Words at work

– 8 min read

11 pieces of advice to guide your content strategy

Ashley Coolman

Ashley Coolman

Do you follow content strategists on Twitter? The #contentstrategy community is beautifully active, and there are tons of amazing people sharing their content wisdom, advice, and musings. I’m personally very much a lurker (I rarely tweet), but I love seeing what people share and — bonus — how others respond to and extend the conversations.

Content strategy advice and suggestions

1. Stop creating content you don’t need. —Hilary Marsh

When you’re creating content, it’s worth it to stop and ask, “Why?” Content strategy consultant Hilary Marsh suggests asking these questions to determine if this content should actually exist:

  1. How do we know our audience wants/needs this?
  2. What is the business need for it?
  3. What is our (measurable) goal for creating it?
  4. How do we know we need NEW content about this topic?
  5. What is our capacity for doing this?

2. Give up on the perfect website. —Kristina Halvorson

Great content is all about iteration – it’s never done. Don’t let perfection become a blocker for getting your work out there. Once it’s live, you can start tests to figure out what’s working, what’s not, and where you should put the next chunk of your effort.

3. Content has to keep up with organization innovation. —Cruce Saunders

Your content operations playbook shouldn’t be the same today as it was a year ago. Your business has changed, so the way you manage content needs to evolve with it. This includes potentially updating where to focus time and energy, how to structure and organize content, how you collaborate with colleagues, and more.

Here’s Cruce’s list:

  • Taxonomies need to evolve.
  •  Metadata needs to expand.
  •  Content structures need to accommodate.
  •  Channels need new renderings.
  •  Platform schemas need updating.

[widget id=”sow-editor-7″]

4. Language influences our thinking without us even knowing it. —David Dylan Thomas

Switching it up: sharing an awesome podcast episode published just before the new year. I’ve also heard David speak at Confab and everything he shares about bias in content is gold. In this podcast episode, he and Mbiyimoh Ghogomu discuss bias in language, including the framing effect, word soup, how different languages talk about the future, and evidentiality.

“Language is one of the things that biases our thinking the most in ways that are the hardest to get at… It’s hard for us to zoom out far enough to get a sense of how the language is actually affecting the conversations, the scenarios,” says Mbiyimoh. I highly suggest this episode (and many other episodes of this podcast) for every writer and anyone interested in linguistics and language.

5. Lift others up. —Kristina Halvorson

Another good one from Kristina, this time relating to participating in the content practice and community. It’s a reminder that there’s always enough content work to go around, so as you improve, try to lift others up with you. If your colleague makes a mistake, teach them how to improve next time. If you see something that’s wrong, provide information that explains what’s right. If you find content that doesn’t live up to your standards, suggest alternatives and explain why you’d suggest those changes. If you can help improve those around you, your job will be easier too.

6. Exceed user expectations. —Rachel McConnell

As a content strategist, your job is not to meet user expectations. Your job is to delight people through words. Make your content, product, services so easy to understand and work with that they never question what you were possibly thinking when you wrote that.

7. Your readers aren’t reading. —Ben Leach

Assume your readers are skimming. They most likely are. With that assumption in mind, make sure you organize and write your content in a way that is easy to digest and understand. Only share what you need to share in that exact moment. For more help on how to do that, check out FirstSiteGuide — they have useful resources on online content creation.

8. Say what you mean. —Jonathon Colman

Make this year the year where your organization puts more focus on communicating clearly and honestly. People shouldn’t be confused by your content. They shouldn’t have to re-read your words three times trying to figure out what you mean. And building on that, make it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for. Use clear, descriptive headers and build an intuitive information architecture.

9. Acknowledge any uncertainties in your content to build trust. —Margot Bloomstein

Authenticity is the word of the decade. If you want people to have faith in you and your organization, honest transparency shows them that you are doing your best. Acknowledge when you’re still figuring things out or when things may change. If you do, you’ll be on the right track to building trust with the person on the other side of your content.

10. Style guides are one part rules, one part delivery of those rules. —Michael Haggerty-Villa

If we’ve learned anything from helping teams create and implement their style guides, it’s that just defining the rules is not enough. You have to share them with your organization in a way that is easily digestible — that includes thinking about the design and information architecture of your style guide.

11. Good content strategy requires a clear understanding of your current and future state. –Colleen Jones

If you want to improve your content strategy, you need your benchmark and your vision. That means you need to understand where your content stands today in order to identify the gaps. Only then can you accurately decide which projects will be most impactful for reaching your content goals.

I’m sure later today, tomorrow, and next week I’ll find more tweets I want to add here. If you’re looking for content wisdom, I highly suggest getting on Twitter. Our suggested content strategy resources list also includes a few people you could start following right away.