By Joe Pulizzi published December 5, 2016

Not Documenting Your Content Marketing Strategy?  Here’s What to Do About It

not-documenting-strategyIf you are a regular reader at Content Marketing Institute, you know how often we talk about the importance of documenting your content marketing strategy. According to our latest research, we know that marketers who document their strategy are much more likely to accomplish their content marketing goals and be successful. It really is that simple.

But, for some reason, we still see that the majority of marketers do not document their content plans in any way. In our latest study, just 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a written content marketing plan. While this percentage is up from 32% (B2B) and 37% (B2C) from the previous year, it’s still a woeful number.

Just 37% of B2B marketers & 40% of B2C marketers have a written #contentmarketing plan via @cmicontent. Click To Tweet

Here’s a simple approach for documenting your content marketing strategy.

Who really cares?

Dominican University’s Gail Matthews executed a study almost a decade ago. Dr. Matthews and her team found that those people who write down their goals, review them consistently, and share their goals with friends or colleagues are 33% more successful in achieving their goals than those people who just had goals.

Want to be successful? Write down goals, share w/ peers & review consistently says Dr. Gail Matthews. Click To Tweet

And we’ve found the same results in the content marketing industry. When we advise enterprise clients, we find that those brands that write a plan, review it consistently with their team, and treat that plan as a living document, adapting it as they receive data, are by far the most successful.

Create, review, adapt.

What holds us back from documenting?

Thanks to our amazing research team at CMI, we were able to collect and compile the major reasons why marketers are not documenting their strategy. By going through each one, my goal is to provide a few ideas or motivation for you if one of these reasons happens to resonate.

Not a priority

Obviously, if you haven’t completed your strategy, it’s not a priority. The majority of marketers are so quick to go “do” something — like a blog, podcast, or video — that they neglect the fact that the content they “do” needs to tie directly (or as much as possible) to revenue creation or cost reduction. Those companies that do not prioritize the strategic process don’t really see value in the content. Most likely, they are a glorified marketing collateral department: “Content order up, table seven.”

My advice: Stop creating and start (and finish) documenting your content marketing strategy. Then get back to creating goal-focused content.

Stop creating & finish documenting your #contentmarketing strategy says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

Not enough time/no one has the time to do this

We make time for what’s important. If anyone tells you that they don’t have time, what they are really trying to say is that it’s not important enough to MAKE time.

My advice: If you can’t commit and go all in, stop creating content and go do something else.

No one owns this

If no one in your company owns content marketing strategy, congratulations, it’s your responsibility. Content marketing, even though an old discipline, is still a new muscle in most organizations. If you are working with traditional marketers, I guarantee they aren’t going to think they need a strategic approach to content.

My advice: You own it. Get started. Every week, send an amazing content marketing example to your boss; you can easily share the This Old Marketing example we discuss each week during our podcast, PNR with This Old Marketing. If you can, print it and send. You’ll gather support by educating your executives on why content marketing is important.


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And for the love of God, please show them The Story of Content documentary. It works every time. (You can even download our screening kit to help with the conversation.)

No one mentioned it

Same as “no one owns this.” Are you really waiting for permission to create a content marketing strategy? If so, you’re killing me, Smalls.

Don’t wait for permission to create your #contentmarketing strategy. You own it says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

My advice: Consider it mentioned. Get it done. Consider a pilot program.

We want to stay under the radar

“Under the radar” is another way to say “Our company doesn’t think content is important,” even though your organization most likely creates more content than ANYTHING ELSE in the organization. Believe me, at some point, some senior-level executive is going to ask the question why so much content is being created that can’t be measured. And when that day comes, they’ll be looking right at you.

There’s the door, brother!

My advice: Show why content is important to your organization. Think about goals and measurement for every piece created.


Boo hoo. Content, like everything else in an enterprise, is political. Sure, maybe it’s more political than most because it touches so many groups — sales, demand generation, events, human resources, customer services, finance, etc.

My advice: Integrate the needs of other key departments into your content marketing strategy plan. If your plan helps them do their jobs better, then everybody wins. The content group or department has a special opportunity NOT to be a silo, so don’t act like one.

We have a small team, so a documented strategy isn’t necessary

Have you not been reading? It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one, you still need to write down your goals, understand your differentiated story to reach those goals, choose an appropriate content type and channels, distribute and measure the content, and then wrap it all in a beautiful orange bow by tying it all to the revenue.

Think you don’t need a documented strategy because you are a team of one? It’s critical says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

My advice: If the strategy is in your head, IT DOESN’T COUNT.

Content marketing is no different than marketing, and we have a marketing plan

A content marketing approach is completely different than most marketing approaches. The majority of enterprises still focus most of their budgets on interruption (advertising). The core of content marketing is about building audiences that trust and like you. Once you build a loyal relationship with your audience, you can start to measure how that audience generates revenue for the organization (or saves you money in some way).

My advice: If content marketing is just part of your overall marketing plan, you probably have a marketing collateral strategy that looks like valuable content but is really direct marketing. It’s different, so treat it as such.

The point

Everybody has an excuse, but not one is a good one. If you create content as part of your job, it is YOUR responsibility to find or create the strategy.  Someone, at some point, is going to ask why all this silly content is being produced. You better show them the plan and the results.

What other reasons have you seen for companies not documenting their content strategies? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Want to make your documented content marketing strategy even more effective? Attend Content Marketing University to learn how to create a strategy from start to finish. Register for winter semester by Dec. 31.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • heidicohen


    Thank you for citing Gail Matthews’ research about goals and achievement. If it’s not written down, it doesn’t get done.

    More importantly, goals define your metrics. Without the ability to measure your progress, you’re left with content that improves branding but doesn’t necessarily generate leads or sales.

    Without a plan, it’s difficult to get where you want to go. Most people don’t go on vacation without plans and reservations. You need a seat on the airplane and hotel reservations (unless you’re a student backpacking.)

    Maybe the problem is the word “Document”. It doesn’t sound creative.

    But the reality is your business’s content strategy and plan needs to be written down and shared within your organization. Everyone should understand it and contribute to it as part of their jobs–even if it’s just reading the content.

    The one thing I’d add to your list: a style guide. A style guide ensures everyone’s content and communications are consistent. Define how to write different types of content and communications to support your brand and sales. Also explain how employees can share your content on social media and email.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Great feedback Heidi…so agree with you on a style guide.

  • Brian Driggs

    It always comes back to this, doesn’t it?

    We all have our reasons why we’re doing content. All it really comes down to is documenting those reasons and reflecting on how our efforts would best serve them.

    Much like losing weight is as simple as eating fewer calories and becoming more active, it’s often the simplest things we struggle with the most. I know I struggle with it on a daily basis, despite how often I hear it mentioned and believe in it without question.

    If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. We need… a plan. Thanks for the reminder, Joe.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      “If we don’t stand for something, we’ll fall for anything.” Everyone should keep that line close to the. Thanks for the comment.

  • Sue-Ann Bubacz


    I love your mention of the importance of a documented strategy even if you’re a business of one. I had a Mission, Vision & Values Statement very early on in my boutique business (now 27 yrs. old) and on display in picture frames in the office.

    While everyone kind of laughed at my “corporate” display in such a small biz, ultimately everyone (from help to clients) understands and knows EXACTLY what we are about! It’s important.

    Anyway, something’s gone right to last this long as a business—can it be that an anchoring communication about you IS helpful beyond what is seems? Yep. I think so:)

    Thanks for your continuous hard work in the world of marketing! Your readers, like me, benefit from it. And maybe the kids from your son’s class, too. Lol


    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Sue-Ann…really appreciate the note and support. The kids gave me a decent grade, so I’ll take it 😉

  • ChuS

    Very interesting article, to study carefully

  • Ameer Ahmad

    It is really important to make a proper documentation to things. It will really help you to identify where you went wrong and where did you do better. Having records is a great help for you to know what to do next and what to avoid.

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