Content strategy is a way of bringing the right content to the right person and the right place at the right time with the right context. It’s a term tha covers the planning, the development and the management of content.
The discipline of content strategy grew from the need for more concrete plans, structures, and organization of content published digitally. It was a response to how content publication has evolved.
On the web, however, everything is fluid. We can’t control the devices or platforms people use to access our content or make assumptionsabout how they’ll access our content in the future. Our most common publishing mediums have evolved from static to dynamic, and our process needs to reflect that. In the modern web design process, content strategy kicks in at the planning stage and plays a role throughout the entire process from ideation to design and development through publishing and maintenance.
If the modern web design process is a circular path, content strategy is a ball that rolls along that path. Today, content strategy overlaps withand provides frameworks, structure, and content to existing disciplines like information architecture, user experience design, content management, and marketing. While content strategy and the content strategist can be a distinct position within a team, the role is just as often assumed by an information architect, user experience designer, marketer, or other team members, and all of these roles can benefit from an in-depth understanding of a content strategy.
Why? Let’s consider an expanded definition. Content strategy is about bringing the right content to the right person at the right time, in the right context, and making sure it’s accurate, up-to-date, and appropriate through ongoing engagement. For this to happen, a communication of ideas must take place, requiring an in-depth understanding of an audience, their needs, and their communication style. Without this, the content and the business it supports will fail.
The role of the content strategist is to be an advocate, both for the content and its audience. To do this, they need to align communication channels to ensure the content is prioritized, and budgets, planning, and company strategy. When looked at this way, it’s really just planning for an ongoing and meaningful conversation with a given audience. Content strategy, is, at its heart, the art of clear communication.
– We can’t talk about content strategy without first clearly defining content. What is content and what is its purpose? In its most basic form, the term “content” applies to anything that conveys meaningful information to a person. Content can be presented as text or graphics or images or video or audio. Looking at the world around you, you’ll find content everywhere. The video you’re looking at right now, content. The text that surrounds it, content. Each key on your keyboard contains content.
If you have a piece of art on your wall, that’s content. Sculpture in a park, content. Markings on the road, content. Content is not defined by what it is as much as what it does. The term “content” applies to anything that communicates or transfers meaningful information to a person,emphasis on meaningful information. So, to know what content is, we need to know what meaningful information is and how this relates to content strategy.
The word “meaning” has been mulled over by philosophers and linguists for ages. For our purposes, let’s assume that information is meaningfulwhen it enables the transfer of an idea beyond the words or imagery itself. If I say the word “egg”, it’s just a reference to an object that looks and behaves like an egg. If I say “boiled egg”, the meaning becomes more complex, implying the state of an egg after being submerged in water at boiling temperature for an extended length of time.
Just saying the words “boiled egg” may conjure up the sound of eggs boiling, their smell and taste, and even your most recent experience eating or not eating boiled eggs. You see here how the content, the words “boiled egg”, transfer meaning beyond the words. The challenge content strategy faces with meaning is the assumption that meaning is universal. Actually, it’s far from it. There is no guarantee the meaning I find in a piece of content will be the same as yours.
How we derive meaning from content depends on the context we’re in, the language we use, our culture, upbringing, and many other factors.When I see the words “boiled egg”, I immediately think of a slice of whole grain bread covered in cod caviar and sliced hard boiled eggs. This is a very Scandinavian thing. When my wife sees the words “boiled egg”, she thinks of a singular egg boiled and eaten on its own. Same content, different meaning and reference. The content “boiled egg” transfers meaningful information, but not enough of it to perform a success transference of ideas.
That’s where content strategy comes in. The content strategist facilitates successful communication through a transference of ideas to the target audience using the meaningful information found in content. The content strategist enhances the meaningful information of content by understanding the intended message, context it’s presented in, and how to transfer it to the right audience.