Creating a content strategy

Every business in now a publisher – whether you’re a solo operator or a vast enterprise. Alan Rutter, co-founder of Clever Boxer, breaks down the key questions you need to answer when developing a content strategy

What is a content strategy? 
It’s a plan of action designed to provide information or experience to audience or end-users to achieve a long-term or overall aim. It provides a guiding framework that helps ensure that all the things you’re publishing to the wider world (in print, events, websites or social media) are helping to achieve your business objectives. 

Why do you need one? 
Firstly, the content you publish is the most effective marketing tool you have – it can reach new customers, and tell people what your brand and business is about. Also, having a strategy in place that everyone in the business has agreed and is aware of will help you direct your resources effectively (money and time). 

Who are you trying to reach?
Having a clear idea of who your potential customers are will help you target your content, and use the right tone. You can find guides to developing customer personas here and here, and a useful tool for building them here.

What do you want them to do?
Giving people a nice piece of content to consume – whether it’s a tweet, a video, a piece of writing or an image gallery – probably doesn’t achieve a business objective for you on its own. Do you want them to buy a product or service? Ask for more information? Sign-up to a newsletter? Give them your email address? Share or recommend the content? Make the action clear. 

What content can you capture easily?
Don’t think about content creation as an activity separate to the rest of your business. What content can you create or capture easily, or what do you already have? If you’re making beautiful products, can you take photos of the building process? Can you get a video of people attending your event, or using your service? Can you live tweet from your pop-up? 

What content is already out there?
Don’t think that you need to only push on social media content that you’ve created yourself. If there are great written pieces, photos, videos or audio clips that relate to your business or industry that you find online, link to them. Also, give your own content a chance by promoting it – aim to spend at least the same amount of time/resource promoting as you do creating. 

What channels will you use?
Think about your content across three strands: print (magazines, leaflets, flyers, beer mats, handout materials), digital (websites, blogs, social media) and live (speaking at events, launching pop-ups, appearing at trade shows, going to meet-ups). You should be able to think of plenty of content that you can capture or create across all three. 

What categories and formats will you use?
Having repeatable formats (eg. top five lists, ‘5 minutes with…’ interview slots, picture of the day) will help save time when you’re creating content, and give potential customers something to check on regularly. You can also bolt together those formats later on, like Lego – there are plenty of successful Instagram accounts that have now become books

How often will you publish?
Particularly if you’re solo or a small team, you can’t do everything, and you can’t publish content constantly. Aim to publish great content less regularly, rather than poor content all the time. Link to other people’s content, and re-promote your own, rather than constantly creating something new. But do be regular – if you’re committing to once a day or once a week, make sure you stick to it.  

How will you measure success?
There are vanity metrics like number of social media followers or likes that actually make very little difference to your business. Over time you’ll want to focus on more meaningful measurements – like cost of acqusition through different channels, revenue per visitor to your website, depth of engagement, referrals, or sign-ups. Your content strategy can and should evolve over time – just make sure that it’s laser-focused on providing benefits for your business.

These notes are from a talk delivered at Shoreditch House. You can download the slide deck that accompanied it here

Clever Boxer runs training workshops and offers consultancy for businesses of all sizes who are trying to develop a content strategy. Find out more here.