Last week, when attempting to write about content strategy, I opted to look through the lens of why content marketing seems to get more attention online. If we use Rachel Lovinger’s suggestion that “literally, everything is content,” you can see why the idea of creating a strategy for literally everything may seem overwhelming.
Take Meghan Casey’s book The Content Strategy Toolkit as an example. The first ten chapters cover all the things you need to do and learn and understand about a company before you can even begin to build your content strategy. Simply convincing anyone why they should get on board with creating a content strategy takes up four chapters. Then you need to find out what everyone thinks their company even does. Frankly…I’m already exhausted.
But content marketing – that’s something we can tie up with a neat little bow. Deliverables! Organic interactions! ROI! These are things that we understand and can manipulate and control.
In his article discussing the two disciplines, Robert Rose states that “content marketers draw on the wall with magic markers, while content strategists use fine pens.” I don’t think this analogy holds up. Let’s take a moment to define each and then come back with a new analogy that I think is more accurate.
Content marketing is a type of marketing that uses value-rich content to engage consumers in a way that makes them want to interact with your brand or purchase your product. Julia McCoy describes content marketing as publishing content that creates “value to people so they recognize your brand as a trustworthy solution to their needs and desires.” This content often does not include a hard sell, but instead utilizes many touch points to bring consumers closer to the brand and create loyalty.
Content strategy, as defined by Kristina Halvorson, deals with the “creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Companies can use content strategy to define a goal for the content they produce to ensure that all platforms are contributing appropriately. It answers the why of what you produce, not just the what, who, and how.
The Vehicle and the Roadmap
Looking at the two definitions above, I can’t quite wrap my head around Rose’s analogy of broad strokes vs. fine point. Sure…content strategy deals with a greater amount of detail, but content marketers have their own strategy – it’s not like they’re just churning out content with no care about whether they’re talking to the right audience or using the right voice. They shouldn’t be, in any case.
Instead, I like to think of content marketing as the vehicle and content strategy as the roadmap. By creating a content strategy, your company can designate goals, checkpoints, and governance for all the content being created. Content marketing is where the rubber meets the road for content creation and talking to your audience.
It is important to have a plan before you get in the car – you should have, at the very least, a destination in mind. But content strategy can provide so much more than just the destination.
Having a roadmap for your journey can ensuring you don’t run out of gas because you forgot to check how far it is between exits. Similarly, content strategy can ensure that your content marketing plan doesn’t go off the rails when a new voice joins your team, or a change in trends makes talking about something online fashionable, or that blog posts about products you no longer offer don’t remain searchable on the web for an eternity simply because no one thought to archive them.
Casey, M. (2015). The content strategy toolkit : methods, guidelines, and templates for getting content right. New Riders.