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Show Me the Content Strategy!

by Julie Vollenweider on April 12th, 2012

Hi, Brain Traffic. Before we continue, can you send me an example content strategy?

It’s quite common for me to hear this question during preliminary conversations for project work. Despite being a regular request, it’s not an easy one to answer, for three main reasons:

  • Differences in vocabulary (how you define certain terms)
  • Specifics unique to your needs and project
  • Key drivers for why you want to see a sample

Content strategy document samples

With content strategy, there's no "one-size-fits-all" approach.

Although this is a complex question to address, it’s not impossible. Here’s how it breaks down …

Vocabulary

As an emerging discipline, “content strategy” can mean different things to different people. At Brain Traffic, our view of content strategy includes four main components—substance, structure, workflow, and governance. We call it the quad.

However, not everyone thinks about content strategy in these terms. For example, to some, content strategy means editorial components like an editorial calendar or a content style guide. To others, content strategy means cataloguing and organizing content. And the list goes on …

That’s why before sharing samples, it’s important to align expectations for content strategy, including:

  • What comprises your definition?
  • What’s your ideal approach? (If you don’t know, here’s our suggested methodology.)
  • What are your desired deliverables and outcomes?

Specifics

In addition to differences in content strategy vocabulary, your content needs, opportunities, circumstances, and resources are unique—every content strategy project is different.

Because we embrace each project’s unique attributes, our work at Brain Traffic is highly customized. That’s why our work doesn’t yield a “standard” content strategy deliverable that can easily translate as a sample. What we created for Client X isn’t necessarily going to be a meaningful illustration of how we can help you with your content.

So, the next step in our conversation is to talk about your unique situation, including:

  • A brief description of your proposed content strategy project
  • What you hope content strategy will achieve for your organization
  • Timing and budget requirements

Drivers

Finally, it’s important to get a sense for why you are asking to see an example content strategy. Do you need to:

  • Prove to your organization that you need content strategy?
  • Vet our experience solving issues or uncovering opportunities similar to yours?
  • See the level of detail we’ll include in our deliverable(s)?

The driver for your request may be more effectively demonstrated with a customized presentation of Brain Traffic’s capabilities and methodology, relevant case studies of our previous work, a conversation with one of our current clients, annotated excerpts from a related deliverable, a combination of all the previous items, or something else entirely.

The moral of the story is that we’d love to help you out! In order to do that most successfully, we’ll need to have an exploratory conversation to confirm your request, get a sense for your potential project, and understand how we can get you the most important information.

  • CN

    So let’s say I’m a potential client. I’m the content strategy evangelist in my company even though I’m not exactly sure what that means. My boss, very reasonably i would say, asks me to give show him some best practice examples of effective content strategies. How do I respond? By telling him that it’s a nascent area and that every content strategy is its own unique snowflake? The arguments provided in this article could be applied to most online discipline – many are messy and complex and context-dependent. Real world examples make the business case – why are they so thin on the ground in the world of content

  • Anonymous

    These are great questions, CN. I would agree that many types of projects are dependent on context–that’s why it’s so important to ensure the conversation happens very early on.

    To answer “How do I respond?” I suggest doing a few things:If you’re hoping to get an example from a content strategy firm to share with your boss, spend a bit of time speaking with the firm to clarify what you’re looking for and what information will be most helpful for you. Then, assuming you’ve received some educational articles, case studies, detailed methodology, excerpts, testimonials, or whatever will be the most useful “ammo,” continue the conversation with your boss. During this conversation, take the time to talk about your unique needs. How might the information you’ve gathered translate within your company? In an ideal world, what would content strategy do for your organization?The danger in asking for a sample without getting to the additional context is that your boss might get really excited about a solution that it may or may not apply to your situation.There are real-world examples out there to help make a business case. At Brain Traffic, they come in many shapes, sizes and formats, which is why it’s important that we work together to determine which will pack the most powerful punch for you.

  • Paul

    I’d just like to second CN’s comments above. I appreciate your thoughts, Julie, but it’s rather frustrating nonetheless. One of the challenges of content strategy IS that it’s rather amorphous. That’s good for you on the theory side. But it actually makes it harder for us on the implementation end. I’ve been asked to provide a content strategy document by my manager, but I’m not really sure where to begin. Advice and examples would help.

  • Anonymous

    Paul–I’d like to help if I can. Can you clarify “document” in this case? Have you been asked to provide a content strategy template? To provide a completed content strategy? Other? Each of these have different drivers behind them, so if it’s easier to answer why the “document” is being requested, we can go that route, too.

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