What does “content strategy” mean as a line item in our project proposals? What do clients mean when they ask for “content strategy”?

There is a lot of discussion within the interactive community as to whether “content strategy” is just a new term for things that have long fallen within the wheelhouses of existing roles (“I already do that. It doesn’t need a new name.”). While this is true in many ways, the consistency and degree to which content is strategically approached varies widely among organizations and practitioners. For example, what falls under “user experience architecture” can be any number of things: user flow, site map, templates, interaction notes—the list goes on. Deliverables that address content are often included in this bucket on projects, but not always. Given that content is central to success, wrangling it under its own term with unified thinking to promote consistent best practices is immensely helpful.

At Clockwork, we use “content strategy” as an umbrella term for line items that are necessary for quality content, regardless of who performs them (IA, UX strategist, designer, communications specialist, editor, content manager, a developer who’s really good at writing error messages, etc.). We call it out on project documents and with clients to emphasize the importance of strategic content planning and execution, and to account for it in the budget and timeline.

How we work with clients.

There’s no cookie-cutter way to execute content strategy. The breadth and depth of work can widely vary depending on the project and the client. Some clients have dedicated content staff who are well-versed in how their various content channels should be leveraged and what role their digital content plays in the ecosystem. Others have fewer content resources and are looking for more guidance. So, when a client asks us for content strategy, we start by defining what it means for their project. Based on the specific project needs, we collaborate with clients and internal teams to cover the content bases.

It’s more than deliverables.

At Clockwork, content strategy is a method of both doing and thinking. Within our workflow, the term encompasses work done by various roles, but having a dedicated content strategist provides the unifying thread that guides how content is treated throughout the project.

It can be compared to a designated role of “meeting note taker.” Everyone in the meeting is likely capable of taking notes, but they may be required to engage in the meeting in other ways that don’t allow them to focus on thorough notes. And note taking might not be their passion or forte. Designating a focused note taker who’s really good at it results in better notes that serve everyone.

It works the same way with content. Assigning a content strategist ensures that content is properly considered throughout all phases. Content strategy is the collaboration and enforcement that happens in between the deliverables, ensuring the disparate pieces of content work align with high-level strategy. This can mean the difference between content that fails or barely passes and content that helps you reach your business goals.

But it’s also about deliverables.

Read Part II in which I talk about some of the specific line items under the content strategy umbrella and where they fall within the Clockwork process.