A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Content Strategy

In an age where user experience and customer needs are top priority and should be driving content decisions, you might not be getting the most out of your content unless it’s part of a concrete and aligned content strategy.

“…a necessary practice in any and all organisations that create and publish content online.” Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

Working in partnership with Liberata and Northgate Public Services as part of a wide-ranging digital transformation programme, Pendle Borough Council have seen some huge results, including a 95% reduction in footfall into their call centre. Content plays a crucial part in delivering the ultimate end-to-end customer service experience online.

Pendle DC Website

 

Kathryn Halton, Web Co-ordinator at Pendle Borough Council and Paul Johnson, Content Strategy Manager at Jadu Ltd., gives us some essential advice on how to create a content strategy.

Nowadays, it’s about the quality and relevancy of content, rather than the quantity. Customers want their online interactions to be as simple and clutter-free as possible. Achieving this takes solid planning and good governance, facilitated by a well-defined and documented content strategy.

So, here are some key steps to help you get started!

What is a content strategy?

“Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” Kristina Halvorson, The Discipline of Content Strategy

Local government websites are often packed full of useful information and guidance for users, but this content can often get lost, making it unusable. Also, content that’s suitably written for print may be hard to engage with online and important information is often buried in a PDF file when it could be easily surfaced on a webpage.

You can build lots of online transactions, but if the content and customer journey isn’t easy to understand or efficient, then your customers won’t engage and use the service.

It’s all about producing the right content for your users and giving them, “precisely what they need, exactly when they need it and in just the right form.” (Erin Kissane, The Elements of Content Strategy).

A content strategy defines how you:

  • Decide which content is relevant for online publication
  • Write and present that content
  • Use voice, tone and customer-focused language
  • Use attachments and associated media
  • Govern content
  • Produce user roles
  • Use workflow to ensure high-quality content

 

Elements to a content strategy

Your content must be useful, easy to understand, well-structured and easily found to enable a seamless user experience, as well as drive traffic, brand awareness and audience education.

Here are our top 5 tips to help you create your content strategy.

 

1. Define your audience

This is who you are creating content for and it must be written in order to meet their needs. If you know your audience, then you can build a content strategy with a clear style guide that captures language, tone and voice.

This is especially crucial when catering for residents who need to use those council services that are often contentious, such as paying council tax, booking a bulky waste collection or even reporting themselves as homeless. These are not easy situations and you should empathise when you create content.

If the first page they see is full of jargon, formal in style and hard to read, then you’re just going to add to their frustration. Therefore, you should do some research into how your customers talk about your services, what language and keywords they use and mirror these in your content strategy. It’s no good talking about ‘rodents’ if everyone searches for ‘rats’! This will also improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), making your content more visible.

 

2. Run a content audit

Look at the content you already have and how it’s performing to see what’s working and what isn’t. Keep content that is clearly meeting customer needs and revise or scrap content that displays little engagement. This type of content clogs your site and hampers your customer’s journey.

This will also give you a clean slate and will help identify any gaps, errors and mistakes. Your content strategy should also state how you measure and analyse your content against any benchmarks or targets your organisation has.

 

3. Align media formats and channels

Now let’s choose your next type of content and how to get it in front of your customers. Whilst there are better performing formats than others, such as blog posts, web pages, video and infographics, what works best is varying the format depending on your audience and the type of content you are creating.

Content can then be promoted on all the channels that are available to you, such as social media, email marketing and paid advertising. The content world is literally your oyster.

 

4. Create an editorial calendar

It’s time to get organised and the best way to do this is to create and manage an editorial calendar where you can keep track of what content is going out, via which channel and when.

For organisations using a devolved model where you may have a large number of authors, it might be worth stating who is responsible for which piece of content. It could also be treated as a creative and collaborative space to brainstorm ideas or implement last-minute campaigns.

 

5. Publish your content

Your content strategy should go beyond what you create and how you get it in front of your customers. It should also address how you organise and publish your content using a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow you to reach out to your customers regardless of device or browser so that you can publish with confidence.

Jadu CMS

“The role of the CMS is not simply to shuffle and store packets of information. Its primary role is to help your content strategy succeed” Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

We hope you have found this guide useful with just a few tips to get you started. If you have any questions or would like further information, get in touch!

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