“Creating content isn’t content strategy.”
That’s a simple statement I tweeted nearly two weeks ago. As a rush of retweets, favorites, and comments flowed in response, I was delighted so many people agreed with that distinction.
Then, some responses shifted to a blame game, best represented by this tweet:
The link goes to the blog post, How Content Strategy Got Hijacked by Content Marketing, which contends that content marketing confuses content creation with content strategy and, consequently, dilutes the definition of content strategy.
I couldn’t disagree more. I’m enthusiastic about the possibilities for content strategy and content marketing, as Robert Rose recently suggested. I see the main distinction between the two fields of practice as purpose. Content strategy is essential for a wide range of purposes — media products, technical support, customer service, sales, and marketing, to name a few. Content marketing focuses on strategy and implementation for — you guessed it — marketing. (I explain more about the distinction in one of my own recent posts.)
Since I first talked about the distinction between these two fields of practice, I’ve advised clients for purposes that span marketing, technical support, and media product development. During that time, I’ve drawn on both content strategy and content marketing knowledge and practices. I see opportunity for both fields of practice to inform each other as we move into 2014.
What content marketing and content strategy can learn from each other
What does content strategy have to offer content marketing? A lot. One opportunity I see, especially for mid-sized and large companies, is to help content marketing scale. Content strategy draws some inspiration from product management practices. That means many content strategists view content as a product (or as an important part of a product), with a long-term vision and plan. They use techniques to guide prioritizing what’s important to do when. If you’re scaling your content marketing across different brands, market segments, geographic regions, and more, then long-term thinking and thoughtful prioritization will serve you well. Otherwise, you risk investing a lot of time, effort, and resources without getting much in return.
What does content marketing have to offer content strategy? I could talk for a day or two about the possibilities. But, one opportunity that intrigues me is becoming more proficient at content engineering and evaluation. At times, content strategists act as if the only technology affecting content is a CMS (content management system). Many are blissfully — and in my opinion mistakenly — unaware of CRM (customer relationship management) and related technologies.
Let’s consider the key difference between CMS and CRM:
CMS, of course, handles content and its related data, while CRM handles people and their related data. Both jobs are critical, so it’s no surprise these technologies are merging to offer people the right content at the right time. As a simple example, HubSpot offers a CMS and integrates with CRM technologies such as SalesForce. What does this mean for content strategists? They can learn more about their customers/users/audiences and use that knowledge to create logic that surfaces the right content at the right time.
This new, more nuanced knowledge about the people using a business’ content is especially useful as media properties move beyond reaching a mass audience and strive to engage specific groups of people over a life cycle. You know WebMD.com? That site reaches a huge mass audience. At the same time, WebMD has started offering mobile apps that more deeply engage specific groups for an extended time. WebMD’s The Pregnancy App, for example, has various tools and information that can engage women in different ways throughout the course of their pregnancy.
My point? Content strategists need a working knowledge of CRM technologies to understand how to define nuanced logic that surfaces the right content for specific people over a life cycle. Content marketing can help.
Again, I’m only scratching the surface, but I think you get a sense of the possibilities for content marketing and content strategy to benefit each other.
Down with condescension, up with collaboration
Seeing the opportunities to learn from each other is one thing. Making the most of those opportunities is another. I’m concerned we’ll miss these opportunities because the tone of our dialogue can be perceived, at times, as a bit condescending. Perhaps tone is what concerns me most about discussing content strategy as something content marketing has “hijacked” — as if content marketing has no right to contribute to its definition or nothing worthwhile to add. That doesn’t exactly encourage collaboration, which is so important to success.
For me, the bottom line is that in just the past few years, both fields of practice have accomplished more than I can possibly recount here. Both fields of practice have refined their knowledge into very useful expertise. Both fields of practice are evolving. Both communities deserve respect.
We’re at a crossroads where I believe content marketing and content strategy can achieve much more by working together than apart. We talk about the danger of content silos with our clients in one breath and, in another breath, insist that our fields of practice stay in silos. Let’s walk the talk, break down our own silos, and make 2014 the year of content and collaboration.
For more insight on scaling your content marketing efforts, join Colleen Jones as she takes the stage at Content Marketing World Sydney, March 31 – April 2, 2014.
Cover image via Bigstock