SXSW: Content Strategy – Fancy Name for a ‘Plan,’ or Key to Marketing Communication?

SXSW view

Despite the amazing weather outside, this session is standing room only.  This talk bills content strategy as a way to design a comprehensive user experience.  Margot Bloomstein discussed the idea of content strategy from the perspectives of all the different stakeholders you might have in a content or web project. 

First, a definition. 

Content Strategy is "the practice of planning for content creation, delivery, and governance."

Second, a premise.

Margot stresses that creating a messaging architecture will save you time and money in virtually any project.  Whether you spend the time asking yourself what your priorities are before you hire a consultant or ask your creative team to start creating comps in Photoshop, either way, if you are not starting out with a unified understanding of the message, you'll have costly rework on your hands.  Because it is easier for most humans to communicate in words before they dive into the creative process, you should always start with the core message.

Via a few examples of websites -- ranging from the Harvard Club in Boston to National Financial -- that were both on message and ‘on creative,' Margot shared how content strategy can direct the rest of your communication efforts.  The most interesting element was when she dove into how different professionals on a team might use content strategy:

SEO Practitioners

Q:  In a world where the content on a page is always changing, how can you optimize meta content to reflect the right message?  And where should the ‘user experience' really begin?

A: If all members of the team are using a single content strategy, then changes to the page may not dictate changes to your SEO or SEM ad copy. Your brand and macro messages should be incorporated into your meta content to draw a user in from the time they look you up on a search engine.  In this way, content strategy can both save time and reinforce your key messages.

Social Media Folks

Q: How do you get your clients to stop talking about themselves & really engage?

A: Work on a content strategy that sets the baseline for core message, tone and priority thinking about what your audience is interested in.  Then apply an editorial calendar to make it a reality.  Margot's example here of EcoBags chronicled a move from tweets that were all about ‘what bags are on sale' to a total social media strategy that highlighted the company's wisdom and experience in all things eco.  EcoBags is now a clearinghouse for environmentally friendly information and also drives additional traffic and conversions for their bags.

But how do you create a content strategy?  Do you need a consultant to help you? 

I would argue no.  There are a few key, hard questions that you should ask yourself.

  • What is most important as a message? What do you want your company to be known for?
  • What are the goals of your communication?
  • How does that drive the hierarchy of your message?

Finally, the inbound marketing takeaway:

Even a one-person shop needs to have an idea of what they want to communicate, and revisiting your content strategy helps you stay true to that message and to the content your audience wants.  As soon as you have more than one employee, this becomes even more important.  Content strategy may sound like a fancy term for ‘having a plan,' but developing one is a real and valuable exercise that makes you really think about your business and the value you bring to your customers.

Find more of our coverage of SXSW at our HubSpot at SXSW content feed .


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