I had a really interesting conversation last week with Tim Frick, owner of Chicago web design firm Mightybyes, about content strategy. Tim had a great perspective about content strategy that really resonated with me, that there are actually two faces of content strategy:
- The strategic, outward-looking face
This aspect focuses on what content will help customers, members, and other target audiences of an organization meet their needs and, in doing so, enable an organization achieve its business goals. This involves understanding users and the organization, knowing the terms people use and the channels they frequent, and thinking strategically about online channels. Search engine optimization and analytics are part of this, as are the strategies for using social media. This face of content strategy has become known as content marketing. In fact, there’s a content marketing retreat going on as I write this post.
- The UX, inward-looking face
This piece involves identifying the specific behaviors of various types of content, determining the fields in the content management system, documenting the dynamic content that will surface for public and logged-in users of a site, creating a metadata strategy, and forming the content buckets that shape the information architecture for the site.
Together, these comprise true content strategy. Both are necessary. We need to identify the details in order for the organization’s intellectual property — what the content is about — shine. (For more on that, see my previous post.) And we need to spend the time thinking through the details about how the strategy will actually get realized and built, or the content won’t have the opportunity to do what it needs to do.
Sometimes, we’re talking about one when we mean the other, and sometimes we forget that both need to exist. Is it one person who creates both faces for a website? Is it only content strategists who do this work? The answer depends on the size of the effort, the degree of change needed, and whether it’s an internal team or external agency doing the work.
(There’s also a huge third piece to content strategy, which is organizational change and workflow — look for another post on that topic soon.)
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic!