The most successful online initiatives have spent time and effort understanding their target audience and devising content designed to engage their users. It is also clear that the owners recognised the need to map out the content needed to engage the attention of the user’s over a sustained period of time.
A content strategy is about making decisions on what your website, intranet, extranet or portal will contain in order to engage your target audience in a way that supports and advances your organisations core objectives. Similar to the role played by content in more familiar environments such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television, any online content plan must satisfy a number of objectives: it must engage your target audience, satisfy your organisations commercial or communications objectives and accurately reflect the organisations philosophy and branding position.
Both in the UK and Ireland the negative impact of ill-conceived or non-existent online content strategies have taken their toll. As a result organisations and businesses are dedicating resources to this critical stage in their online evolution. Why?
Why a content strategy
Content strategies for some organisations are thought to involve a bit of internal research that is then used to map out an outline content or site map and then off you go and start the build. What typically happens when this approach is employed includes:
The absence of a content strategy can be seen in websites whose content are based on vague assumptions due to a lack of consultation and planning at an early stage. But even more worrying can be an investment in a technical infrastructure such as a content management system that simply does not match the organisations needs. This can result in a Rolls Royce system being purchased when a Ford Escort would do and visa versa.
Benefits of employing a content strategy
Employing the necessary time needed to create a well thought out content strategy will minimise the opportunity for the vast bulk of problems previously outlined to be felt by the organisation and its bottom line.
Stages in the process
The Canadian and Singapore government websites are widely regarded as two of the most successful egovernment nations.
The core philosophy and a key contributor to their success has been the importance they have place on understanding their user’s needs and mapping out how these can best be meet online.
Stages in creating a resilient content strategy involve:
The creation of effective and well-written online content is not a science, but spending the time and effort in devising a content strategy is and is critical to your ongoing ability to harness the web to meet your overall objectives.
First published in the Content Digest January 2003