In a previous blog post, I discussed how we think about content strategy at Clockwork. The big takeaway: Content strategy isn’t one deliverable at one point in the project and it’s not always owned by a single person with the title “Content Strategist.” It involves many aspects and deliverables related to strategic content planning and execution, and its responsibilities can be shared by people in various roles.

So, what are the specific things we categorize under “content strategy,” when do they occur, and why are they important?

It’s possible to build a beautiful site without content strategy. It might have tons of great interactive features, be well organized, and have elegant page layouts. But what content goes into those layouts? Does it accurately represent your organization? Is it clear, concise, and helpful to site visitors? Does it add to what visitors may have learned about you through other media? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, then your content may not be serving your organization well. But, there are things you can do to improve its performance.

The Things

Below are examples of content strategy deliverables or tasks within our process that help ensure content isn’t just filler. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but it covers some key aspects that can have a huge impact.

Phase: Strategy and Planning

This is when we document business objectives, requirements, and implementation tactics to ensure everyone is aligned on the overarching strategy and direction of the project. The tasks/deliverables below give us insight into the current state of the content ecosystem to identify opportunities for improvement.

Content Stakeholder Discussions and Recap
  • Identifies organizational objectives and goals

  • Unearths any conflicting views by stakeholders

  • Provides insight into the current channel strategy, or lack thereof

  • Provides insight into the current workflow and governance processes and requirements, along with any pain points

Workflow and Governance Discovery Summary
  • Documents content creation and governance processes—either existing processes that work well, or newly designed processes based on project scope/need

  • Documents workflow and governance feature requirements for your content management system

Content Inventory
  • Documents existing content to understand the structure, breadth, and depth

  • Documents existing functionality

Content Audit
  • Evaluates the quality of your content against business objectives and user needs

  • Evaluates the effectiveness of your content within the overarching customer experience strategy

  • Identifies content gaps

Strategic Content Recommendations

(Aspects covered in these recommendations can vary based on project scope)

  • Identify strategies and tactics for how content can support your business objectives and goals

  • Document messaging priorities—in collaboration with your communications team

  • Document desired tone and “personality”—in collaboration with your brand and communications team

  • Document enterprise-wide channel strategy

Phase: Information Architecture and Design

This is when we develop the basic blueprints for the overarching site structure, interactions, and visual direction. The tasks/deliverables below ensure the design, structure, and content complement each other to increase effectiveness and conversion rates.

Content-Focused Review and Collaboration Sessions
  • Ensure that the structure and design consider the editorial style guide and provide sufficient space for needed content types and calls to action

  • Ensure documentation provides sufficient guidance for copywriters

  • Evaluate imagery and other content against the strategy

  • Evaluate site map and other user experience architecture against the strategy

Phase: Content Creation and Migration

This involves the migration of any existing content to the new site and the production of new content. The tasks/deliverables below guide and coordinate the process, which is important when you’re faced with a content-heavy site or application and multiple copywriters, reviewers, and subject matter experts. This aspect of content strategy can span across other phases.

Content Matrix
  • Tracks and manages the content creation and migration process

  • Maps the existing site content to the new site map

  • Indicates roles and responsibilities

  • Can indicate the layout/template type to reference for copywriting

  • Can be customized for each project and is a collaborative document

 Page Tables
  • Act as the content blueprints for each page

  • Indicate page or section objectives

  • Indicate primary page messaging

  • Indicate source content and subject matter experts

Editorial Style Guide
  • Documents standards and guidelines for writing that include elements of style, voice, grammar, format, and legal wording

Copy Deck Template
  • Standardizes how link text, heading styles, link destinations, placement text for dynamic content, conditional content, page sections / functionality, etc., should be indicated in the copy deck

  • Can emphasize types of content that should be included in the copy deck to ensure all headings, labels, and micro copy are accounted for

Process Management
  • Coordinates the content creation process by acting as primary contact for copywriters and client content staff

  • Provides consulting with regard to content decisions

Phase: Production and Deployment

This is when we build, test, and deploy the site. Even with detailed planning and a thorough copy deck, new copy needs often crop up over the course of building a site, usually for micro copy or system/error messaging (the small bits of copy that provide guidance for interactive elements). The tasks/deliverables below ensure that copy specifications are clear to developers, and that any new content is documented and approved.

Copy Deck Guide for Developers
  • Provides a guide for developers on how the copy deck is structured. For example, what do brackets vs. carets indicate? How are page sections, functionality, and conditional content indicated?

Error / System Message Tracking
  • Should be a collaborative document

  • Lists current system error messages that may need editing

  • Tracks new error/system messaging needs discovered over the course of development

Process Management
  • Coordinates the creation of new copy as needs arise

  • Keeps client apprised of any additional copy for needed reviews and approvals

That’s a long list of things…

Yes it is. Some are an integral part of our process. Others depend on the scope of the project. If it’s not feasible to do everything right away because of timeline or budget constraints, start by documenting what you want to achieve and evaluate your current content ecosystem. Then prioritize improvements and create a rollout plan for incremental changes.

By viewing content as worthy of thoughtful consideration and strategic execution, you’ll ensure your content is doing its job: helping users find what they need, engage with your brand, and accomplish tasks—all of which will help your organization reach its goals.