Hey there! It’s Nick, your favorite Lemonly marketing manager, here to talk about content strategy — what it is, why it’s important, and how to plan your own.
But first, you should know that New Year’s is probably my favorite holiday — it’s about hanging out with friends, looking back on the year, drinking… Beyond the celebration, the new year is an opportunity for reflecting and resolution-setting. Self-reflecting? Setting goals? Making a plan to achieve them? All very much up my alley.
The same is true when it comes to planning a content strategy — I love reflecting on what’s worked, setting goals, and making a plan for our content production schedule. But you don’t have to wait for the new year to make some content resolutions or set new goals. (We do it every trimester.) Why not make your own New Year’s any time of year?
Let’s talk about how to put your content strategy together, taking some inspiration from how Lemonly plans our own. Plus, we’ve got a handy template you can use to take a fresh look at your content strategy.
What is content strategy?
In the marketing world, the word “strategy” gets thrown around a lot. If you ask me, it has a somewhat inflated and abstract meaning. It can be a real, useful term, but it has some corporate buzzword tendencies. There are content strategies presumably prepared by content strategists whose job it is to strategize — but what the heck does any of that mean? Let’s demystify things a bit.
What does a content strategist do?
A content strategist is someone who understands the big picture of content (in all its forms) and how to use content to drive users toward an action. Their role is to determine what content to create, plan how to create it, and define how it benefits the business’s goals or users’ needs.
Depending on the team and role, content strategists might also be copywriters, but the two aren’t always the same. For example, at Lemonly, folks on our content team (like me) serve as both the content strategist and the content writer for just about every project we work on. But on a larger team or at a traditional full-service agency, those two are likely separate positions or even departments.
What is a content strategy?
A content strategy is a plan outlining what content to create and how that content fits into the larger marketing or business goals. With a content strategy, a team knows what they need to create, when and where to publish it, and how the content will be managed. The goal of content strategy is making content that is useful, purposeful, and profitable.
“Strategy is using full-picture thinking to make a plan for meaningful change.” –Chris Prendergast, Click Rain + Lemonly Chief Operating Officer
Content strategy connects an organization’s content efforts with business goals and user needs — considering the structure, messaging, and business value of content along with the production workflow, publishing, governance, and maintenance of that content.
A comprehensive content strategy has four main components:
- Audience – Knowing who you’re talking to
- Objectives – Knowing what you want to accomplish
- Tactics – Knowing how you’re going to accomplish it
- Measurement – Knowing how you’re going to track success
It answers questions like:
- What should be written? What topics are we going to cover?
- Why does anyone care? Why does this provide business value?
- How are we going to deliver the message? How should we say it (tone of voice)?
- When will this be published?
- Who is this content for? Who is responsible for this content? Who will maintain it over time?
- Which format(s) are we going to use? Which system will it be published on?
- Where will we get the content (or resources we need to create it)? Where can we curate or syndicate it? Where is it going to live?
- How often do we need to publish, clean up, or audit it?
- What next?
Planning your content strategy
Use the steps below — modeled after the process we use to plan our own content at Lemonly — to put together your own content strategy. Just like setting New Year’s resolutions, it’s all about reflecting on your progress, making a plan, and sticking to it.
Step 1: Reflect on what’s working and not working
Start with some reflection questions to get your thoughts going. We use broad, anything-goes questions like:
- What’s working right now? What worked in the past year?
- What’s not working right now? What didn’t work in the past year?
- Is there anything specific we know we want to do (differently) in the next year? (If you already know what some of your goals or must-dos are, you might as well plan for them.)
Start by brainstorming solo, read through everyone’s notes, then meet to talk things through and ask follow-up questions. Try to be upfront and objective. Remember: Nothing is personal. You’re not critiquing the performance of any member of your team — you’re objectively observing what’s occurred, what you’ve shipped, and what didn’t go as well as it could’ve.
We use a separate document or spreadsheet tab for each area of our content strategy to keep things organized. For us, those areas are Lemonly’s blog, email marketing, social media, and website. Your content areas might be different depending on your priorities, or you might prefer to think holistically about your content strategy overall.
📝 Grab a copy of this template to brainstorm about what’s working, what’s not working, and your content goals. Click here to get yours.
Step 2: Strategize and discuss
After brainstorming, it’s time to identify your goals and put together a plan to achieve them. Based on everything that’s working, what’s not working, and any known goals you already have, identify themes and think about how your content goals and tactics fit together.
Starting with solo brainstorming is always the way to go — you’ll avoid groupthink and make the best use of your time by allowing folks to prepare on their own, however they think best. Then share for asynchronous review ahead of time and come together to discuss your thoughts, questions, and any new ideas that sparked up. Organize your ideas, goals, and tactics into a coherent strategy.
We use the following framework to strategize, from highest-level to most tactical:
What’s your ultimate goal? What does this content (or content area) do for your company? Distill your ultimate purpose into a short phrase or single sentence. For example, our purpose for the Lemonly blog is “Tell the Lemonly story.”
What do you want to do (better) in this area of your content strategy? What are your goals? These are the 3–4 main things you want to accomplish with your content. For example, our objectives for Lemonly’s blog include “Create and share value-adding content” and “Showcase Lemonly’s brand and culture.”
How will you achieve those objectives? What will it take to achieve your goals? Think: If we do all these things, we will achieve our objectives. For example, our strategies for Lemonly’s blog include things like “Plan for consistent, weekly progress on blog posts using our production calendar” and “Update and augment top-performing blog posts.”
What are the components of each strategy? What are the specific actions and tasks you’ll need to do under each strategy? These are the most granular, actionable steps for achieving your goals. Break each strategy up into baby steps. For example, our tactics for Lemonly’s blog include things like “Write targeted posts around our most frequently asked questions” and “Include relevant work examples to show concepts in action.”
📝 Use the second tab in this template to create your own strategy diagram like the one above. It’s a great way to visualize how your goals and tactics fit together. Click here to get your copy.
Step 3: Implement
You’ve created your content strategy — huzzah! Now it’s time to put it into action.
Build (or revise) new habits and workflows
What are the action steps, systems, processes, tools, and routines you need to put in place to make this happen? Your tactics, being the most granular and actionable pieces of your content strategy, will tell you what to do.
Establishing new or revised systems, processes, or routines can take some time and effort, but baking your tactics into your everyday workflows will make accomplishing your goals less of a heavy lift — they’ll happen as a result of your daily effort.
Plan your content production schedule
With your goals and tactics strategized, next you’ll make a plan for what content you’re going to produce. We do this every trimester, but quarterly or even monthly might fit your team best.
Here’s how it works:
- Everybody brings ideas to the table for blog posts, social media content, lead generators, email marketing campaigns, or other content we could create.
- Keep, kill, or combine ideas, using your content strategy as a lens to filter out content that doesn’t align with your goals. You might have infinite ideas but only finite time and resources, so be selective in what you choose to move forward with.
- Add your selected ideas to your editorial calendar, production queue, or whatever system you use to manage your content creation. Set the order you’ll publish content and assign to team members who have expertise or enthusiasm around each topic.
- Outline, write, revise, and publish. Rinse and repeat.
Step 4: Revisit and refresh
Your content strategy should be a living document, not something you look at once a year like a New Year’s resolution you abandon in February.
It takes ongoing effort to follow through on your content strategy. That’s why the implementation in Step 3 — building the everyday systems, routines, and processes to put your strategy into action — is so important. Make strategizing and creating content a habit by making it easy, thoughtful, and frequent.
Revisit your content strategy regularly — whether that’s every month, every quarter, or every trimester. Use customer feedback, analytics, and other data you have available to measure your content’s success. Reflect on what’s worked and not worked recently, and tweak your strategy moving forward.
Get to work planning your content strategy
With some thoughtful planning, collaboration, and process-building, you’re on your way to a content strategy that’ll help you create effective, strategic content all year long.
You might also like this copywriting workshop about writing in different brand voices (yep, there’s a free template for that, too).