at the organisation’s bigger picture is a big help to success. With content being applied in so many different fields, the risk and likelihood of conflicting information or ‘forgotten‘ and outdated data is rapidly growing. A common strategy will avoid users’ frustration from not finding conclusive answers to their information needs, directly impacting user retention.

Finally, in our case–“the shoemaker's children go barefoot”–our own website was long due a big overhaul. We felt for a long time we really had to tackle the problem. The first thing we developed was our own content strategy. Going through this exercise ourselves was a learning experience.

The conflicts in our previous corporate sites showed that these issues are not the exclusive terrain of large enterprises and can even be found in SME’s.

So to recap a couple of the key thoughts exposed above: 

  • It brings everyone in the organisation on the same line;
  • Content is created with a purpose;
  • Content isn't abandoned to its luck once published;
  • Users are less likely to get irritated by missing or conflicting information;
  • Organisations save time by not having two people in two departments creating almost identical content;

And not to forget: 

We apply it ourselves, and it works!

To find out how our content experts can help you with your content strategy planning or how our web consultants can be of value during planning of your next web project, feel free to contact us for more information.

Image credit, by 10CH and released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, via Flickr.