What Are the Benefits of a Content Strategy and Why Do You Need One?

When it comes to marketing, content isn’t just king. It’s also the queen, knights, rooks, and those diagonal pieces with the funny hats.

September 29, 2023

When it comes to marketing, content isn’t just king. It’s also the queen, knights, rooks, and those diagonal pieces with the funny hats.

Consumers crave content to read, watch, and listen to, and the brands who can best provide it can win an incredible prize: a potential customer’s attention. 

But the brands who thrive in this constant, ongoing battle for eyeballs and ears do so because they came armed with a powerful weapon: a content strategy.

Electromagnetic’s Lindsay Miller, Marketing Strategist and Mad Men aficionado, and Director of Marketing Strategy, SK Vaughn are big believers in creating a comprehensive content strategy to crush KPIs and drive wins for brands. It’s appropriate that we’re sharing their insights on content via a blog post. 

What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Is a Content Strategy Anyway?

The word “strategy” comes to us from the Greek word stratēgia, which means “generalship.” We don’t know where the word “content” comes from, but no matter; pairing the two means planning how you’ll engage and influence consumers like a general directing a campaign.

A content strategy helps brands:

It’s a comprehensive document that forms a roadmap for every blog post, video clip, infographic, newsletter, and social media post that a brand will create and deliver to its audiences.

In this roadmap, a marketing team - from the strategist to the copywriters and designers who will execute each piece - has a schedule that not only organizes the production of each content asset, but also coordinates each asset with every other asset and the overall campaigns to which they belong.

If marketing were the board game Risk, the little game pieces would be articles and Instagram posts instead of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. The content strategy would be how you plan on winning by putting all your pieces on Siam and making sure no one ever gets to Australia. (Except hopefully less annoying.)

Key Elements of a Content Strategy

You can make your strategy however you want (it’s yours, after all). In general, most planning documents contain, at a minimum:

  • The overarching business goals for content
  • Metrics to measure content’s success
  • The key types of content that will be used
  • Who will be responsible for each part of the creation and delivery process, including:
    • Creative direction
    • Copywriting
    • Graphic design
    • Videography
    • Animation
    • Formatting
    • Publishing to a website
    • Posting to social media networks
  • Frequency (how often you’ll blog, post, etc.)
  • Approximate delivery timelines with milestones
  • Templates a team can use as a starting point
  • Any specific branding and messaging pointers that aren’t what are already included in the brand’s overall guidelines

Seems like a lot, and it is, but all of that stuff accomplishes a lot, too - and here’s how.

How a Content Strategy Helps a Business Conquer 

One main reason why you want a content strategy is simple: regularly creating and delivering content can be complicated. There are a ton of moving pieces and a million variables that have to be managed.  If not properly planned - like anything else - it’ll be a frustrating and unprofitable endeavor.

“A comprehensive plan can help you set clear aesthetics and messaging while also giving you enough time to collect assets to create the actual content,” says Lindsay. “It also allows you to keep the quality of the content high when you’re not in a rush.”

She adds, “If you’re planning your social or blog calendar months in advance, you’re in good shape from a strategy standpoint. You know where you’re going to land the plane and what ideas you’re aiming to get across to your audience.”

Without a strategy, it’s easy to go off message, or neglect a key audience segment. Your SEO rankings can drop off, costing you valuable organic traffic. Customers also have wandering eyes; they’ll quickly shift their attention to a competitor if you fall behind (or if your content assets aren’t appealing because they were haphazardly created). 

SK says, “Think about it like this: if you don’t have striped lines on the road, how do you know if you are crossing the line? If you don’t have police officers or other service people holding you accountable to these guidelines, how do you know if you are breaking the law? It’s similar to a brand guide and to your marketing director.”

A content strategy also helps you save that one nonrenewable resource every business demands more of: time. According to Lindsay, “The saying ‘Time is Money’ is true. The less time you have to spend every day thinking of new content or strategy, the better. When you plan ahead and create a long term strategy, you’re saving yourself key time to put towards other parts of your business.”

(And what head honcho doesn’t want more time?)

Finally, content strategies are important because they allow you to react flexibly to changing circumstances, like a news event or a market shift. “If you plan ahead, you’re able to make content stretch and work for you and not the other way around,” says Lindsay.

Using a Content Strategy to Handle a Crisis

We’d like to imagine a world in which nothing bad ever happens. When a crisis strikes your brand - big or small - a content strategy can help you defuse it.

Let’s say you’re a coffee roaster. Someone posts a negative comment on your social media post or ad saying your coffee packaging is terrible. The last three bags of your coffee they opened were stale because the seal wasn’t working right.

The right approach, outlined in your strategy, can be your guide to approaching the problem head-on. According to SK, “By empathizing with the customer in the comment section, directing them to DM’s, asking for their information, sending them a free coffee and sharing what efforts you are making to correct the issue moving forward, you are setting yourself up for a loyal customer after that experience.”

She goes on to say how this is a golden opportunity to “WOW the customer” and turn something bad into maybe something better. “Take that complaint and turn it into a blog series about the importance of storing your coffee in certain containers, common myths about best date versus best buy date, and the changes you are making to consistently improve your product packaging, etc.”

Out of that one interaction, you can not only respond well and build trust, but also create some pretty relevant content to help fortify your brand’s reputation and outreach.

As SK says, “You are taking that lemon and making lemonade.”

One Big Content Strategy Pitfall to Avoid

Having a strategy is a fantastic idea, but your business outcomes can be impacted if you make one key mistake many brands fall victim to: sticking too closely to the strategy due to complacency.

Strategies aren’t set in stone, because what you try may not work - or may not work well enough. Lindsay advises brands to stay flexible. “If something isn’t working, let’s rework it,” she says. “Keep your strategy relevant and take pride or unrealistic expectations out of the mix. A concept that doesn’t have a return could still be a good concept. Just tweak it and watch it. Keep your composure when the performance isn’t exactly what you want just yet.”

Testing your content and paying close attention to your key metrics (whether they’re page views and social interactions or asset downloads and purchases) can help you figure out how to adapt your strategy and uncover its most optimal form.

“Everything should and needs to be tied back to measurable goals,” says SK. “Everything you do should work together and be intentional.

Flexibility also allows you to seize the day. Maybe a hot new trend pops up that fits your voice and brand personality, one you want to tap into so you can ride the momentum to meeting your KPIs. SK says that the trick is to “understand who you are and who you aren’t. As long as this is established, it gives you more room to have a little fun with [the trend].”

“Your strategy may also need to pivot if the opportunity arises,” says Lindsay. It’s a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for these opportunities, while cautioning against being “trendy for trendy’s sake.”

What you don’t want to do is create your content strategy and stick to it rigidly and blindly even though it may be leading you astray. To revisit the Risk analogy, it’s like never trying to invade the rest of Asia, being content to be the benevolent overlord of the Land Down Under. (You’ll never win that way.)

Create a plan, but don’t be married to the plan. It’s okay to experiment and deviate from the pre-planned path, as long as it results in better content performance. 

Summing It All Up: How Content Is Just Like a Wedding

Lindsay likes using a wedding rehearsal dinner as a way to explain just how important a content strategy is.

“If you’ve ever been to a wedding rehearsal dinner, you’ve probably seen some curious and interesting speeches,” she says. “You never know what speech to expect from the parties of the bride and groom, or how many tears will be shed when they get emotional. You have the people who write their speech out word for word and read it aloud and you have the other half that just wing it completely. 

Here’s the thing: the bridesmaid holding her phone and reading the speech knows where she’s going to ‘land the plane’ if she starts crying. She’s going to wrap it up in a pretty bow. She knows what to expect when the unexpected tears start pouring.”

“On the other hand,” says Lindsay, “the other bridesmaid who’s just ‘winging it’ has no idea where her story is going and what she’s going to say. She starts crying and before you know it, the whole room is a bit awkward. We don’t know what to expect next, because she doesn’t know what’s coming next either.”

The moral of the story: “It’s better to be prepared with a content strategy when life (or emotions) get in the way.”

To SK, it’s all about sending what she calls “trust signals.” If you want to grow your business, you cannot afford to have the mindset ‘build it and they will come,’” she says. Your content strategy is your first line of defense when it comes to establishing trust and representing your brand. “It’s a necessity to get in front of the right people, at the right time, in the right way if you are serious about attracting new customers,” says SK. 

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Greek generals, board game domination, and tear-jerker wedding speeches, content strategy is one of the most important assets a brand can have. Know where, how, and when you’ll say what you want to say, and your content will be much more effective - and will stay on schedule even if nothing else does.

Ready to begin mapping out your content strategy? Let’s Talk! 

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