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Field Notes

Field Notes #013: What ‘Content Strategy’ Actually Entails

what 'content strategy' actually entails

For a bunch of word lovers, marketers can play it fast and loose with definitions. People conflate ICPs and personas, experimentation with “just trying something new,” and strategy with tactics.

A question like “what is strategy?” is hard to answer without explaining what strategy is not. 

A content marketing strategy is not a list of keywords. It’s not a content calendar. And it’s not a blog value proposition.

It’s not a word count, a certain quantity of articles you publish, or even the channels you play in.

“The kernel of a strategy,” according to Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, “contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.”

All of this maps back towards accomplishing a goal. In some sense, a strategy is as simple as the plan you create to help you reach a goal. 

But that simplistic definition doesn’t help people understand what it looks like in action.

Because a content marketing strategy is dependent on your context and resources. It’s dependent on the presence of competition and the interplay of their respective strategies on your ability to hit your goals. It depends on your timeline and your unique strengths. 

All of this requires a thorough analysis of yourself, your audience, your competition, and any influential market trends. 

This is where the “diagnosis” stage comes in. Questions to answer here:

  • What is our ideal outcome? How does this support our overall marketing strategy and our business goals?
  • What obstacles are preventing us from achieving that? Do we have any data to contribute baseline assumptions to a growth model?
  • If we follow our existing plan, what will the likely outcome be?
  • What variables can we change to help us better hit our goals?
  • Do we even have the right goals?

There’s no right way to answer these questions, but I like to use tools and frameworks to guide the process. A good content growth model can help you map out your TAM and feasibility of attaining ROI. A SWOT analysis can be a good crutch to help your team identify unique advantages to lean into.

From there, you develop a guiding policy – a simple statement that shapes the solution. This can also look like a mission statement or value proposition of sorts. 

Only then do you begin working on a coherent set of actions to help you accomplish that. For us, that deliverable is in the form of a Content Roadmap Report, which we operationalize into a content calendar.

A strategy is a plan you create to help you reach your goal. It’s also unique to you, so it’s important not to skip over the reflective and diagnostic exercises that help identify your unique advantages and opportunities.

1. How to make an SEO strategy – Tom Critchlow’s excellent article on building an SEO strategy, which inspired my field notes above.

2. An Inside Look at Superpath’s Content Marketing Strategy (+ Content Strategy Template) – A great example of a holistic content marketing strategy that includes the three above elements of a good strategy.

3. My guide to content marketing strategy – An article I wrote a few years ago going into as much detail as possible about how to develop a content marketing strategy.

Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.