The Bruce Lee Guide to Strategic Content

I had the opportunity to speak at the Pubcon Austin regional recently on a panel about content campaign development. My presentation was entitled “The Bruce Lee Guide to Strategic Content”. I wanted to post up a basic transcription for those who missed it.

Introduction

Whether you are working with small business clients or enterprises, getting companies to regularly curate, create, edit, audit, prune while also optimizing their content for users can be difficult to sustain without the right governance in place.

The path to useful, usable and findable content is often narrow. Getting there can be a serious challenge. Sometimes you feel like people in the process are against you. There are a lot of adversaries and hurdles to overcome.

We’ve all been there. Two weeks out from a launch deadline and the client still hasn’t given you approval on any content and / or will not send any content of their own. My personal favorite is when they forget to tell you they don’t have any content and think that you are suppose to provide it, even if / when you already covered it in the contract.

Even worse is the job of cat herding IT, stakeholders, marketing, sales and writers to work together to create the kind of strategic content that will speak to their target consumer. The end result is all too often boring sales fluff that no one ever reads.

In the end, you find yourself doing a Chinese fire drill to create a bunch of last minute ad hoc content that is seldom on brand and more often than not fails to tell the client’s story.

It doesn’t have to be this way though if you choose to take a stand during the early planning phases of a project and stress the importance of a content strategy.

This is content strategy. It is a decade old emerging practice that deals with the management, curation and creation of useful, usable content.

Content strategy is NOT:

  1. A blog.
  2. A whitepaper.
  3. It is not just an editorial calendar.

Get it right. Content strategy is NOT the same thing as content marketing. I’m tired of hearing SEO’s and social media weenies who think promoting and marketing content is strategic. It can be, but unless it was planned out and the right questions were answered well before any content was actually created, chances are – it’s probably not.

Over the years, our approach to content strategy has evolved into a simple 3 step process that involves proactively collecting critical deliverables that are interdependent to the execution of the project.

1. Gather

What Does Success Look Like?

  • Create summary of company goals

Tip: Use Client Profiles – Organize all client insights, messaging, documentation in one place for the team working on it.  Get client /stakeholders to sign off on all campaign goals and communication documents early on in the process.

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What Do You Have?

  • Content assessment (quantity and quality)
  • Content audit / inventory
  • Style / Branding Guides
  • Sitemap

Tip: Content Inventory & Planning Tools

What is Missing?

  • Competitive analysis
  • Content gap analysis
  • Comparative analysis

Tip: Competitive & Comparative Analysis Tools

2. Govern

How & Where Do You Present the Words?

  • Brand strategy
  • User personas, Scenarios / Journeys
  • SEO & Metadata strategy
  • Content flow schematic
  • Editorial & Core messaging strategy
  • Content Templates & Sample content
  • Channel & Device strategy
  • Community & Social strategy

Tip: Content Planning & Governance Tools

How Do You Make It Happen?

  • Content approval workflow / Governance model
  • CMS Training & Documentation
  • Moderation Policies & Guidelines

Tip: Content Ideation & Editorial Management Tools

3. Grow

How Do We Know It’s Working?

  • Production benchmarks (bottlenecks?)
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
  • Success / KPI’s (goals set at the beginning of the campaign)
  • Usability tests (improvements?)
  • A/B Split Testing

Tip: Analytic & A/B Split Testing Tools

Pro Tips:

  1. Take advantage of social search engines like TopsySocial Mention and others to uncover audience interests and potential content ideas based on those interests.
  2. Use Alchemy API to quickly extract semantic meta-data from existing web pages. Use the results to speed up the creation of metadata frameworks during content planning phases.

Resources:

  1. Content Strategy For The Web by Kristina Halvorson – Link
  2. Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane – Link
  3. Content Strategy at Work by Margot Bloomstein – Link
  4. Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy by Ann Rockley – Link
  5. Metadata Workshop by Rachel Lovinger – Link
  6. Complete Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy by Andrew Maier – Link
  7. Build Agile SEO Tools Using Google Spreadsheets by Tom Critchlow – Link
  8. Using AlchemyAPI for Semantic Analysis and Text Mining by Mike Reich – Link
  9. Content Templates to the Rescue by Erin Kissane – Link
  10. Building Your Content Strategy with a Message Architecture by Margot Bloomstein – Link
  11. Difference Between Content Strategy & Content Marketing? by Colleen Jones – Link
  12. Psychographics Deconstructed: What We Look Like to… by Marty Weintraub – Link
  13. Social Media Can Generate Strong Story Ideas by Kylie Jane Wakefield – Link
  14. The New SEO Process (Quit Being Kanye) by Mike King – Link
  15. 11 Savvy Ways to Use Buyer Personas… by Rebecca Corliss – Link
  16. Fusing Content Strategy with Design by David Gillis – Link
  17. An Introduction to User Journeys by Jason Hobbs –  Link
  18. Doing a Content Inventory by Jeffrey Veen – Link

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Analytics & AdWords certified growth engineer with over a decade experience in making businesses successful. I own and operate AXZM and often speak at top national industry conferences on the topics of strategy, design and marketing technology. Work with me or learn more about me here. Follow me @nawlready

5 Comments

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  1. Reply

    Hi Steve, I’m involved in technical publications, so not quite the same area as you, but your introduction really sums up the feelings I have when working with some clients. I’m sure that feeling applies to many different industries. I shall forever see myself as Bruce Lee when confronted with difficult clients. Thank you for that, it really made me smile.

    • ed mc
    • March 7, 2013
    Reply

    Hi Steve, Thank you for sharing this tremendous amount of education. Content is said to be king, and you may be the king of content.

    All the best
    ed

    • Gary S.
    • March 2, 2013
    Reply

    hahaha, i DO stress the importance of content strategy… but then I get brushed off because we can’t do all THAT within our timeframe and budget.

    • Anthony Pensabene
    • February 26, 2013
    Reply

    Hey dude – like this a lot.

    • Sergio
    • February 26, 2013
    Reply

    Very good and usefull post. Thank you very much for all this information. I will take advantage of all this to put it in practice in the masters Degree I’m doing now.