The following broad steps are important in creating professional-grade Content Strategy for a branded website, microsite, app, social media presence, or even a content campaign with complex landing page. “Important” = “Don’t forget to budget for time and resources to get these done!” Covering all these bases will avoid downsides of time and cost slippage, and on the upside will ensure a balanced, high-quality plan – and execution – for whatever project you’re ramping up.
1. Establish the Boundaries
Define the team, vendor and client roles, the expertise levels of each, and the final state of content upon launch. This will affect how much effort will be required for proposals, approvals and documentation of both content strategy and actual content development.
2. Immerse Yourself
Absorb all discovery documentation, creative briefs, pre-existing related client brand collateral, business strategy, and other material affecting the vision of the new site/campaign/project
3. Survey the Field
Familiarize yourself with the competitive landscape and relevant industry best practices – products and campaigns
4. Crystallize the Vision
Hold workshops, if necessary, with stakeholders to distill the brand essence, vision, and goals for the particular content elements of the project
5. Stay on Track With Your Audience
If necessary, create User Scenarios and/or Personas to keep creative development in line with target audience
6. Unify (and Re-Unify) Your Approaches
Hold frequent check-ins with Design and UX (and Dev if necessary) to ensure you’re all baking in a unified philosophy to whatever draft deliverables come due. The visual language must play well with the copy which must play well with the navigation structure which must play well with… you get the idea.
7. Establish a Voice and Document It
Create a Voice & Tone document, capturing all content stylistic parameters for the site. Hand off to whoever will take the reins of content development.
8. Experiment With Copy – Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Begin generating sample branded copy to test for style and tone (often in parallel with sample design look and feel boards). This is a good place to remind yourself that you enjoy the creative process! Get loose, and explore options with your colleagues across all departments.
9. Embed Content in Design Comps to Get Feel
As you polish the draft content, work with Design to constantly adjust the type, depth, and tone of content as visual comps evolve through the project
10. Wrangle Your Content
Begin the Content Matrix (mirroring the UX sitemap and wireframes), which will house all the site content for documentation, iteration, review, and ultimately, development
11. Plan for Care and Feeding of Content
If in scope, create a Content Roadmap (or “governance” doc) outlining the longer-term content vision, maintenance roles, refresh rate, and other needs to keep the property viable
12. Stay on Your Toes and Supplement Your Basic Milestones
Through project launch, track, edit, and iterate content according to project/client demands. Be flexible and create additional custom content documents specifically for the project as needs arise (this happens often enough that you should always expect some improvisation). And think about how best to present them: In person, via web, or as static documents sent to colleagues and stakeholders.
If all ends well, Step #13 will be to celebrate a successful launch, consider lessons learned, and add a shining gem to your portfolio.