Content Strategy: More Than Just a Line Item

When I started working in digital marketing, back in early 2006, I worked in the SEO department of a full-service agency. Back then, very few people understood what SEO actually was, and therefore, many of our clients considered SEO a separate piece of our full-service offering, a line item on their invoice. We spent a great deal of time trying to educate our clients on why SEO needed to be baked into every single aspect of their website from the ground up instead of shoehorned into a project as an afterthought.

Nowadays, more people have an understanding of what SEO is and why it’s important, but the whole “line item” mentality has unfortunately been shifted over to content development. Most brands understand that content is important (in fact, "content strategy" is currently a pretty major buzzword), and many of them are on board with adding more content to their websites, which is fantastic. But it’s crucial for brands to understand that just adding content to a website enough. A holistic content strategy should be ingrained into every aspect of a marketing strategy, and beyond.

Tips for keeping content strategy a top priority:

Bring Up the Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

In order to get full buy-in from everyone involved, ask the team:

So, you want a content strategy. What is the best-case scenario if this content strategy is implemented? And what is the worst-case scenario if nothing changes?

Hopefully, this question will get the team thinking about the impact of content strategy, why it's important, and why it's imperative that they consider it more than just a line item.

Meet Face to Face

When content strategy is just a bullet point on a weekly marketing meeting agenda, it’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle. So, try to meet face to face, as often as needed and with as many stakeholders as you can. Yes, this can become a pretty significant investment of time and money (especially if you’re working with a brand that’s not local and travel is involved), but the benefit these meetings will have on your content strategy is well worth it.

Meet with as many people as necessary. Of course you’ll be working with the marketing team, but who else should be involved? If the brand has a sales team, you’ll want to connect with them to see how content can help them generate leads. If it’s an e-commerce brand, meet with the buyers to learn as much about the products as possible. If customer service is a top priority, get the customer service team involved. If the promotion of company culture is important to a brand, meet with their HR team.

Don’t Submit to the Tyranny of the Agenda

Meeting agendas are great for keeping things on track, but when you’ve got a lot of items to cover in a finite amount of time, a meeting can become mechanical or rote. More importantly, there’s a lot of missed opportunity in a rigid agenda.

Of course, for a large-scale in-person meeting, you’ll want at least a loose agenda to maintain some semblance of order, but try not to get lost in the bullet points. Instead, ask open-ended questions like:

  • Why do you think you need content (or more content, or better content)?
  • What’s new or upcoming with the brand that we should know about?
  • What business-related issues are keeping you up at night?
  • What kind of experience do you want your website visitors to have?
  • What roadblocks currently exist that may hinder getting a content strategy off the ground?
  • Describe your ideal customer.

You won't get short, concise answers to these questions. People may ramble or debate - and that's wonderful! You'll learn more about the brand, their audience, and their needs during these meandering discussions than you ever will when you've got three minutes to check off an agenda item.

(Thanks to our COO and Director of Content Larry Waddell for the term “tyranny of the agenda!”)

Designate “Content Champions”

Of course, everyone is busy, so wrangling a number of teams for regular meetings may be a challenge. And while it would be amazing if everyone involved considered content a high priority, chances are, there will be at least a couple of dissenters or naysayers. If that’s the case, try to find at least one person per team, someone who is interested in and invested in content, to become a “content champion.” Having an advocate to represent a group of stakeholders is efficient and will help ensure that nothing content-related slips through the cracks.

Okay, Now What?

Once you've met face to face with your content champions several times, have gotten input from everyone involved, and are working with a team that's interested in and invested in content strategy, the next step is to continue what you've done!

It's not enough to get people involved - now you need to keep people involved, and its a cyclical process. Continue with regularly scheduled meetings and open-ended questions. Keep stakeholders in the loop every step of the way. And, most importantly, share metrics and successes - because the best way to keep people invested is to show them that their investment is making a difference.

For those of you involved in content strategy, how do you ensure that it doesn't slip through the cracks?

We love helping marketers like you.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates and more:

Dana Forman
Dana Forman
Sr. Manager, SEO