Val Swisher has written a good piece about the different things “content strategy” can mean. The phrase “content strategy” is hot right now. Scott Abel and Rahel Bailie are writing a book just about all the different things it means to different people.

This reminds me of the debates about “knowledge management”, which usually now means a place to store Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents. Or “customer relationship management”, which is either a marketing tool, a support tool, or both – depending on who you ask.

Terms like this tend to get appropriated by people with slightly different agendas, and Val’s article rightly points out that then it becomes difficult for everyone. We all have to keep reminding our audiences what exactly we mean when we say “content strategy”.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most of the definitions I have read are really just a part of content strategy, not something that you could actually really call a strategy. I am not going to wheel out a dictionary definition of “strategy” versus “plan” versus “tactics”, nor a tired quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

But surely one thing is clear: a strategy has to be all encompassing. It has to include in scope everything which might be relevant to success.

This means that Content Strategy has to be really strategic. It’s not just about editorial calendars, corporate identity, the website or a user manual. Content Strategy should be about who is my target audience and what content do I need to give them to win them (and keep them) as happy customers.

It also has to define aspects of the actual content. I have seen a ton of “content strategies” which say nothing about what the content should actually be like – “we need an email campaign around this”, “we should do more social”, “we should have marketing content that works for sales”. OK, so what do I write?

Of course you need a plan, a concept, or strategy if you will, around your technical product content, your marketing – and you need to work out how to go global. But these cannot be disconnected (mini-)strategies. They need to be connected.

None of these individual content aspects will be successful if you don’t have a strategy to connect them. Something which allows all the content creators in your ecosystem to write stuff* that works. And of course because not everyone can keep the whole thing in their heads, you need some kind of infrastructure to keep everyone, and all their content, aligned.

That last bit has been my mission for the last 15 years.

stuff: a technical term I learnt from my content friends at Facebook