Content strategy encompasses all decisions and actions that are necessary to achieve the desired goals of an organisation. From the analysis of existing content, the planning and implementation of future content, to the management and lifecycle of corporate content – content strategy is long-term, repeatable and can be compared to a lighthouse guiding your activities while surfing through the waves. As said in the words of Margot Bloomstein: Content strategy is the answer to the question: «How do you make smart choices to ensure the content types, tone and media in an experience support that experience in a way that’s appropriate to the brands and useful to its audience?»

An important part of every content strategy is message architecture, which is the hierarchical order of communication goals. These communication goals guide:

  • the choice of content for an organisation, e.g. communication through videos, blogs etc.;
  • the tone and voice an organisation utilises; and
  • the cohesive representation towards its target groups.

In the course « Brand Values, Message Architecture and Strategic Communication» I learned how to develop message architecture under the guidance of Margot Bloomstein. These developments began with an initial card sorting group workshop, moving on to an audit of a brand’s multi-channels, including its coherence and finally developing recommendations for a personal project.

From this course, I took away three key insights:

1. Start with card sorting

In a lot of the projects I had previously experienced, I started directly with an inventory / audit of a website, with the site structure or with jumping right into the concept. But you cannot do a sufficient audit of content if you don’t know what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate it. The card sorting workshop by Margot Bloomstein and its three different categories: “who you are”, “who you are not” and “who you would like to be” is a great activity to discuss in a large group about communication goals and how to prioritize them. I tried this method within my own organisation and besides learning a lot about the perception of employees about other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), it turned out to be a really great starting point to work further on the development of a tone and voice guide.

2. Develop a style guide

After completing the card sorting exercise and creating a message architecture, you should embrace your next big task: Develop a «tone nd voice» style guide. From my experience, people are often afraid that making explicit tone and voice decisions in a style guide will change their flexibility and authority in writing. What I learned from this course is that with a style guide comes a bigger flexibility through clarification about which words and terms to use for a wished effect. From my own research, such as an audit of an organisation’s omnichannel activities, I could really experience how it feels if different people write for different sections of the website in different tones and voices. In fact, not following a tone and voice guideline creates an awkward user experience. Creating a style guide does not mean that the information on all channels needs to be the same. Far too often tone and voice guidelines are confounded with automatisation. But as a person who is used to speaking in the same voice and having different tones related to the context he or she is in – so should a brand reflect about its chosen voice and related tone per channel.

3. Not all channels fit all goals

Strategic communication means you should use your resources wisely and make strategic choices of which channels to use thoughtfully. If you want to be perceived as a technical brand, it would make more sense to focus your resources on white-papers and eBooks than on live chats and games. Alternatively, if your brand wants to be perceived as an inspiring and motivating channel for dialog, webinars and extended social media communications can better serve these goals. With that in mind, take your time to think about the channel’s objectives and how they can contribute to your own business goals.

For further information check out the links below

Mailchimp styleguide – a great example

More about the module «Brand Values, Message Architecture, and Strategic Communication»

Content Strategy at Work by Margot Bloomstein