Content strategy vs tactical content

Strategic content creation

Content strategy vs tactical content

Content strategy isn’t hard to define: it’s about creating content – whether that’s graphics, text, images or video – to serve a business or brand’s overall strategic purpose.

A content strategy can be too detailed and cumbersome for most people to understand, so they resort to tactical content creation instead.

Equally, content can be created without much high level strategy at all – “this story must engage its audience” might be perfectly apt for some businesses, particularly publishers.

The problem is that most businesses and brands don’t have a lot of money to spend creating content, so they need to balance business goals against spending money or time producing content that doesn’t ‘work’ in terms of converting readers into customers, driving awareness of their product or explaining a new promotion. A good content strategy has no more than three key goals (ideally just one!) which can be measured or valued on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis.

Content strategy vs content tactics

It’s perfectly acceptable to want to create content for tactical, rather than strategic reasons. “We need a 400-word post on our website to explain our business’s 20% discount offer in October” can seem like an obvious thing to do if a business is trying to gain awareness through discounting.

However, tactical content like this is useless unless the business already strong organic search traffic to its blog and an engaged social media audience and email database to also promote the content to. The tactical post would be a waste of time if it wasn’t part of a bigger content strategy to build an email database, engage through social channels and build search traffic. Businesses should only engage in tactical content creation if they already have a content strategy in place. Otherwise you can be pretty sure all this complex and time-consuming content stuff will fall by the wayside into a big fat waste of time.

Different businesses, brands or people can use a variety of content tactics, depending on their objectives, but they should always ladder up to just one or two key goals which can be measured. For example:

  • “XYZ Widget Company creates content to build awareness of our services and drive people to purchase” is pretty simple but enough to guide the beginnings of a content strategy.
  •  “ABC Acme Company creates content to drive email subscriber lists which we use to promote our quarterly offers” starts to become more granular and therefore more measurable. A business could measure content activity against the number of email sign ups they generate, along with open rates and clicks on emails which promote the offer.
  •  “LMNOP Lolly Company creates content on Instagram only, as this is where our core audience of 12-16 year olds is likely to discover us and start discovering our product range.”

A digital content strategy provides the direction – and ideally the business justification – for the time and effort to make, create and measure content. It sits firmly between what the brand or business stands for and what the audience or customers are interested in.

Content strategy diagram

Content strategy is ideally SMART:

  • Specific

    What are the one or two business goals that need to be achieved through content creation? Examples could include: building an owned audience of email subscribers and social followers, growing authority of our product in a crowded market through the creation of thought leadership content, generating more customers by creating offers on Facebook, videoing the before and after stories that our business creates.

  • Measurable

    This is where content strategy tends to go awry, as no-one can agree how to define the ROI (return on investment). Some people think it’s all about clicks and views. Others think it should be followers and likes. Ultimately it should be about measuring the specific strategy. Website traffic, email list numbers, social followers and video views don’t mean anything if you’re not growing awareness, authority or customers for your business.

  • Achievable

    What’s a realistic goal to achieve within one or three months? How much content will you need to make? What contractors or suppliers might you also need to invest in (website support, email provider, social tools like Hootsuite)? If you don’t know the answer, engage an expert to see what’s achievable for your strategy and what a realistic measure of success would be.

  • Realistic

    Content ain’t an easy thing to make. It’s fiddly, time-consuming and can be hard to measure. Make sure your Specific and Measurable content strategy doesn’t mean one person is trying to blog every day, grow followers on social media by posting 10 times a day and producing an email every week. That’s just too hard. Consider what most needs to be done. Prioritise and invest accordingly. Don’t make your eyes bigger than your stomach. Trying to do too much, too soon will make a content strategy fall over before it’s had a chance to prove how valuable it can be.

  • Timebound

    Content is not like advertising. It takes a LOT longer to rank organically and build an audience than simply paying for a Google or Facebook ad. You can absolutely speed up the success of your content strategy with Paid Advertising on various platforms. In most cases, this can also speed up ROI, but it takes time and experimenting (along with great measurement and optimisation) to get this right.

Whether its strategic or tactical, content must be good

Regardless of your content strategy and tactics, all content should be created with a purpose. Don’t invest the time to make content unless you understand why you’re doing it and what makes it relevant to your audience. Content has to be more than a ‘nice to have’, otherwise it won’t earn an ongoing place in your business strategy.

Content must always, always, always be excellent. It should be relevant. It should be clear. It should be concise. It doesn’t matter what the content is about – just make sure it is unique, engaging and offers something new or different to its reader. Make sure you’ve Googled similar content and make sure your content adds something new or different to the information that’s already readily available.

For example, a business I was interested in working with called Displayr currently has a highly complex and detailed content strategy. Displayr is a data science tool with a content strategy that aims prove its domain authority and relevance in the data science space.

The Displayr content posts make anyone who hasn’t heard of R or statistical regression feel like a dunce. They are highly detailed ‘how-tos’ that appeal to data scientists, statisticians and researchers who could be interested in buying a licence for the Displayr tool.

It’s a clever and targeted content strategy, but it will take a lot of time to pay off, as Google can take months before it ranks a single post that doesn’t have a lot of backlinks as being the most authoritative on a particular topic. It’s not a content strategy for every business, but it’s the right strategy for Displayr. They repurpose the onsite content in emails, on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, so the content becomes more than just a one-trick pony.

Creating a great content strategy statement

A good content strategy statement should:

  • Make strategic sense for the company or brand;
  • Pave the way to better use of company time and money;
  • Create valuable information the target audience can use, share and learn from;
  • Positively influence client acquisition and retention with thought leadership or new ideas;
  • Create a clear direction for content producers to generate content;
  • Summarise what consumers of the content should think, feel or do.

This video from the UK is a good little summary of content strategy versus tactics: