A Guide to Creating Your First Content Strategy

Developing a content strategy from scratch is no small feat. It takes quite a lot of time, effort, and thought to create a cohesive and effective strategy. But it’s certainly worth it.

Once you’ve determined that content creation is the best strategy to achieve your business and communication goals, it’s time to dive into all the deliverables of a content strategy. But here’s where the stress sets in. There are so many! Where do you start? Which ones need help from the whole team? And how do you know when you’re done?

Content Strategy Deliverables

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Let’s start with what needs to be created as a part of your content strategy. Here’s the deliverables most organizations will need to develop. This could change depending on the size of the organization and team, and the budget and scope behind the content strategy.

  • Quantitative Inventory
  • Qualitative Website Audit
  • Analysis Summary Document
  • Core Strategy
  • Topic Map
  • Workflow Diagram
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Content Evaluation
  • Content Guidelines

But now comes the actual work. I’ve just completed my first content strategy plan for a local travel agency. Yes! Through this experience (and my struggles and successes), I’ve come away with 3 takeaways to help complete your first content strategy without a hitch.

1. If you’re not the owner or an employee of the company, spend lots of quality time with them.

The more time spent at the company learning from the employees, determining their processes, and understanding their daily responsibilities, the easier the entire process will be for you. There are countless decisions you as a content strategist need to make that will affect the way the company works and runs part of their business. While anyone can make these decisions, they’ll likely only be useful and successful if you’re fully immersed in their company.

Immerse yourself within the company

Photo by dwonderwall via Flickr CC.

2. The first content strategy will be the most difficult and time-consuming. It gets easier!

This sounds obvious–I know. However, it’s not only because you’re going to get better at developing content strategies and will gain more knowledge throughout the process. But it’s because you’re going to develop lots of templates and guides the first time around that will likely only need to be edited for the following strategies. It takes quite a lot of time to create an editorial calendar or an analytics tracking spreadsheet. Good news, now you have them ready to go. Just swap out the content and maybe add/subtract a couple columns to customize it to fit specific business goals.

3. Schedule time for edits and then more edits before you deem it complete.

I know how it goes. You finish the workflow diagram on a Monday and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. That deliverable is done. However, on Wednesday you begin working on the content guidelines. You’re developing an exceptional set of organizational policies for the company. That is, until you realize you’re now contradicting what you set forth in the workflow diagram on Monday.

A content strategy needs to be seen as a work in progress until it’s been delivered to the company, they’ve been implementing it, and it has been successful. So until that point comes, be flexible. Things will change often, so make sure you schedule some buffer time for this.

Allow time for edits

Photo by Wiertz via Flickr CC.

Content strategies differ greatly from one to the next. Or at least they should since companies are all different and have varying business and communication goals. Due to this, developing a content strategy is never going to be a breeze in the park. Though, I’m certain that by implementing the 3 tips above, your first strategy will be slightly less stressful than mine and hopefully very successful.

Are you a seasoned content strategist? If so, what other tips can you give to someone just starting out?

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