I've just completed some work for Econsultancy researching and authoring a Best Practice Guide to Content Strategy. It was a fascinating piece of work, not least because content is such a growing area of focus for so many organisations right now, but also because the concept of Content Strategy remains relatively ill-defined.
For a start, whilst many define Content Strategy in comparatively narrow terms relating to the fulfillment of marketing and Content Marketing objectives, the interpretation of others more broadly encompasses aspects such as information architecture, content structure and management, UX and so on. It seems to make sense though, that any fulsome definition should recognise an end-to-end process incorporating everything from research and insight, through management, resourcing, planning, production, distribution, review and optimisation.
If you look around, there's a few different definitions that seem to float to the top. Back in 2007, Rachel Lovinger wrote that: “The main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences". Content Strategist Kristina Halvorson wrote quite a definitive post on “The Discipline of Content Strategy” in 2008 in which she described the discipline as planning "for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content". In The Web Content Strategists Bible Richard Sheffield defined it as: "a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process”. So taking all these into account, and also the importance of the commercial objectives that are associated with Content Strategy, the definition that I came up with for the report was:
“A repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire content lifecycle to achieve specific business objectives”
I wrote a post over on the Econsultancy blog asking whether this is the age of the Content Strategist? It's a legitimate question I think. A number of organisations I spoke to for the report had people in situ who had the title 'Content Strategist' (or equivalent), and of those that didn't the majority had recognised its growing importance by specifically making it the responsibility of a senior director. Another thing I noted in the report and the post was the growing demand for, and value of, those content specialists who can combine traditional content skills (like journalism, production or copywriting) with a good commercial sense of the value of the work they are producing. Content Strategy is becoming much more of a thing it seems.
If you're an Econsultancy member you can download a copy of the report here.