The #ContentStratClass of September 15 discussed elements of content strategy and the importance of narrowing that discussion down to the lowest denominators. These include thinking about the core reasons you want to communicate with customers, the basic messages you want to convey to your users and customers, and even getting right down to the “nitty gritty” of why you or your company or institution are even doing all of this communication to begin with.
The idea of a “concept strategy” sounds like a high-level intellectual exercise. What I found through our readings and class discussion is that the more you can break that task down to the core level, and look at the most basic elements of your interests, intents, and reasons, the better it is apt to help you streamline a sound, reflective, true, and useful set of guidelines on which to base an overall content strategy and plan.
Three Basic Questions
As Margot Bloomstein, our textbook author, noted in her slideshare, you must ask yourself key questions when starting on the path of defining a brand content strategy. These aren’t the highbrow concepts you might expect. They really boil right down to basics. “Do you know what you need to communicate?,” for example, she asks.
Bloomstein introduces a cardsorting exercise to help organizations decide three key components of their message architecture–the goals and hierarchy they want to express in all their communications—and to help refine their messaging. These are:
- Who we are
- Who we’re not
- Who we’d like to be
In working to create a content strategy, you’ve got to determine your main goals. You can ask yourself, ‘Are you communicating to drive sales? Engage consumers? Persuade users?’
As necessary as defining goals for communication are defining core target audiences. You may have one or two initial ones; or you may have several. As an example, co-instructor Kelly Lux pointed out the different audiences the iSchool at SU has: prospective students; current students; alumni; friends of the school; donors.
Lux said these need to be ranked in priority to decide which audiences–thus which communications efforts—are the most important. The way to do this is to determine what those audiences are doing for you, she said. In the case of the iSchool, prospective students are at the top of the list of critical audiences. That’s because they are the future customers of the school–the “new business” in need of being developed.
Creating personas are also a key element of a content strategy. Developing these help you guide and shape the tone, voice and the messaging of your content. Personas create “images” of your audience members, helping you address specific target groups for communications.
For the iSchool at SU, for example, personas might include: international graduate students; doctoral students; undergraduate students; distance MSLIS students; certificate program consumers; alumni of the early iSchool; recent alumni; mid-career library professionals.
Hierarchy of Messages
Another essential element of creating content strategies are developing the hierarchy of messages (message architecture). There are three or more levels of messaging needing to be defined, as discussed by co-instructors Lux and Jenn Pedde:
- Primary messages – or what you want everyone who views your content to know about you; how you are distinguished
- Secondary messages – these support your primary messages and provide differentiators
- Details – the content which helps you provide proof of your higher=level statements.
- Together, they tell the brand story and help provide a picture of what you create content around.
So as complex sounding as the idea of a content strategy development may be, it really begins at the most basic levels: thinking about what you want to say, how you want to appear to others, who you are talking to, and how you want to distinguish and different yourself. Those are basic questions–but not necessarily simple ones to answer.
Have you had to undertake content strategy planning for your organization? Did you know where to start and how to get everyone thinking about the most basic questions? Let us know in the comments!