Birthing a Content Strategy

This post is part of a creative, generous effort in the content strategy community called Blog Secret Santa. Many thanks to Margot Bloomstein for the germ of the idea, and to Ben Chadfield for taking it to fruition, expanding it into a community of 50 content strategy bloggers. I am honored to have gotten Ben as my Blog Secret Santa outlet! – Currently anonymous guest blogger

I always say that launching a website is like having a baby: There’s an amazing amount of preparation needed in advance, but once it launches you have this BABY that requires attention, guidance, discipline, and affection. Every. Single. Day. Since Ben is a new parent, I wanted to tie the two together.

For the most part, the post-launch work of any digital property is executing the content strategy. Therefore, the upfront effort to create a sound, smart content strategy is key to ongoing – and ideally, increasing – success for the site.

In the name of taking a metaphor to its logical conclusion, here are the four stages of birthing a content strategy:

Phase 1. Conception

A content strategy usually starts with a problem (the most common one in my experience being “no one can find anything on our site”), a redesign, or a new microsite. It’s followed by the decision to undertake the content strategy and getting the right resources in place. Then, voila – you’re on your way! (You can use your imagination in translating these concepts to conceiving a baby.)

Phase 2. Gestation

Understanding the conditions: How do things work now (who is publishing content? who is reviewing it? what is causing the problems)? What is successful and where are improvements needed? After these are identified, they all need to be prioritized.

Formation: For a content strategy, this is the audit and the development of the editorial guidelines, voice and tone, lifecycle, and governance.

Refinement: To make sure the content strategy can actually survive, its elements need to be tested on real content and with real content authors.

Phase 3. Labor

Now it’s time to prepare for the content’s entry into the world. Where will the content guidelines be stored, and what’s the plan for ongoing communications, education, community, success stories, and reporting?

Phase 4. Delivery

In addition to the launch of the new digital product, everyone involved in creating, reviewing, and publishing the content needs to know what the strategy is and how it will work. (If only parenting came with a rule book too!) They need to be held accountable for their input, their effort, and the results.

Congratulations: You are now the parent of a bouncing new website, and a shiny content strategy. Get ready – it will be a bumpy ride with loss of sleep, stressful moments, and even a few failures. But there will also be brilliant successes, swells of love, and rewards of all sizes and types along the way. Once you see the first glimmer of recognition (the website equivalent of that first true smile), you’ll know your efforts have been worthwhile!