Content strategy is the process of planning and creating relevant content that delivers an excellent user experience and maintains the consistency of the overall brand messaging. Content strategists are concerned with delivering value to the user across platforms while meeting the company’s business goals. It’s worth noting that just a few years ago, some companies, including Facebook, called their UX writers “content strategists,” a term they have since changed to “content designers.”
“Content is king!” That phrase has been tossed around a lot in the last 25 years as the internet has grown. An appealing design may attract visitors to a website or an app, but valuable content rooted in concrete messaging is what informs, educates, and guides the user through the user and customer journey.
Marketers understand the importance of providing valuable and relevant content and ensuring their target audience can find it (and use it efficiently) when they need it. In UX, it also means ensuring the layout makes sense for the flow, the text is concise and readable, and the images support the scenario.
But how do companies know what kind of content to produce and how to measure its success?
That’s where content strategy comes in. It’s data driven and provides structure and organization for producing, publishing, and governing content that meets both the brand and the user’s goals.
Why does content strategy matter?
Content strategy lays out the foundation for providing value to users through content. It ensures content on websites or apps is helpful and makes sense for those using it. It supports and is part of a complete user experience and can play a significant role in increasing engagement and conversions.
The internet is a busy place, and it can be overwhelming! Strategy is essential for your company if you want to be seen and heard above the noise—if you want to make sure your users find the content that is relevant to them.
Content strategy is intentional. It involves collaborating with users, product designers, writers, and stakeholders, from the beginning of the project. It’s about planning and designing how to make your brand’s content appealing, accessible, user friendly, and “sticky” or memorable.
Who’s responsible for providing content strategy?
So who handles content strategy anyway? If you’ve ever looked at company marketing departments on LinkedIn, you know how confusing they can be. A content strategist might also be called:
- Marketing manager
- Content marketer
- Marketing specialist
- Marketing strategist
- Content strategist
Until recently, it was hard to find training programs that focus on strategy, so qualifications aren’t always set in stone. For example, content strategists might have a copywriting or marketing background or hail from UX writing or design.
What steps are involved in content strategy?
So what does content strategy look like on the ground? Like most UX writing and design processes, the steps will vary depending on your company’s goals and available resources. However, the content strategist should be involved at the beginning of the project, and a typical workflow might include:
- Getting to know the user and their needs – To develop an effective strategy, you need to understand your target audience. Market research, interviews, and focus groups will help create user personas to guide the project.
- Understanding your business – Content strategists also need a good understanding of the company’s primary goals and unique value propositions.
- Analyzing content – You’ll need to review current content (if there is any) and analytics to see how things have been performing. Analyzing competitors’ websites can also help determine what the audience is looking for (and what they’re currently encountering out in the world of content). The analysis will help you decide what to add, eliminate, and change to ensure content stays current.
- Planning content – Strategy includes planning the content and deciding how it will be written. Strategists may direct the creation of a style guide establishing the brand’s voice and tone and set clear guidelines about grammar, level of formality, and typical vocabulary.
- Producing content – Content strategists may work in simple word processing documents, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and/or use content-specific tools like GatherContent or Airstory (or even simple spreadsheets, like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) to organize and map out their strategy and content. As they’re writing, the style guide helps writers stay focused to create consistent, high-quality content across products and platforms.
- Managing content – Strategists may play a role in choosing content management systems and developing editorial calendars, not just with UX content but also with the company’s marketing materials.
- Evaluating content – Content strategy also includes evaluating success through user testing, feedback, and engagement metrics, such as signups, clicks, and more, and considering how content will be updated and repurposed in the future.
How does content strategy impact UX writing?
A content strategist may provide a strategy for all the brand’s content or a certain sub-area or medium, or may focus solely on a UX project. In contrast, the UX writer might focus on UX copy alone.
The UX writer’s job is to create user-friendly text that helps people understand how to use a product or service effectively and efficiently, and good strategy is the foundation for good UX writing. They need to understand the brand and the user and follow the guidelines, while considering the flow and helping design the optimal experience.
To create great content that resonates with users and brands, UX writers should have some understanding of content strategy. A content strategist, on the other hand, may never get into the nitty-gritty of UX writing.
The content strategist’s role in UX design
UX design isn’t like print media. It’s not one and done. Websites, apps, and software are constantly evolving, so content strategy needs to be flexible to allow for updates—e.g., targeting a different audience, changing the messaging or tone, etc.—over time.
Users familiar with a particular brand have expectations about the content the brand produces, its messaging, the interface, and how they interact with it. Content strategists need to understand how all these pieces fit together so they can look at the content a company already has and decide what needs to be created.
The content strategist is a voice for the user within the design team. Additionally, strategists often liaise between writers and designers, so they need to have a big-picture vision for the final project. It doesn’t matter how great and appealing the design is. If the content isn’t up to par and doesn’t meet the user’s needs or give the user value, the user might choose to move on.