Content Strategy Template: Draft a Content Strategy in Five Meetings

August 21, 2019
People working with post it notes to make a content strategy template

Content strategy is a transformative approach for focusing and elevating your digital communications efforts by aligning all of your content production to your key messages. Sounds simple, but developing and implementing a content strategy can sometimes be tricky to start and hard to explain.

In over a decade of leading workshops to help clients make the most of their content, we’ve developed a content strategy template, breaking down content strategy process into four fundamental questions:

  • What are we communicating (messages), to whom (audiences), and to what end (goal)?
  • How will we communicate most effectively? (formats, style, topics)
  • What processes and resources are needed to ensure success? (governance)
  • ​How do we gauge success and inform ongoing improvement? (measurement)

These questions are at the heart of content strategy. They inform implementation, sustainability, and assessment. If your team can gain alignment around these questions, you will be on your way to introducing content strategy into your digital communications approach.

How to Use the Content Strategy Template

The important thing to keep in mind, is content strategy cannot be a solo show. To drive the most success, it must be a team effort that is operationalized across the organization. 

But we have to start somewhere. Pressing the value of these questions both within your team as well as up and down the chain can  — over time — build awareness and investment in your content strategy.

To be effective, you need to start with building alignment. Let’s dive in and see how our content strategy template breaks it down. 

Content Strategy Template

Completing the template sets a foundation to embark on a strategic, sustainable, and impactful content marketing campaign. 

First, Order Some Bagels

We recommend scheduling five focused meetings with your team to begin working through this template. Each meeting will build on the other, tackling these questions and fleshing out a sustainable strategy bit by bit. 

By the end of the five meetings, you will have a rough draft of your content strategy, ready to road-test and refine.

Time to get started — reserve a conference room, order up some bagels, and bring your team together to start the journey. 

Content Strategy Meeting #1 — Define Goals, Audience & Message

Identifying goals, target audience, and key messaging is the foundation of any content strategy. There is a good discussion to be had amongst your team about what organizational goals your content should serve, what it should inspire your users to do, and how it can serve your users’ own needs.

A great (and fun) way to start this conversation is by completing the content strategy Mad Lib. This exercise, borrowed from The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey, uses a “Mad Libs” approach to gain quick consensus around goals, messages, and audience. From this starting point, you can expand and refine for entry into the template.

Content Strategy Meeting #2 — Topics, Format, & Style

With goals, audiences, and messages defined, we now need to figure out how to bring them to life. 

  • What topics will you discuss, or what information will you share? 
  • What content formats best suit the audience and information you are sharing with them — video, infographics, first-person written narratives, data charts, straightforward copy? 
  • ​What should the tone of that content reflect in order to be best received — serious or casual, authoritative or supportive?

Consider a table such as this for mapping these elements to the foundation you previously defined. Let’s say you have defined goals A, B, and C, audiences 1, 2, and 3, and messages X, Y, and Z.

Topic

Format(s)

Style

Messages Conveyed

Audience Served

Goal Reinforced

Topic 1

Video testimonials

Warm

X, Y

1

A, C

Topic 2

News stories, text overviews

Authoritative

Z

1

B, C

Topic 3

Infographics

Accessible

X

2

A

Topic 4

Text overview, photo galleries

Supportive

Y, Z

3

A, B, C

As you brainstorm topics and information to communicate, your goals, audience, and messaging should be at the core of those ideas. Ideas that do not align strongly to the foundation you have defined should assume a much lower priority; While they may have a place, it may not be at the core of your content strategy.

Content Strategy Meeting #3 — Guide

After your second meeting, you likely have a ton of ideas. Video profiles! Amazing infographics! Incredible news stories! This is great — it means you are thinking about how best to get your messaging across. Now it’s time to consider those ideas more closely in the context of your organization. Because even the best ideas don’t matter if they aren’t realistic and sustainable. Enter governance.

Governance means building accountability around how and what you publish, and that means taking a close look at your organization. Conducting a RACI assessment of your communications function helps identify who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for specific type of content tasks — e.g., measurement, video production, copywriting, digital strategy, photography, advertising, and so on. (Some people make it RASCI, where the S stands for Supportive.)

Identify all of the content tasks your ideas would call for, then align those with the roles and resources you have in your organization. If you identify gaps, redundancies, or other inefficiencies, these are organizational issues to address in order to guarantee the success of your content strategy.

One of the most fundamental things to identify out of this process is ownership. A successful content strategy depends on clearly defined roles, and that means determining how the various roles work together as well as who is the ultimate owner and decider — ensuring sustainable alignment to that foundation of goals, audience, and messaging. Content without ownership quickly loses any sense of strategy that informed it.

Another good exercise — for each content idea or topic expression you devised in meeting #2, add two columns to your table to answer the following: what process or guidelines would be needed to ensure sustainable ongoing creation/maintenance of this content, and what resources (people, money, equipment, etc.) would be needed to do so?

By building accountability and sustainability into your content efforts, you invest in their ongoing success.

Content Strategy Meeting #4 — Promote & Assess

The unofficial title for this meeting could be “You Published Content, Great! Now What?” Life begins after you hit publish, I like to say. And that means two things: visibility and measurement.

Let’s start with visibility. Once you have published content (and, if we’re being honest, before you actually publish it), you need to consider how it will be found (ideally by the target audience you previously defined). There are a few considerations here:

  • Search engine optimization — Think through your metadata, keywords, headers, and overall content structure to make sure people seeking your content can find it organically.
  • Content reuse — How are you promoting this information within your website (for example, using taxonomy to present related news stories on a topical page).
  • Accessibility — Content that does not meet accessibility standards will never be broadly discovered and consumed, no matter how swell your idea was.
  • ​Digital marketing — Online advertising (e.g. PPC, retargeting), personalization campaigns, paid social media, search engine marketing, and email newsletters are just a few ways you can extend awareness of relevant content to target audiences.

Which approaches make sense of the content approach you’ve developed?

Most of these efforts will generate a heap of data, which leads us to the next step — assessment. As we publish and promote content, it’s important to define success at the outset, and then measure success on an ongoing basis. The insights we learn about how our content is faring should loop back into the editorial decision-making process. Is this effective in achieving our goals? Is it engaging our audience as intended? Should we create, publish, or promote this content differently?

Using a measurement framework helps guide how we understand success. Think back to your goals, your audience, and your audience’s goals. This will help you determine your key performance indicators (KPIs). Once you define KPIs, set a target. Have no clue what that should be? That’s fine. Pick a number, any number. It will give you a starting point, and that’s all you need to begin a measurement-driven publishing process. Segments help refine your sense of how to reach your audience, and which subsets of your audience are most relevant.

But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. For the purposes of our template, just worry about they key conversions (the things your content should motivate people to do) and KPIs. This reinforces the focus and purpose of your content.

Content Strategy Meeting #5 — Review and Align

Congrats! No bagels or donuts today — let’s order pizza, because it’s time to bring all the pieces together and review. Does everything make sense? Do all the right themes and intentions pull through? Are there any notable gaps? (It’s okay if there are — part of the goal of this exercise is to find the issues so you can address them). Is everyone aligned and on board? If so, well done — your first draft of your content strategy is complete. 

Content Strategy is Never Done

The important thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Much like your digital properties are living things that require care and feeding, so is the strategy that sustains them. That means operationalizing the strategy across the organization, and regularly checking in with your approach to ensure it’s still working for you.

Get Started! Grab an Editable PDF of the Content Strategy Template

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