More than once in recent weeks we have been asked by a new client to “share the content strategy”. And more than once we were confused, because we had already done so: “Here, look – here’s the documented strategy, guys.”
So what was going on? The clients in each case – albeit new to the kind of marketing with content they were embarking on – wanted to see an editorial calendar for the months ahead.
The editorial calendar is vital to anyone involved in any kind of ongoing content production. But it’s not a content strategy.
Why does this happen?
It’s understandable for anyone who is investing in content to want to see what will be created. Some would call this the most interesting part of the process. It gets the brain’s creative synapses firing in a way that planning doesn’t.
But planning is vital. Your editorial calendar is only one part of the content marketing jigsaw. Your documented content strategy should cover a dozen or so other areas including:
- Overall goals and measures of success
- The owner, sponsor, et al. – including those who hold the purse strings and will sign off on everything
- Subject themes
- Target audience, including personas
- The content creation and distribution process
- Influences, dummy content, templates, style preferences, appropriate content types
You get the idea. The editorial calendar will get a mention. It has to be in line with the content strategy. But it’s separate. And it doesn’t come first.
Most of all, the key point is that the content strategy is documented. It is your touchstone. If there are doubts or questions along the way – and there will be – then your content strategy is what you reach for first.
Your in-house content experts, even if you don’t have a chief content officer, should know this. If you use an agency, they should be telling you this, even if they’re not content marketing specialists.
Don’t jump the gun. Everyone wants to start working on the items that will go live first. In many ways they’re more tangible and pleasurable to deal with than the bullet points above. But few things in business succeed without a clear strategy. Nail yours first.