A Content Strategy Starter Kit for Marketers

And to think strategically about content, you need tools. I recommend starting with three tools as your content strategy “starter kit,” in this order: Message architecture Content inventory and audit Content brief I’ve arrived at this short list based on my years as an agency-side content strategist working with brand managers and marketers at B2B and B2C companies. Everyone — from marketing and sales to product design and engineering — benefits from the priorities and goals conveyed in a well-thought-out message architecture. More on how and why to create a message architecture: Align All Your Messaging With This Simple (& Fun) Tool 2. Under the brand tab, I inventory content in detail. Every web page or distinct section of your site that your team will be working on needs its own content brief. Conclusion As a marketer thinking strategically about your organization’s content, you’ll find this starter kit — your message architecture, content inventory and audit, and content brief — will serve you well. You’ll most likely need more than these three tools. Strategy work is never done. At CloudCheckr, Katie works with an agile marketing team to drive inbound marketing and optimize website content.

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“We’d like to make our content more strategic, but we don’t have time to make it happen on this project.”

Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you’re working within an agency or in-house at a brand, it’s all too common to hear people writing off content strategy as a time-consuming nice-to-have.

If you’re the one planning for the creation and production of quality content, you can’t accept that mindset. To make good content decisions for the business, you have to think strategically. And to think strategically about content, you need tools.

As you may have noticed, content strategy tools are plentiful these days. For example, Meghan Casey has written about many of them in her book, The Content Strategy Toolkit.

When you’re new to content strategy, it’s hard to figure out which tools to use first.

I recommend starting with three tools as your content strategy “starter kit,” in this order:

  1. Message architecture
  2. Content inventory and audit
  3. Content brief

I’ve arrived at this short list based on my years as an agency-side content strategist working with brand managers and marketers at B2B and B2C companies. When used at the right time, each tool is invaluable in fostering a strategic, efficient, and scalable content framework.

1. Develop a message architecture

Start by developing a message architecture, which is your North Star for any content marketing road map. A message architecture prioritizes a set of goals to communicate about the brand across channels, laying the groundwork to ensure that everyone is telling the same story. By aligning business goals with user needs, the message architecture enables action toward a shared vision, from blog posts to PPC campaigns.

The message architecture is one step beyond voice and tone guidelines and provides a holistic look at what the overall user experience should accomplish. Although “message” often implies words and copy, the message architecture is more than just what you say or how you say it — it’s who the brand is at the core.

Approaches for establishing a message architecture vary from business-centric Venn diagrams to adaptations of information architecture exercises. My favorite method relies on a card sort of 75 to 125 adjectives (ranging from obvious ringers to apparent contradictions) as described by Margot Bloomstein in her book, Content Strategy at Work.

Gather brand stakeholders in a room — from sales and operations to UX and customer support — to discuss, define, group, and prioritize characteristics through the lens of who we are, who we are not, and who we would like to be. You can use this-but-not-that distinctions for this. The resulting three groupings of words can be synthesized into a message architecture that will serve as a guideline for tactical and strategic content decisions.

For example, here is the structure of a sample message architecture:

sample-message-architecture

It may be ideal to develop a message architecture when you’ve just set out to overhaul a site or develop a marketing strategy from the ground up. However, it’s a useful tool to have at any stage to guide future work. Everyone — from marketing and sales to product design and engineering — benefits from the priorities and goals conveyed in a well-thought-out message architecture.

More on how and why to create a message architecture:
Align All Your Messaging With This Simple (& Fun) Tool

2. Inventory and audit your content

After you develop a message architecture to succinctly prioritize the way your brand should be represented, it’s time to inventory and audit your content.

A content inventory captures a high-level, quantitative overview of what content exists and where it lives. It’s not a transcript of copy; the…

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