Content strategy 101

Content strategy is…

Content strategy guru and author of Content Strategy for the Web Kristina Halvorson defines content strategy as "the practice of planning for content creation, delivery, and governance."

Here, “content” refers to text, images, audio, and video used in an online context. As culled from best practices research, below are our 7 commandments for good content strategy.

The 7 rules of good content strategy

1. Do less, not more. Less content means less cost, less resource use, and less long-term management hassle. It also means happier web visitors. Read more about concise web writing with our Web Writing 101.

2. Figure out what you have and where it’s coming from. You have to know where you are before you can understand where you’re going. This cliché is true for a lot of things – but especially for web content. Managing your content becomes much easier if you have a fair assessment of who is creating it and where it is coming from.

3. Learn how to listen. This is especially important in a university setting, where many of our key web visitors are students, prospective students, and parents.

Through research and other means, they will tell us what content is important: we should be ready to listen.

Also, every organization has multiple content contributors – some of whom are more closely connected with key web visitors. It is also important to listen internally when creating a content strategy.

4. Have a strategy. This seems patently obvious. But it is a step that is often overlooked in organizations. “Put this on the website.” “Put that on the website.” If content doesn’t fit within the bounds of a strategy, it may well not be of the “high-quality” variety. Which brings us to our next content commandment…

5. Start asking “why?” This question should be applied more often in the digital realm. If someone in your organization wants to post content, ask them why. Is the content useful, relevant, timely, and accurate? Does it fit within the overall content strategy? If it isn’t, be ruthless about whacking it. In order to do that, however, a wise content strategy will adhere to commandment #6.

6. Put someone in charge. Though everyone contributes content, it is a very, very good idea to designate a content quality manager. Someone needs to ask the hard questions, and be the guardian of content integrity. Without a content commander, proliferation happens. And soon, the new website feels a lot like the old one.

7. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of creating high-quality content. This is a fact: creating high-quality content is difficult. Doing so requires, at minimum, a strategic thinker, an excellent writer, an attentive manager, and a long-term planner. This problem is exacerbated by the ease of posting web content. With social media sites and advanced CMS platforms (like, ahem, ours), nearly anyone can put nearly anything up at nearly any time. Bad content is easy. Good content is hard. But the payoff for having high-quality content can be outstanding.