A Lesson in Content Strategy From Sesame Street

I came across a blog post the other day that sounded promising: ”Top 15 Most Effective Content Marketing Strategies for Businesses” it read.

I bit.

Unfortunately, the hook was the the furthest thing from guidance on developing content marketing strategy.  Here is, in part, what was written:

“According to the report, here are the top 15 most effective content marketing strategies and trends that businesses are implementing for growth and to increase brand awareness (GT’s note: I’m not including the link because a) I don’t want to criticize/embarrass this specific site – I’m sure they’re doing their best, and b) I don’t want to drive traffic there because the information is inaccurate):

  1. Social Media (marketing content via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)
  2. Articles (posted on your business website)
  3. eNewsletters
  4. Blogs
  5. In person events and meet-ups
  6. Case Studies
  7. Videos
  8. Articles on other websites
  9. Whitepapers
  10. Online Presentations
  11. Webinars
  12. Infographics
  13. Reports (educational guides)
  14. Microsites
  15. Branded Content Tools

You know that Sesame Street song where it say, “one of these things just doesn’t belong…” Well, these 15 things just don’t belong with the strategy headline because THEY’RE NOT STRATEGIES! These are a list of tools you may include in a tactical plan based on a strategy, but they’re not strategies themselves.

So what is a strategy, you may ask.  A good definition I’ve found comes from an article from Strategy + Business that describes strategy as defining, “where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value.” In developing a strategy, you’re basically answering the following questions for your business:

  1. Who is my target market and what needs to do they have that I can address?
  2. What are the dominant forces/factors influencing their behaviour?
  3. Who are my competitors, what are their respective competitive advantages, and how do they position themselves in the market/how do they address the market’s needs?
  4. What is are my company’s key strengths and competitive advantage (i.e. our BIG Diffs)?
  5. How can my company create value for its target market and itself?

The answers to these questions are your strategy and in aggregate they act as a map or compass to provide you guidance on how to “…choose a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value”, as Harvard’s strategy guru Michael Porter puts it. Or put another way by Joan Magretta, “strategy explains how an organization, faced with competition, will achieve superior performance.”

To develop a content strategy, almost the exact same questions should be asked and answered but with a focus on content, not the entire business. (For an even simpler but arguably no less effective approach to developing a content strategy, check out my earlier post).

With that definition, hopefully you can see why the above list is the furthest thing from a content strategy. Not to say that they don’t have value in providing options/tools for bringing your strategy to life through an action plan (another topic all together), but there’s no strategy there.

And if you make the massive mistake of thinking they are strategies, the “one of these things just doesn’t belong” song will be about your business not making any money.