Getting a content strategy underway (part 4): Your first three work packages

By Posted in - Audience Research & Content Strategy & Strategy and Planning on December 16th, 2019 0 Comments Post-it notes stuck to a wall. Text reads "Getting a content strategy underway (part 4): your first three work packages".

You’ve got buy-in, you know what return on investment you’re seeking, and you’ve assembled your content strategy team. Now, you’re ready to really get started on designing that content strategy for your school, college or university. In this fourth and final part of my short series on getting started on your content strategy, we’ll take a look at the first three work packages you should work on.

Don’t forget, if you’re working on your content strategy, our 16-week online content strategy programme takes you through each step of developing your content strategy on a week by week basis.

Three steps to getting your strategy underway

I believe that every content strategy should begin with three important stages:

1. Defining your strategic goals and objectives
2. Understanding your audiences’ goals and motivations
3. Creating your content strategy vision statement

Each of these packages can have some overlap between them, so while you ideally need to start with 1 first (as it informs 2 and 3) they don’t have to be done one after the other. That’s good news when you’re trying to get your strategy developed fast.

1. Defining your strategic goals and objectives

Your strategic goals and objectives define what your content needs to achieve for your organisation. Start here with organisation goals, not content goals. In other words, you’ll be focusing on things like “we need to increase the number of international students in our community by 30% by 2025” instead of “we want to increase the average time a user spends on our course pages by 20%”. By aligning to organisational strategic goals you:

– Demonstrate the value of your content strategy to the whole organisation
– Show the level of strategic thinking that actually goes into content, thus demonstrating that it isn’t just about creating funny gifs or churning out another FAQ
– Create space for you to explore the purpose of your work and renew your commitment to the big picture
– Ensure that your strategy is aligned to impact and outcomes, not just outputs.

I usually see this phase in two parts:

1. A strategic document review, in which you go through written strategies for your school, college or university, and identify the goals (and associated audiences) that your strategy needs to support and how.
2. Stakeholder consultation using interviews and workshops to gather deeper information on strategic goals and priorities. In these sessions you can also start to understand what stakeholders already know about audiences, and the impact that they want and need our content to have on those audiences.

2. Understanding your audiences’ goals and motivations

In defining your strategic goals, you’ll start to define the audiences that you need to reach and engage in order to achieve those goals. Now we want to gather all the information that we need to ensure that our content is useful, usable, relevant and relatable to our audiences.

So, work package 2 is all about defining our audiences and then conducting the research to better understand them and fill in gaps in our knowledge. I believe that we need to uncover four layers of insight about our audiences in order to develop a meaningful content strategy:

1. Access: this layer tells us which channels and platforms they use and how they use them
2. Information: this layer tells us what information or experiences they want and need from us, including their goals and top tasks
3. Emotion: this layer tells us about their emotions, motivations, behaviours and values. In other words it helps us to understand the “why” behind the decisions that they make and how they make them
4. Influence: this layer tells us what influences them either to engage with us, or takes them away from engaging with us (distractions or barriers that they experience).

3. Creating your content strategy vision statement

The final piece of this first phase of developing your strategy is to set the overall vision. A content strategy vision statement is a short statement that defines the direction of travel that your strategy will take. This would usually be a sentence or two, and at most a short paragraph. It should highlight the important guiding decisions. This might include:

– How you will relate to your audience through content (i.e. “our content will put the needs of our audiences first, and always seek to answer their questions in the right place at the right time”)
– How you will serve the organisation’s priorities through your approach to content (i.e. “our approach will prioritise three key strategic goals: student engagement, research impact, and fundraising goals”)
– How you will work, including people and processes (i.e. “we will develop a sector-leading and award-winning content team who will take risks and innovate to ensure that our content stands out within the sector”)
– Efficiencies that you may seek to create (i.e. “we will adopt a content model and structured data to empower a create-once-publish-everywhere approach and a single source of truth”).

Your statement will then act as a the guiding star for the development of the rest of the strategy that follows.

If you’re keen to know how to complete the whole thing, then our online content strategy programme is definitely for you. Sign up today or watch our free overview webinar first.

And of course if you need help with developing your content strategy, get in touch as this is exactly what we at Pickle Jar Communications spend our lives doing.

Please leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.