We were recently speaking with a prospective client — a product marketer inside a larger marketing organization — about some content creation projects, and asked him whether his company already has an enterprise-wide content strategy in place (the first of our 10 key questions about content strategy). After all, when we’re engaged for execution, we want to be sure our work is consistent with the organization’s existing content strategy and that everything the company is doing with content (including the work we’re hired to deliver) is guided by the same core strategy statement, messaging strategy, editorial calendar, standards, workflow, etc.
So, when we asked that prospect about his content strategy, he responded, “I don’t know.” He went on to explain that the company’s head of content probably has a strategy in place but — and here’s the rub — if she does, he certainly hasn’t seen it.
If you’ve been working with content as a business asset, as we have, you might have already waved your red flag. It would be bad enough if this particular organization actually doesn’t have a content strategy in place. It’s even worse if it does but the very people responsible for executing it — our product marketing prospect (and undoubtedly everyone like him across the company) — aren’t privy to it. Unfortunately, this type of content strategy failure is a common problem.
You see, if the answer to any important content strategy questions (and especially, to the most important content strategy question: “do you have one?”) is “I don’t know” then the real answer is actually, “no.”
Here’s what we mean…
Even if — technically speaking — someone, somewhere in the organization has created or commissioned a content strategy, if other people in the organization aren’t using it every day to guide their own content initiatives, then — practically speaking — the strategy does not exist.
Content strategy is a process, not just a plan. If you aren’t working through that process every time you create an information asset for your business — then you’ll never know whether that asset is of value (to your audience or to your organization). After all, any strategy (content or otherwise) is only as good as your organization’s ability to execute it. And if you aren’t intimately familiar with how the strategy applies in your work, then odds are you’re not executing it at all.
Now, this is bad news… More companies are creating more content than ever before (we’d wager your company is too), yet according to new joint research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs the effectiveness rate for that content has actually declined year-over-year. While there might be any number of reasons why this is the case, the two biggies are companies creating content in absence of a clearly documented content strategy and the abundance of (well) crappy content many companies create (and hey, having a clearly documented strategy can help with that, too).
Of course, the good news, on the other hand, is that the companies that take a strategic approach to content — the ones that take the time to formulate a clear, documented content strategy, then make the effort to ensure that the strategy is readily available and fully understood by everyone in the organization who has any role in the creation of company content, and then execute it consistently with every content piece and program across all areas of the organization — have a clear advantage over everyone else. And hey —whaddaya know — that’s the true purpose of content strategy after all.
So where do you stand on this?
This article originally appeared in the January edition of The Ampersand, our monthly newsletter. You can catch up on past issues and subscribe here.