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Content strategy is a journey – it requires navigation, exploration and resilience.

But like any journey, careful planning is crucial before you set sail. That is the difference between navigating uncharted choppy waters and picking the calmest seas. Ask yourself these questions: Why do you need content? What are your goals? And what impact do you want it to have?

Great content is the difference between going unnoticed and making a splash.

But engaging copy and eye-catching visuals aren’t always enough. You may already be a great creator but struggling to get the traction you deserve. Come with me on the journey to demystify content strategy and lay the groundwork to ensure that your content reaches the right audience at the right time.

Step 1: Define your content goals

So, you’ve decided your business needs content . But why?

You can’t reach your destination if you don’t know where you want to go. Define your objective early, and only then create a strategic treasure map to get you there. Don’t waste budget, resource, and effort creating high-quality but ultimately ineffective content – use your time wisely and stay focused on your end goal.

Ask yourself: Is this content about lead generation, or is it about brand awareness? Maybe you want to use it to drive sales directly? Perhaps you want to engage your social media audience with irresistible headlines and thought-provoking articles?

Step 2: Identify your target audience

Now you know what you want from your content, you need to decide who it’s targeting. Which shipmates are you hoping to recruit? Who, ultimately, do you want to reach?

There are a lot of different ways to categorise your potential audience. Are you producing content to attract new users, or are you looking to strengthen retention and speak directly to returning customers?

Ask yourself: Who do I want to target? And why do I want to reach this group of people?

Step 3: Choose content formats

Your destination is awaiting you, but still need to use right vessel to get there.

Targeting the right audience can be difficult, but this is where your chosen delivery channel can make the difference. Do you want your content to grow leads at the top of your marketing funnel, or somewhere further down.

For example, if you want to build brand awareness, then you need to appeal to new customers through channels like paid media, or growing an audience on social media. This can be supported by blog posts targeting search traffic. These are often potential customers looking for something very specific, and so are much more likely to convert.

Conversely, if you want to speak to your pre-existing user base, content designed for email marketing will almost always be the better option.

But remember, using only one format isn’t enough. If you’re a food and drinks brand looking to create social-first content, consider using the assets you create to make a range of supporting blog posts – such as recipes or behind-the-scenes content.

Ask yourself: How does my preferred audience consume content? Where is this audience positioned in my sales funnel? Can I repurpose this content into a different format to reach an even wider audience?

Step 4: Set tone of voice

Brand identity is important. A strong brand image has been shown to directly influence purchase intention and even mitigate the challenge of higher price points. Once you’ve developed a unique and winning tone of voice, it needs to stay consistent across all communications.

Creating a working document can be helpful in finding and maintaining your brand’s voice, but more importantly it can help other members of your team to write in a cohesive way when they create content too.

Developing your voice means every team member pulls together in unison to keep the ship on an even keel.

Ask yourself: is your brand’s voice serious or tongue in cheek? What does your target audience expect? What do you want your audience to feel when they read your content?

Step 5: Create content ‘buckets’

I like to think of creating content as filling up a series of buckets, with each representing a unique theme.

These are essentially post categories. For example, ‘Five minutes with…’, ‘Big Thinkers’ or case studies are all buckets that can be filled by this blog – or any agency blog!

By the time you have content in all of the buckets, you’ll have a website with a diverse range of relevant posts and pages for your audience or customers to explore.

Ask yourself: What content ‘buckets’ will resonate with my target audience? Are some buckets more important than others? How many posts do I realistically need in each bucket each month?

Step 6: Create a content calendar

You’re almost ready to set sail, but every content captain needs some help navigating the digital seas.

It’s a good idea to create a content calendar to map out your journey. Think of this as your compass, helping guide you where you need to go.

In Step 5 you filled up your buckets, now’s the time to start planning when they go live.

It also helps to have an eye on bank holidays, awareness days or any big upcoming events – such as a World Cup final or the Oscars – that will help you create timely content which resonates with your audiences on social or search.

Ask yourself: How many posts do you want to publish each week? How will the creation of those posts be divided up – are you going to do it all, or do you have a team to help? Are any milestones or announcements on the horizon you can tie content to? Will there be any particularly busy periods where you won’t be able to create content – and will either need to work ahead or reshuffle resources to hit your content goals?

With these steps, your content strategy is ready for a maiden voyage. Get writing, shooting, recording – or even better, get in touch with Thinking Hat to find out how we can help you steer the ship, raise the sails and achieve your business goals with effective content strategy and production.