What does a content marketing strategy doc look like? There is no right or wrong way
We all know that content marketing is a complicated machine of moving parts. So many moving parts, in fact, that it invariably becomes necessary to put a robust process in place to track and assess progress. In other words, you need to document your content marketing efforts. Research backs this: content marketing performs better when brands and content marketing managers have a documented content strategy. Even our own, in-house data shows that brands who use smart content marketing documentation are more effective.
But here’s the thing: there is no ultimate content marketing template. They vary. They should vary. And no quick internet search will help you find one that has everything you need. Nor can any fancy software do the trick (though the promises and price tags will make you think otherwise). Yes, a PDF or template you find online is a good starting point, but will nonetheless require customization as you learn what works for you, your team, and your brand.
That’s why we believe that you should create your own documentation that caters to your specific needs and wants. Let’s skip the internet search for a minute and break down how to create your very own content marketing strategy doc.
Content marketing strategy doc
A content marketing strategy doc often acts as a bible to your whole content marketing operations. It should, therefore, include the high-level plan and key corresponding information. Most notably it needs:
- A brief (otherwise known as a statement of goals and objectives)
- Data-driven insights
- A calendar
A brief communicates the key elements of an assignment, task, or campaign to be carried out by the creative or team of creatives. Briefs are crucial in communicating higher-level strategy to the people actually producing it. A brief generally includes:
- Goal/objective: whether you’re aiming to increase leads or social shares, remind the team of the purpose of the project and what KPIs you’re using to measure success.
- Target audience and personas: if you haven’t already developed formal personas, this is the time to do so. Consider who your target audience (or ideal customer) is and how they would typically behave. If you have multiple personas, include all of them.
- Brand guidelines: regardless if the brief is being read by an in-house team or an agency, it’s essential to include important details about the brand: its core values, its mission statement, etc. This will help to ensure that the creative is “on brand.”
- Timing/deadlines: a no-brainer, the brief needs very clear deadlines for drafts and final drafts to execute your content. Determine who is responsible for what so that they can be held accountable along the way.
- Style guide: Oxford comma or no Oxford comma? Percent or %? Include a link to the publication’s style guide as well as some reminders of the “in-house rules” and preferences.
- Tone: if tone is the writer’s attitude towards the subject matter, what position should the writer take? This is where you can outline whether the piece should take an informational and straightforward tone or a humorous and irreverent one, all the while staying true to the brand’s voice.
- Creative media: if it’s a campaign consisting of copy, graphics, and/or video, specify when and where these elements come into play.
- Absolute don’ts: be sure to include a list of off-limit topics, rules, and language within the content. For example, profanity is often prohibited.
- Resource guides: a handy document or link to the style guide, branding, competitive analysis, existing source materials, and legal documents (especially if they relate to media).
If you create a plan without doing your homework, you’re going to be lucky or wrong. Sounds obvious, right? Well, not everyone looks at data and insights before coming up with a plan, so including this in your process is an absolute must.
At Quietly we look at a variety of factors that inform and shape our strategy, including external trends, a client’s own historical analytics, and other less obvious sources. This is key to sound planning and we pride ourselves on doing this well. But this is our secret sauce—we can’t give away all of our trade secrets.
An editorial calendar is the long-term vision of your content marketing plan that is broken down by quarter, month, week, and day. An editorial calendar aligns your content strategy, creation, and distribution in one document. It may not be pretty, but it is vital to your operations. It should have three key components:
- A coverage matrix: this has nothing to do with The Matrix (we promise). A coverage matrix shows that your content strategically covers all considerations. It breaks down where and how your content is allocated to things like topics, blog categories, geographical regions, funnel stage, and so forth. For example, a coverage matrix for March’s content could show how many top-of-funnel blog posts were published vs. middle-of-funnel vs. bottom-of-funnel. A coverage matrix helps you identify if you’ve been neglecting or overcompensating in particular verticals.
- A thematic calendar: a thematic plan combines your coverage matrix, national holidays, and other relevant industry events to create a calendar broken down by quarterly and monthly basis. A good thematic calendar will also begin to illustrate what kind of ideas would result. Think of it as an abstract manifestation of the factors highlighted in the matrix.
- A production calendar: did you know producing content can take lots of time? Sometimes upward of six months! That’s why you need a calendar that works backwards from publication dates to illustrate when the team needs to start working on these pieces and when they need to be complete. Your calendar should also note holidays and events, quarterly and monthly content themes, blog ideas, and dates when content will be live on-site. If done correctly, it shows every stage in the production cycle.
Altogether, a calendar will help produce a unified, big picture view of your content strategy.
The importance of creating your own strategy doc
As you can probably tell, we’re not using any fancy, expensive software to create our content marketing strategy docs. We’re not even boiling it down into a standard template. That’s because you can buy the best software in the world (or download the most attractive free templates), but if you don’t have smart, dedicated marketers to operate and manage it—to properly consider everything your brand needs to succeed—the outcome will be middling, at best.
All marketing software requires labor to make the magic happen—otherwise we would be living in The Matrix. We’re not afraid to admit that we often rely on Google Sheets and Excel. If architected well, they can automatically update, produce graphs and charts, and help you visualize tons of information. Most importantly, unlike certain software or templates you could purchase or download for free, they are completely customizable for the client. We would never be able to accommodate everything we needed without building it ourselves, so learn from our experience and customize your own. Or better yet, get in touch and let us help you.
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