Strategic Communications is Content Strategy

two chess pieces on a chess board

Photo by Shirly Niv Marton via Unsplash.

Ever since Kristina Halvorson wrote the first edition of Content Strategy for the Web in 2009 (an excellent book), content strategy has been The Big Thing. When clients talk about Content Strategy, they think of it with a capital C and S.

For most clients, it means a big budget, all-encompassing project that both terrifies and exhilarates them. They wonder how they’re going to get that kind of project approved and funded by management. They also wonder who will take responsibility for a project of this size.

And then I come in and talk about content strategy with a little c and s. In fact, I often don’t even use the words “content strategy” because it’s a phrase that can scare people away. Instead, I talk about strategic communications.

What’s the Strategy?

Let’s take a quick look at some online definitions of each:

  • Content strategy: “The planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.” (Wikipedia)
  • Strategic communications: “The capacity of all organizations—not only corporations, but also not-for-profit organizations (including advocacy and activist groups) and government—for engaging in purposeful communication.” (Oxford bibliographies, italics theirs)

No matter what you call it, both are about approaching content with a plan and purpose: a strategy. I ask the same fundamental questions of every project, large or small.

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How do you want to communicate it?
  • And how do we make sure that your communications efforts are in compliance with your goals?

Not all clients have answers for these questions when we start.

Building Alignment

The basic communication needs are the same, whether it’s a complete web overhaul commonly associated with Content Strategy, or smaller individual projects. We have to decide what should be said, how, and to whom. In order to achieve this, we need to build alignment across silos. Let’s just take a quick look at two examples.

For product-focused content, we need to align a broad range of departments and opinions to understand the overall goals:

  • Engineering: Technical specifications and product details
  • Product management: Forecasting and data around the product life cycle
  • Marketing: Competitive positioning and communications ideas
  • Technical documentation: Detailed guidelines about how to use the product or service
  • Customer service: Troubleshooting techniques and clarifying the technical documentation
  • And, on occasion, influence from the C-suite

The same holds true in sustainability communications:

  • Legal: Creating policies that reflect the company’s goals
  • HR: Developing performance metrics based on the policies
  • Supply chain/Purchasing: Decision-making based on performance metrics
  • Investor relations: Communicating supply chain decisions to investors
  • Marketing: Communicating supply chain decisions to the public
  • And, on occasion, influence from the C-suite

By building alignment across the silos early in the process, we ensure that we’re all on the same page, with  no surprises. This is the intent of both content strategy and strategic communications, and it leads to more efficient, effective content.

Whatever terms you use to describe your next project, make sure that you and your writer are communicating with a plan and a purpose.

previous article | back to blog index | next article