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Content strategy is not permanent

Content strategy is not permanent Rebecca Lieb

To market effectively requires a strategy, but a simple fact that eludes many marketers is that you are allowed to change the strategy. I hadn't realized how intractable strategy is perceived to be until a few recent calls with clients, as well as a student writing a PhD thesis on content marketing, left me shaking my head. All expressed reluctance to commit to a documented content strategy lest priorities, processes, technologies, or other resources change. What then? Strategy is, after all, inscribed on stone tablets, Ten Commandments-style, when it's documented. Or so the belief seems to go.


Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. In fact, this misbelief may be precisely what underlies the fact that 70 percent of organizations that practice content marketing don't have a documented content strategy. Not only does my research as an analyst point to that statistic, but that 70 percent is corroborated by virtually every study out there.


Strategies can, and do change. They have to. That's where sustainability comes in. Media consumption patterns change, messaging changes, goals shift, customers change, and so do products. Target audiences might shift, new products are introduced, old ones changed. Budgets rise and fall.


There are a zillion and one reasons why a content marketing strategy can -- indeed, will -- change. Yet for some reason, marketers believe that once a strategy is established, it's set in stone, immutable, and unalterable. In the rapidly shifting landscape of digital marketing and media, it's essential to establish a strategy -- to know why you are doing what you're doing and how that goal will be achieved.


But that in no way precludes frequents checks, shifts, tweaks, and adjustments to stay on course. That's how marketing becomes fluid, agile, sustainable, and successful.


How, why, and when should a content strategy change? Changes can be large or small, but the following are a few of the many reasons strategy should be reexamined, reevaluated, and re-jiggered to address priorities at hand.


Metrics/KPIs/optimization


What metrics and KPIs are important to gauging the success of a content strategy? Sales are an obvious choice, but there are a panoply of other KPIs that will take on greater or lesser significance as a strategy, as well as organizational priorities, evolve.


Content audit


Audits must be conducted periodically, ideally at least twice per year, to inform content strategy. Audits address what's working, what's not, and where gaps exist and how they might be filled.


Products/services


As offerings (and offers) change, so too will content strategy. Shifts might be seasonal, event- or launch-driven, or perhaps a new product line appeals to new customers with different needs, wants, and habits. If the organization itself isn't static, content strategy will never be a set-it-and-forget-it box to tick.


Audience


Who comprises the target audience? Where are they online? Have they switched their alliance from one channel or platform to another, either in aggregate or by persona? Are personas and buyer profiles changing? What about their needs and wants? These and similar questions help to inform one of the most essential components of a content strategy: defining, and finding, who that content is supposed to reach and to influence.


Channels/formats/media


Ten years ago Instagram and Twitter weren't part of anyone's content strategy. They didn't exist. Mobile was a department, not part and parcel of digital. Video, for many, was a nice to have, not a must-have. Shifts in platforms and the overall digital landscape necessitate periodic reevaluations of content strategy.


Resources


This can include tools, technology, personnel, budgets, processes -- anything it takes to get content done. Content strategies don't just define the goals content is intended to achieve, but also the procedure, processes and governance required to get there. Changes in resources necessitate changes to the overarching strategy.


Rebecca Lieb is an analyst, digital advertising/media, for Altimeter Group.


On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Rebecca Lieb has published more research on content marketing than anyone else in the field.  As a strategic adviser, her clients range from start-up to non-profits to Fortune 100 brands and regulated industries. She's worked with brands...

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