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Content Strategy Before Content Marketing
photo by Lindsay Henwood


Before you do any content marketing, get your content strategy in order

First, some definitions:

Content strategy is defining the who, what, when, where, why, and how of ALL the content your organization publishes. Yes, I mean all of it – the “about us” pages, the help content, the executive bios, committee agendas and luncheon menus, information about past conferences, registration details about upcoming events, executive blog posts, product descriptions, research reports, webinars, education sessions, publication articles, thought leadership pieces, etc. – all of it.

Content marketing is promoting all of that content, and sometimes creating additional content to do that promotion.


I think marketers have gone a little far afield because of a logic problem:

Content is the way your organization’s work is manifested online.

Your organization’s work exists to some degree to show the organization’s value to its audience.

Therefore, in a sense, all of your content has a job to market the organization. But marketing is a secondary goal for all but the content that is created explicitly for marketing purposes. The primary goal of most content is related to what it’s about.


In my opinion, considering only the marketing goals for content has some negative effects:

  1. Thinking of all content only as a lead-generation tool means that content for non-customers is prioritized over content that will benefit the audiences the organization already has. This may well produce dissatisfied and, therefore, short-term audiences, requiring ever more efforts to get new customers. Executives know it’s cheaper to keep customers than to get them, but it’s a tougher story to tell to a board or investors. And marketers are focused almost entirely on the acquisition side of the business.
  2. Too much focus on content marketing results in two separate streams of content. Marketers create and manage polished, SEO-rich but shallow content. Subject matter experts create the organization’s products, programs, services, tools, and other offerings. This content is deep and useful but isn’t always created with an audience in mind.

The solution is to put content strategy first – to create an organization-wide content strategy.


Content strategy vision: Audience-centric, business-sensitive content

Foundational tenets

  • All content creators have a common understanding of what the organization’s key audiences want and understand how their content helps deliver that.
  • Everyone who creates content has a common understanding of what the organization’s strategic goals are and how their content contributes to that.
  • Content creators share their content using available platforms, tools, and channels in a consistent, effective way.


  • The organization creates content that explicitly delivers what users want.
  • The organization creates content that explicitly helps it meet its goals.
  • Content that is no longer relevant to the audience or important to the organization is no longer available online in a public place.
  • Content that is no longer relevant to the audience but is important to the organization is kept available to internal users only.
  • Content is promoted, surfaced, and cross-linked based on its topic, not the organizational department or structure that created.
  • Content is created in the organization’s voice.
  • The organization manages content platforms, tools, and channels centrally to ensure their availability and effectiveness.


  • All content has a goal. This goal might be for the content itself, or for the action that the content is intended to drive. There can also be one or more secondary goals for a piece of content (often, that is to market the organization).
  • The organization has smart editorial practices and processes in place to ensure that only current, accurate, relevant content is online.
  • Content creators work together to ensure that content is not redundant and that it is cross-promoted effectively.
  • Content is measured to ensure that it achieves its goal.
  • The organization has a central editorial calendar to ensure that content is promoted effectively.
  • All content creators must have content effectiveness and best practices included in their job responsibilities.
  • The organization will provide regular education about content best practices to both new and existing content owners.


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. LOVE this post. What I wonder about is scale–how do you tackle an organization’s content strategy when there are lots of key audiences, and more importantly, lots of different divisions that ‘do’ content with no one clear owner? Is it possible to establish content governance and strategy across an entire, large organization, or is it better to have separate (eeks–silos!) strategies that roll up into one all-encompassing approach? Or is that the whole point–without one strategy, one voice, we end up in the same negative effects place your post describes?

    1. That’s a great question, Aimee! I do think an organization needs an overarching content strategy, including a governance approach. This is for exactly the reason you state: that organizations need a single strategy and a single voice.

      In order to do this, you have to tap into the deep reasons that the organization has for each division and help those division leaders remember why they are all part of the same organization.

      Of course, there are lots of things that should be adapted for different divisions. While voice is consistent across your organization, various departments might need a different tone. Just as the same individual might be wearing a formalwear at a black-tie event and a t-shirt at a barbecue, some content might need to be more formal than others. And some divisions might prove to need more oversight than others, so you can adapt the governance models. One way to address this might be to base the degree of governance based on each division’s available resources or skills, or if a division’s content contributors pass a best-practices test.

      One final point: While it’s not wise to create separate strategies for each internal silo, for a large corporation with subsidiaries that operate as independent entities, each subsidiary would probably needs its own strategy.

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