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5 steps for implementing a successful content strategy

Written by: Emily Gallagher

Published on: July 7, 2015

Implementing a good content strategy can make a huge change to the way your audience engages with your output - but how do you achieve this?

Content strategy; when it’s not being confused with content marketing, its meaning seems to differ across the board. If you speak to a copywriter, they’re likely to define content strategy differently to a UX designer or a developer.

But why is this? Probably because everyone places the utmost significance on the part of the process that they’re personally bringing to the table – and this isn’t a bad thing. Of course, if you’re a copywriter, you will be preoccupied with the way the words you write will appear in context. Equally, if you’re a designer, your focus is going to be on the context, placing importance on how your design fits around the words.

Being passionate about your part in the process of building something larger garners the best results. But, if there isn’t collaboration across all disciplines, prioritizing individual components above others may be a hindrance in ultimately creating a cohesive whole. And therein lies the case for a solid and carefully considered content strategy.

A content strategy provides a structure for content generation and a framework for presenting the results going forward. It also provides a vehicle for a focussed audience-centric output. Your content strategy effort needs to be founded on extensive research around your target audience; you need to figure out who they are and what they want.

It is imperative that you enforce a strong content strategy from the outset; otherwise, you will waste time trying to force all the pieces of a different puzzle together at the end.

Instead of being bewildered as to why all the pieces don’t perfectly slot together to culminate in a seamless end product, make sure everyone is working towards the same end result from the get-go. This way, you’ll be able to avoid questions like, “why doesn’t this somber copy complement my neon color scheme?”

To achieve this, here are some tips for implementing a successful content strategy from the start:

1. Don’t confuse copywriting with content strategy

There are a few misconceptions surrounding content strategy. It is frequently confused with content marketing, or people seem to think ‘content strategist’ is just a highfalutin term for ‘copywriter’.

Although it is crucial to have a copywriter’s input, you shouldn’t look at developing your content strategy through the lens of a copywriter. Otherwise, you run the risk of letting your content determine your strategy instead of using a well-considered strategy to define your content output.

Copywriting is detail-orientated and content strategy is comprehensive and all encompassing. To put it simply, copywriting is the delivery of ideas and content strategy is their assessment and organization, and they should be treated accordingly.

2. Don’t treat copy as an afterthought

Treat it as an integral part of the design process and have your copywriter involved from the beginning. This doesn’t necessarily mean having the copy written and ready to go before anything has even been built, but it does mean keeping the copywriter in the loop with design so they can tailor their output accordingly.

Providing a few samples of text would make a world of difference in the long run. Using ‘lorem ipsum’ during the build can lead to problems like being unable to fill the brief of a ‘short and snappy title’, when the design has allowed for 25 words. Providing examples of headlines and text will make sure the content fits both visually and tonally and ensure that all future content will work within the framework displaying it.

3. Identify your audience personas

One of the best ways to understand your target audience is by creating personas. By creating generalized, fictionalized representations of your ideal customers, it becomes easier to tailor your content to your audience, as it gives a focussed and slightly more tangible target.

Personas allow for insight into the behaviors, needs and concerns of your audience and allows you to write specifically for them. By occupying your customer’s mindset, you are able to tap into their intent and make sure your content caters to this.

4. Have a clear concept and a focused objective

During the build, make sure every aspect of the design of your site is working towards the same unified goal. Once you’ve settled on who you’re trying to target, ask why and how and when. Work out what you’re trying to achieve and ensure all elements of the process will culminate in a seamless end product. The design of your site should match the objectives you want your copy to achieve.

If you don’t recognize the need to define a content strategy before finalizing the design process, your content will end up being defined by your design, rather than your own or your client’s objectives.

After your site is built, it is imperative to implement a clear structure for the creation of content going forward in order to ensure that the copy still adheres to its tailor-made framework. To ensure consistency, it is useful to have a style guide.

5. Develop a structured workflow

If you implement content without planning for it, you will constantly run into obstacles and will forever be making changes, which wastes both time and money.

Make sure you’re organized and have clear channels of internal communication in order to achieve your objectives and oversee the implementation of every aspect of the strategy to schedule.

Content strategy is undeniably a team effort. All too often, people fail to get past the ‘content’ part to realize that the ‘strategy’ is equally important and involves people other than the content producers. Copywriters think verbally while designers think visually, and it’s this kind of collaboration that is vital in the creation of a solid cross-functional content strategy, which not only encompasses copy, but data, video, audio and graphics.