What is the Difference Between Content and Content Strategy?

Let's answer that question "What is the difference between content and content strategy" right away:

content: substantive information that is expressed through a medium

content strategy: a plan for getting the right information to the right people at the right time to meet their needs and organizational goals

Using these definitions, let's dig further into what they mean for how organizations and teams approach this messy subject.

In the design world, the content-first message is gaining traction. This is exciting for someone who's been at it for awhile. But I fear that it might be at the cost of content strategy.

"Content-first" is really an approach to the design process. It means that before deciding what an interface looks like, you determine what content should be part of the interface. That means the structure of the content as well as actual words that will be part of the interface.

Content-first does not mean you must have all the content that will go on a website or in a digital product ready to go before you start design. It means that you've considered the content first and foremost and you build an interface to support it. In other words, you have designed the content. (Design, in this case, means to plan, rather than to make something look nice.)

That is waaaay better than content-last or content-whenever. But it is not good enough.

Content strategy considers what content to create in the first place. It takes into account the user needs and business goals. It asks who, what, where, why, and how. It is a plan. It is a foundation. It is a practice.

When you put content strategy into place, you might end up with a model-first approach. This means you start by thinking about what exists in the real world - your user’s mental model, your subject’s domain model, your organizations’ content model. Model truth – or as close to it as you can get for your context – so you can create as many representations of that truth as you’ll ever want.

To Do or Not Do Content Strategy

Here's what happens when you don't do content strategy:

  • Everyone/every department does their own thing
  • People put things up on the website with no purpose
  • You end up with a lot of content that has no audience, lacks consistency, is duplicated, creates risk, and results in sunk costs

On the other hand, when you put content strategy into practice, you get:

  • A manageable amount of content
  • Useful and usable websites and products that forge trust and engagement
  • Findable information
  • A way to evaluate what's working and what's not, which improves the return on investment

Which way does your organization want to go? Seems like an easy answer, yet just look around the web and you'll see that it's not so easy after all.

There is a way forward. It starts with one step. For design teams, that is often in the form of some training or facilitation to learn how content strategy can contribute to more efficient and effective processes. For marketing and communications teams, it is more likely to be a combination of training, coaching, and consulting as you manage a changing process and shifting tide of content. For executives, it means that they need to insist that all the parts of the organization work in concert with each other, much like an orchestra conductor.

This is why at Tanzen, we focus on getting content strategy foundations right. And since content strategy is people, that means getting the appropriate people onboard and providing them with skills to take a strategic approach to content. What is the first step for you? Let's find out together.