Content Strategy 101

Meghan Casey, in her book The Content Strategy Toolkit, goes into great detail in order to give a step-by-step guide on how to create and plan content, deliver that content successfully and how to manage that content. Casey takes special care in explaining budget, buy-in and preparing for success. Everything Casey says is important for the budding content creator to absorb, but these three elements are especially important in developing a content strategy. These elements are so important in fact that Casey covers them within the first five chapters of the book. But why are they so important? And how can we expect to use them in a helpful way in a real world setting?

Let’s begin with analyzing budgeting. Budgeting is universally seen as a helpful tool to save money. It’s not a bad idea to have some money saved for a rainy day or to limit your excessive spending habits. However the way Casey applies budgeting to developing a content strategy is a little different than the traditional thinking surrounding the term. Casey believes that budgeting is the first step in thinking like a businessperson, which is necessary in a successful content strategy.

Thinking like a businessperson is the only way to get real business-people on board with your content strategy plan. If you can show a team of board members how much your content audit will cost, how much time will be spent on it and how much man power it will take to execute, you’re going to have a much easier time painting a picture for them. Throwing content at them without any numbers backing it up will not resonate with them as strongly and they will want to be a part of a baseless plan. In addition to that showing them how much money you could potentially save is a huge bonus; everybody loves saving money after all.

ROI, or return on investment is the key to budgeting and creating a content strategy that’s going to succeed. Companies want to know what their ROI is going to be or else they’re going to be hesitant to get on board with your plan. Forbes has this to say about ROI and content strategies,

“A lot of marketers have a hard time tracking content marketing ROI because of unrealistic expectations. They don’t understand how great the ROI can truly be.”

Being able to present a boardroom full of people with exactly what their ROI will look like, how much money they will save and the improvements you can promise is the best way to secure a client.

Buy-in is another incredibly important part of content strategy. To put it simply the buy-in is when companies literally, well, buy into your product. This is where they sign up and give you the resources you need and you can begin your plan. But the buy-in isn’t as easy as it may seem. According to Casey a successful buy-in includes a claim: the statement you’re asking someone to accept, grounds: the data and facts you collected from your budgeting (see above), warrant: how that data is relevant to your claim, backing: any extra information that supports your claim, qualifier: the likelihood the data is correct and rebuttal: the response to anticipated challenges.

The buy-in is like the thesis statement of your content strategy. It’s an accumulation of all your facts and data and why people should buy into not just your strategy but you too. The Marketing Insider Group states that,

“Backing up your case with facts, figures, and a well-considered marketing strategy is essential.”

I would argue that not only is it essential but securing a content strategy client is impossible without it.

The final element that Casey spends additional time emphasizing is preparing for success. This element might seem slightly redundant, after all who would be preparing for failure? And isn’t everything we’ve been doing been preparing for success? What Casey is trying to express here is that in order to have a successful strategic content plan you must make sure that you have every little detail organized and accounted for, even the details that seem minuscule or unimportant. She takes special time to state that you should email each person involved in the plan individually and personally in order to explain his or her roll to him or her. At the end of every meeting you should give a heartfelt thank you to everybody that is involved in the process.

Perhaps most importantly Casey tells readers to keep all stakeholders in the loop throughout the entire process. Keeping them involved makes stakeholders feel as though they are playing an important part and gives them a chance to help if any problems arise. Updates are so appreciated and professional that stakeholders will remember your organization skills and keep it in mind when hiring again in the future.

I really like this quote from Rachel Lovinger at Boxes and Arrows,

“Perhaps the problem is that, because content is so pervasive, everyone thinks they know all there is to know about it. If you can read and write, you can make content, right?”

I like this quote so much because I think it perfectly exemplifies exactly what Casey is trying to explain in her book. Content Strategy is all about dotting your I’s and crossing your t’s. It’s the little things that mean this most, like budgeting for stakeholders or sending out personal emails to everybody on your team. Looking back at the original two questions, “why are they (elements of content strategy) so important? And how can we expect to use them in a helpful way in a real world setting?” It’s obvious now that the elements are so important because they’re the often forgotten side of content strategy and they can be used in the real world in any of the very practical ways listed above. The best to present a successful content strategy plan is to not focus as much on the content itself, but on what resonates most with the people you’re presenting the plan to.

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