It is often repeated that “Content is King” within the digital world. That was true when the digital world consisted almost solely of websites, but given the proliferation of mobile, social, and syndication, it is even truer now. Therefore, your digital product must have a content strategy. “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content,” says Kristina Halvorson, author of the book Content Strategy for the Web.
She says, that “at its best, a content strategy defines:
- key themes and messages
- recommended topics
- content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements)
- content gap analysis
- metadata frameworks and related content attributes
- search engine optimization (SEO), and
- implications of strategic recommendations on content creation, publication, and governance.”
Therefore, strategists should provide a detailed document explaining how your teams will accomplish these goals.
Why a Content Strategy is Important
Current best practice is to follow NPR’s COPE (create once, publish everywhere) content strategy. This is a culture change from a content creation world that is focused on paper or a Web page. No longer is content substance linked to content form. With APIs and other forms of syndication, content can be sliced and diced to fit on different screens, used within different Web applications, and combined with other content. Instead, content must be written for reuse within multiple contexts. In the modern digital world, the government can no longer be in the “webpage publishing business,” but must pivot to the “content publishing business” in the many forms that will take.
Given the many resources available throughout the federal government, the best practice is to only create content about items you are an expert in. For example, in emergencies, federal agencies shouldn’t duplicate efforts of other agencies, but instead stay “in their lanes” contributing only what is unique to that agency so the public can quickly and easily find critical information.
Vital for an effective content strategy is a content management system so that content can be structured for many uses, including some that aren’t yet understood. Content creators may need to write multiple sizes of content (for example, a description, a short summary and a long form) rather than a single document.
Content creators will have to be educated on the value of metadata and how they can create meaningful metadata so their work can be used in multiple formats and by multiple users.
How to Implement a Content Strategy at a Federal Agency
Kristina Halvorson suggests your strategist should be able to provide a:
- Editorial strategy that defines the guidelines by which all online content is governed—values, voice, tone, legal and regulatory concerns, user-generated content, and so on. This practice also defines an organization’s online editorial calendar, including content life cycles.
- Web writing training that educates the content creator on the practice of writing useful, usable content specifically intended for online publication. This is a whole lot more than smart copywriting. An effective Web writer must understand the basics of user experience design, be able to translate information architecture documentation, write effective metadata, and manage an ever-changing content inventory.
- Metadata strategy that identifies the type and structure of metadata, also known as “data about data” (or content). Smart, well-structured metadata helps publishers to identify, organize, use, and reuse content in ways that are meaningful to key audiences.
- Search engine optimization strategy to edit and organize the content on a page or across a website (including metadata) to increase its potential relevance to specific search engine keywords.
- Content management strategy that defines the technologies needed to capture, store, deliver, and preserve an organization’s content. Publishing infrastructures, content life cycles and workflows are key considerations of this strategy.
- Content channel distribution strategy that defines how and where content will be made available to users. This could include social media platforms, email, mobile apps, APIs, or other forms of syndication.
Eleventh Hour Content Strategy, article on Meet Content about the importance of advocacy and leadership to an effective content strategy.