2 things every content strategy needs

Kristina Halvorson, Brain Traffic 

Content strategists (including myself) have long hammered on the fact that content strategy needs to be informed by business goals and user needs.

I’ve found that those terms can get squishy in practice. Which business goals? All user needs? And which users? (Content is hard.)

To rein in this conversation, I talk to teams about the following instead:

  1. Functional strategy and goals
  2. Priority user needs and preferences.

Functional strategy and goals

First up: What is a functional strategy? I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

Functional strategy is the strategy adopted by each functional business area (like marketing, HR, or customer service) in order to help achieve business or corporate goals.

It’s super important to use functional strategy (vs. overall business/corporate strategy) to inform your content strategy. If you try to work with overall business goals, you might get stuck with statements like, “Increase profit margin by x%” or “Reduce facilities expenses by x%.” How are you supposed to directly align content strategy with those goals? You can’t.

But if you use the goals driving your functional strategy, you can draft statements like:

  • Increase sales by x%
  • Build brand awareness among target audience by x%
  • Launch x new products or services in 12 months
  • Decrease content management costs by x%

Can these goals inform content strategy? Why, yes! They can. If you don’t have these handy, ask leadership for the magic deck they presented to their leadership for the current fiscal year (or quarter or whatever). Functional—or department, or business unit—goals should be in there. If they don’t have them, gently inform leadership that your content initiatives will be prioritized based on someone’s opinion and implemented without meaningful measures of success. Good luck!

Priority user needs and preferences

Let’s break this down a little. When you say …

  • “Priority” … you indicate that you’ve prioritized your users and their needs. In other words, you’re not trying to be everything to everyone (which typically results in being nothing to anyone).
  • “User” … you’re acknowledging that the people coming to your website or using your product (including a CMS, if your effort is focused there) want to do something with it, whether it’s to complete a task, make a decision, improve an outcome, or something else.
  • “Needs” … see above. Your content should be useful and usable for your users—and that means you have to know what they need from you in the first place.
  • “Preferences” … you’re saying that you understand not only what your users need from you, but also what they like and don’t like—anything from content format to topic focus to voice and tone.

Check out the full blog entry at Brain Traffic …