My concept of content strategy before reading Halvorson and Rach’s “Content Strategy for the Web” didn’t really include the future. For some reason, my focus when considering content for the social media sites that I help out with was really short-sighted.
I thought about the events coming up the next week, and maybe a month in advance. Their definition of content strategy considers the big picture of an organization much more than my own uninformed definition. Theirs is worth adopting.
Content strategy should guide one’s plans for creation, delivery, and governance of the content. This means that a strategy will set direction for the future. In short, I hadn’t been thinking about strategizing and was focusing mainly on content for the user. Halvorson and Rach list what content strategy is NOT, and I’m guilty of thinking that it was at least a couple of these things:
- Social media accounts (see above)
- Blog posts
- Educational articles
- Online knowledge bases
Not to say that these things can’t be some of the channels that are part of an organization’s content strategy, but they will never be enough alone.
My previous approach to thinking about and developing a content strategy also reflects some of the obstacles that Halvorson and Rach attribute to why bad content is not turned into better content.
I don’t view content as a commodity, and certainly, it should be engaging to users and answer their questions or motivate them to act. The obstacle to good content that I would likely create, should I ever become a content strategist, is racing right past strategy and into execution. I would like to blame my enthusiasm for getting things done, or the pressure to deliver, as they write in Chapter 2.
Reasons not to rush past planning include the following:
- No one who matters will know what you’re doing.
- You won’t know what you’re doing.
- Your content will suffer.
- You will suffer.
Though I know in my core that the planning phase is critical to a successful project, I usually just want to get started on rolling out the emails and creating things.
Halvorson and Rach emphasize the importance of getting stakeholders on board with your project right from the start. Identifying people by how they will impact your project will have a significant impact on how you complete it. It’s also important to spin a compelling story about the necessity of a content strategy to them once you know who they are. Halvorson and Rauch dedicate an entire chapter to this initial stage called “Alignment,” that starts in the discovery process and continues throughout the project. It’s not linear, but a circular cycle in which the content strategist marathons.
Halvorson, Kristina. & Rach, Melissa. (2012). Content Strategy for the Web. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.