By Kathy Hanbury published April 4, 2011

5 Things You Need to Know about Content Strategy

There’s been a ton of great discussion about content activities, methodologies and deliverables. For most of us, that makes up the bulk of our work. But if you don’t have a conceptual framework for those activities, I’d argue that you’re not really practising content strategy. Here are five ways to think about content strategy that will ensure your content efforts are always strategic.

What is content strategy, anyway?

Content strategy is not a single solution or deliverable. It’s a process and a mindset. If you approach your content marketing initiative knowing that it will constantly evolve, and that you’re guiding its evolution, then you’re practising content strategy.

The de facto definition for content strategy comes from Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic, and author of Content Strategy for the Web. She describes content strategy as “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”

Content strategy evaluates business and customer needs and provides strategic direction on how improved content and content processes can help to achieve specific objectives. It’s a continual process of improvement.

Here’s an example of two people getting ready to implement a content-marketing initiative, but only one of them is practising content strategy:

This is not content strategy.

This is content strategy.

Is content strategy really that important?

Yes, it is.

Look at the two people above. Who do you have more faith in? Content strategy requires more time and resources upfront, but your content-marketing initiative is much more likely to succeed with a solid strategy supporting it.

Content strategy activities are scalable and can be modified to fit any budget. You don’t necessarily need a large, formal content strategy. You just need to take the time to think things through and determine your goals, resourcing, workflow and success metrics, which can save you from the high cost of ineffective content. You can’t expect to get where you want to go if you don’t know where that is, what you need to do to get there, or how to even recognize it if you stumble across it. What’s more, way too many companies are becoming more strategic in their content processes. You can’t afford to be left behind.

OK, so how do I strategize content?

You think about content through every stage of every project. Here’s a basic content strategy cycle:

Simple, right? Yup, it is. But…


The devil is in the details

Content strategy starts with the big picture and then drills down to a granular level that can be implemented and measured. It encompasses everything that impacts content, including workflow and governance.

Here’s a hypothetical example of one possible high-level goal, and how it may break out into multiple overlapping goals, tactics and products:



The complexity is in the layers

The content strategy process is not so much circular as it is spiral, starting at the big vision and then repeating at each stage as you drill down to more details. To make matters worse (or more fun!), content strategies, tactics, processes and even specific pieces of content are often shared between projects, products and business units.

For example, as a content marketer you’re going to have a strategy and guidelines for promoting your content through social media. But your company’s support team may also have a social media presence, along with corporate communications. And each business focus will have different goals, tactics and resourcing. However, in the eyes of your customers, you all share a single social media “product” or presence. A good content strategy looks across organizational silos and integrates the different business needs, goals and tactics. It makes sure that the end product promotes consistent, effective and efficient user experiences and business processes.

So now, when you approach your content marketing initiative, look at it from a content strategist’s point of view. Ask tons of questions. Validate and test the answers. Define specific goals. Cross corporate silos and attend to details. Imagine what’s possible and create a realistic plan to get there. Be creative. Have fun. And be very, very patient.

Author: Kathy Hanbury

Kathy Hanbury is Founder and Principal at E3 Content Strategy, a consulting firm that integrates content strategy with customer experience. Kathy helps companies identify the opportunities that arise by providing truly great content. Then, she shapes their content and content processes to help them get there. You can find Kathy on Twitter @KathyHanbury.

Other posts by Kathy Hanbury

  • Anonymous

    Great post and it really explains how hard it is to do a great job in content marketing. This should be required reading, Kathy.

    Jeff Ogden
    Find New Customers

    • Kathy Hanbury

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Jeff! It’s easy to forget all of the elements that go into strategic content unless you keep stepping back and looking at the big picture.

  • Adam Glassman

    One of the best articles I’ve read on this site!

    • Kathy Hanbury

      Thanks! Glad you liked it, Adam.

  • freelance writing

    wow.. It’s really useful info. Thanks.

  • Trish

    Wonderfully written, easy to comprehend and apply, thank you Kathy!

  • AdrienneAnn

    Very clear. Thank you…

  • Kathy Hanbury

    Thank you everyone for all of the wonderful comments, here and on Twitter. It’s always such a thrill to hear that my content is useful and usable. I live it, breathe it, teach it…. but it still feels like a home run when I get it right! Thanks so much for the positive feedback. 🙂

    • Cherry Rahtu

      Kathy, you did a great job, the article is so valuable, I definitely have something to take away 😉

  • Brandon Coppernoll

    Brilliant. That’s the best I can describe it. I think anyone new to the concept of content strategy will get a lot of great information of your simple format. Well done.

  • Anonymous

    Now, I know where I have gone wrong all these years! Thanks Kathy..btw, I have just fired myself.

  • karthik megha

    Thanks a ton Kathy! I have initiated for a Content Marketing in the company I work for.. And wondering where to start? How to start? What to know before getting into it? And your article has just been a great guide for me to begin

  • Ram Babu SEO

    thanks kathy for this, it looks to have very clear and informative things that we should know about content strategy!

  • Content Marketer

    Great article Kathy! CS is much more complex and detailed than people realize. To really execute an effective Content Strategy, a full content audit, message architecture, governance, editorial calendars, taxonomies, meta data, how and why some content is reused / re-purposed all have to be taken into account. Most organizations are just now seeing content as an asset, so it might be a little while before us CS professionals get buy in, but at least there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks again for sharing your insights, I look forward to reading more of your articles!

  • BoldAmp Media

    Having an effective content marketing services strategy plan is a key component of finding success online both through the search engines and your target customers. Perhaps even more important is being able to execute your content marketing strategy effectively.

  • Rehan Bashir

    thank you for the guidance alll people took part in nice attempt

  • Jennykampa

    Thank you for useful info..