A content strategy framework is a great way to help you develop a content strategy that works for your business. The framework provides a structure that will enable you to create and implement a strategy that produces meaningful content that meets your business objectives.
You'll find everything you need to create your own content strategy framework below. You're welcome to copy and edit it, to make it your own.
To make this as simple as possible, I'm going to break the definition down into its constituent parts and then bring it all together.
A framework is the steps required to create your strategy. Or to put it another way, the framework will form the structure of your content strategy. You can also consider a framework to be a particular set of rules that form the basis of a project or the steps you follow to solve a problem.
Note: A framework is designed to provide more flexibility than a template.
At its core, a strategy is a high level plan that identifies challenges; establishes a guiding policy; and specifies a set of measurable outcomes.
When you identify your specific challenges, you want to choose an approach to overcome these obstacles or barriers. In operational terms, you must provide a set of coherent, coordinated actions that are aligned with your goals and objectives.
The great strategies are always straightforward. They will clearly establish the problem and present the solution as if it was obvious. If your strategy doesn’t include the actions required to overcome the ‘problem’, it’s incomplete and likely to fail. All too often we mistake the vision, or the goals, or the objectives, or the core values as the ‘strategy’. However, these should only be used to inform your strategy.
Never lose sight of how your strategy could impact other aspects of your business. Or how other strategies feed into your strategy.
Remember: a good strategy fits seamlessly into the big picture. It’s a complement, rather than a distraction.
A content strategy guides the creation, delivery, promotion and governance of useful, usable content. It will define the challenges and obstacles that exist today. It will establish a method and the actions required to overcome these and specify how these will be measured and evaluated.
When you read the strategy, you should have answers to the ‘Who, What, Why, When, Where and How?’ type of questions.
A content strategy is not just about the fun stuff like content marketing. It includes the ‘boring’ stuff like content operations. The content strategy will inform management as to how you intend to do content marketing and the subsequent resource challenges that you may encounter. But probably most important, it will highlight how management will know if your content strategy is working i.e. measuring; analysing; and reporting.
When we put those together, we'll get a content strategy framework! At its simplest level, a framework is just a guide to get you started. It’s a structured plan of attack on how you'll go about creating content; why you’ll be creating content; and for whom you will be creating it for.
Remember, the framework is just a guide to help you develop a strategy. However, using the framework as a starting point will make sure you achieve your goals and avoid writing a bad strategy.
If you are doing any form of content marketing, you need a content strategy. It's as simple as that. Your business model will determine how much resource and budget you can invest. But without a clearly defined vision and expectation, how successful will your content marketing activities be?
Your content needs to serve multiple purposes. If you can create, share, and repurpose content that resonates with your audience, chances are that you'll attract new customers, generate interest, and build loyalty.
Content marketing is like cooking a 5-course meal for 50 people. If you only know how to make a starter, you might serve that course to everyone. But if you know how to make appetisers, soups, and salads, you can then make 5 separate starters. Everyone gets what they want and your cooking will speak to them on an individual level.
Content marketing is like that. If all you do is focus on traffic, leads, and sales, and you don’t segment your content, you’ll end up serving the same 3 courses to everyone, and you’ll end up cooking the same starter over and over.
In order to be successful at content marketing you need focus, structure, purpose and a plan. You will get that from having a content strategy in place.
The good news is that you don’t have to start from scratch. The bad news is that you shouldn’t follow this ‘guide’ too closely. Only you can determine what should go into your strategy. By all means, use this framework, but please make it your own.
And just to reinforce this last point: if you have no other reference you’ll be tempted to follow a template. That’s fine, but remember that someone else’s template (or secret formula) may not be suitable for your particular strategy. But we’ve all gotta start somewhere.
This framework is designed to be customised to suit individual needs. Therefore, there are steps you may not need to take. However, there are core fundamentals which we think every content strategy framework should have. These are:
Diagnosis: what are the challenges?
Policy: This will ensure your strategy directs and manages your actions, and yet will lack the minutiae of a plan.
Operational: The set of actions you will take.
That’s your framework in a nutshell. You have a start, middle and an end. However, let’s take a closer look at what each of these core fundamentals could mean for you. When we start to drill down, you will start to understand how these can apply to your particular business and content strategy.
You want to make sure the diagnosis phase goes beyond theory. There’s no place for fluff in a really good strategy. The best strategies are evidence led. This research phase will attempt to answer the following:
What are the challenges? How do these impact the business? How do we overcome them?
You will probably start out by assessing your business goals and objectives. Don’t immediately think that your content strategy should “increase revenue by 25%” or generate more leads or sales. A content strategy can help to reduce calls to customer support and it can help increase conversion rates. It can increase margins and reduce costs. But what it really does is connect more of your customers (or potential customers) to content that matters to them. Therefore a content strategy will increase your chances of connecting with real people at more points along the customer journey.
Now you’re maybe thinking “what are the customer pain points and where/how do they fit into the customer journey”?
A good place to start is by acknowledging that you might not be known to your customers. But, they have a problem and your business is the solution to that problem.
How do you find (and connect to) those customers? By creating content that resonates with them by identifying their problems. Those problems (or pain points) have solutions which you can provide.
Remember: you can’t create content without considering who you’re creating it for. You can use the framework to determine who the target audience or customer is.
How do you do audience research? You conduct buyer/persona research.
- What do your customers want?
- What solutions do they need?
- Speak to your staff (what do the sales team know? What can you learn from customer service?
- Who is your ideal customer? Who is your aspirational audience?
- Can you segment your audience?
- Do you have an audience persona / customer persona / buyer persona in mind?
- What audience insights do you have?
- How can these feed into your content audit (see below)?
When should you undertake a content audit? If you are an established business and are looking to adapt or change your content goals, you should conduct a content audit. This audit will review your existing material and assess its value.
Your content audit will include the following:
- How many pages does your website have?
- Are they up to date?
- Are they relevant?
- Are they being monitored?
- Are they being used?
- How are people finding the website?
- How is the user experience i.e. is the sign up process cumbersome?
- What is the user intent? Why did someone visit the website?
- Did the person find the information or service they were looking for? Are they satisfied?
- What content types do you have on the site? Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, resources, downloads, videos, audio, images, infographics etc. Are they appropriate for the task?
- Do you have a content design process?
- What are the goals for the individual pieces of content?
- Is the menu working? Is navigation logical?
- Is there a search function? What can we learn from that?
- Does the content follow brand guidelines?
- Is the content structured? Do you use templates?
- What can you learn from your analytics tool e.g. Google Analytics?
- Have you conducted keyword research?
- Have you identified keyword gaps?
- Do you have evergreen content or compete for long-tail keywords?
- What does Google Search Console tell you?
- Can you segment traffic into organic/paid/social?
- How does the website fit into your content marketing plan?
- Is the website a recognised marketing channel for your business?
- What are the goals for the website? Does it have KPIs? Does it have revenue targets? Who is responsible for that?
- Are there technical limitations with the website or Content Management System?
There’s a lot to be learned from running a content audit. If you are struggling to understand where or how to get started, you can ask a Content Strategist for help and advice.
A good strategy will also determine the challenges that you face in your day to day job.
One way to discover challenges in your business is to review the purpose, objectives, and goals of your business. This is where you might find out that the things you say and the things you do are not quite aligned with one another.
- What’s the purpose of your business or organisation?
- What’s the point of the service or product you provide?
- What’s the vision for your company?
- What are your hopes and aspirations?
- How do you encapsulate the mission?
- How are you going to get what you want for your organisation?
- How will you maintain your core values?
- What will you prioritise first?
- How are you going to measure the outcomes?
At some level, these are all idealistic questions and dangerously close to being fluff. However, if you can answer them you will gain a good understanding of not only your business objectives but also your business model.
Next, you will ask this question: “what do we need our content strategy to do for us?”
Your answer to that question will be derived in part by those lofty questions above.
This is a hypothetical goal from a content strategy:
“revenue generated by the website will increase by 15% within 12 months”.
How do you generate more revenue from your website?
- Increase conversions (what is a conversion?)
- Increase traffic, and hope that the conversion rate stays the same
- Increase brand awareness (how do you measure that?)
- Increase engagement on social media (how is that relevant?)
Can you see the problem with the objective above? It’s not specific enough. We don’t know how we are going to increase revenue by 15%. Broad objectives, while useful, don’t reveal the full range of challenges that exist.
How many variables exist before we get a conversion? Is one type of conversion more valuable than another? For example: providing contact details for a sales call is potentially more valuable than obtaining an email address.
Do we have to pay for advertising to drive more traffic? Who is responsible for that? How do you ensure more traffic equates to quality visits?
How much is brand recognition worth in terms of revenue?
Do we need a social media team? How much budget and resources do they need? How do we attribute an increase in revenue to their efforts?
What started out as a nice and simple goal has turned into a bit of a nightmare that potentially impacts lots of different teams. These are the types of challenges that you need to identify before you start content marketing. These are exactly the issues your content strategy will identify. And this is why you shouldn’t copy someone else’s framework or template word for word.
You should spend some time going through a basic SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.
- Strengths: Identify the strengths that exist within your business and how they can be used to your advantage.
- Weaknesses: How can you mitigate these weaknesses?
- Opportunities: How can you take advantage of the opportunities you discover?
- Threats: How do you utilise your strengths and the opportunities to reduce threats?
This part of the framework is designed to be pretty straightforward.
The policy will be based on the diagnosis and should be consistent with the overall philosophy of the business or organisation. It will set out the overall approach to overcome the challenges or obstacles you encounter.
It is a framework that provides a basis for making decisions and taking action. It directs and limits actions without exactly defining the solutions.
You can create your ‘policy’ by completing the following based on the knowledge you gained during the diagnosis phase.
- Challenge (1): simply fill in the details of each challenge you identify.
- What is your proposed solution? The solution to challenge (1) is…
- How are you going to achieve this? We will do…
- What does success look like? This could be when you achieve your goal or when you put structures in place.
You might also want to consider what control mechanisms can be put in place? And what boundaries can be set?
This phase of your content strategy is all about the doing.
- What activities are you planning on doing?
- How is that managed and coordinated at an operational level?
- What levels of governance are in place?
Remember: The best strategies will reinforce and support other strategies. Therefore you will want to identify:
- Who are the decision makers?
- Who has the important roles?
- Who has input?
Each piece of content created must have a purpose. Therefore cooperation and collaboration from across your organisation is required. You cannot and must not compete internally for resources or undermine another piece of content. The consequences of such actions could have serious implications for the success of your content marketing. In other words, you could be wasting money!
At an operational level, this is what you might need:
- Brand guidelines / style guide - to ensure consistency.
- Content Marketing Plan / Campaign Brief
- Content Calendar / Editorial Calendar / Schedule / Planner
- Choose your marketing channels
- Policies and processes required.
- Content design process / or similar content workflow.
- What technology or software will you need?
- Who will be doing the content creation work?
- Analysis: evaluation, measurement and reporting against KPIs.
If you’ve read this far (thanks!) but hopefully you now know why you shouldn’t just copy someone else’s framework or template - you need to make it your own. While I’ve gone into a lot of detail, don’t forget the basics. Your framework should include a start (the diagnosis); a middle (the guiding policy); and an end (your operational plan).
If you're struggling to develop a content strategy for your business, why not try this framework?
Alternatively, feel free to reach out and find out how we can create and execute a successful content strategy for you.