Building a Scalable Content Strategy: A 5-Step Framework

Learn how to develop, implement, and scale up a global content strategy

Andreea Macoveiciuc

Written on 21st August, 2020 |

9 min read

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The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of the steps involved in developing a scalable content strategy.

The article is intended for content strategists, managers, and digital marketing managers working in large companies and enterprises.

As there are a lot of topics to cover, I’ll split this guide into multiple articles, each of them detailing some of the topics above.

Once you have the big picture and understand how this content strategy framework works, I encourage you to go through the steps and take what’s relevant for your company, adapting as needed.

content strategy framework

Content Strategy vs. Content Marketing Strategy

Before diving into the content framework, I’d like to clarify the difference between content strategy and content marketing strategy, as I see a lot of confusion around.

Content strategy, in its purest form, means the planning and creation of content, its delivery, maintenance, and content governance. So a content strategy plan starts with business goals, looks at the target audience and messaging architecture, and oversees the management of the content lifecycle — including roles, workflows, and tools.

At the same time, a content strategy focuses on the content itself, making sure that content is not only useful and mapped to the user journeys, but also accessible and properly organized. Lastly, a content strategy looks at guidelines, standards, policies, and at the scalability of the content efforts across departments.

While a content marketing strategy covers some of these aspects as well, this term is most often used when referring to a content calendar and the roles involved in creating and sharing content, a content marketing plan, or a content campaign plan.

Keep this difference in mind and ask for clarification when you’re assigned the task of developing a content strategy. Very often your manager is actually asking for a content marketing plan but doesn’t care about the CMS, taxonomy, DAM, or governance part.

Content Strategy Framework

Phase 1: Planning

This first phase in developing a global content strategy includes three core activities:

Choosing a content governance model

The governance defines how content is created, published, and maintained, who is involved in these content processes and what the workflows look like. The standard models are centralized, hybrid, or decentralized.

You can read more about the topic and download a hybrid content governance template here:

Content Governance Models for Global Marketing Teams

Content Governance Example - Template

Performing stakeholder interviews

The purpose of this step is to understand the full context. Who creates content, who reviews and approves it, who localizes the pages, where is content stored and managed, what are the current content marketing processes.

You also want to identify the gaps and weak spots, and to make clear the business goals and areas where the organization wants to grow. The content goals and focus areas should be clear after this step and agreed upon with all stakeholders.

You can find sample questions to ask when creating a content strategy here:

Stakeholder Interviews: Questions to Ask When Developing a Content Strategy

Developing the content roadmap

From the previous step, you should have a clear idea of what your content goals are and what you want to achieve. The roadmap will, therefore, give the timeline of all content activities, and will make it clear what the content strategy deliverables are.

Read more on the topic here:

Content Goals and Roadmap Development: How to Align Your Content Efforts to Business Objectives

Phase 2: Assessing

The second phase in this content strategy framework includes the following activities:

Customer experience

How does the user experience our content? Are we meeting user/customer expectations? What are the weak points, such as pages with big drop-off rates, or flaws in the funnel?

Are our content goals in line with the content needs and preferences of our target users, or are we forcing users to consume content that prevents them from getting the job done? Is the user journey logical?

[This topic will be detailed in an individual article, I will update the link here.]

Content inventory & audit

The purpose of the inventory is to give you the full picture of the content that your organization owns. If that’s too broad, you can narrow down the scope to one department, region, or type of content to start with.

If you’re already familiar with this topic, you can skip reading and get the template here: Content inventory /audit template.

Unlike the inventory, the content audit focuses on the quality, not the quantity of content. So once you have the inventory report ready, you can extend it by adding the qualitative analysis.

This will help you identify pages that need improvements, as well as spot patterns and similarities between the top-performing pages.

Instructions on the how and why of a content audit and inventory can be found here:

How to Do a Content Audit & Extract Actionable Insights

Competitor analysis

What type of content are your competitors creating? Are users seeing your competitors as the online authority in the niche?

Are there user pain points that your competition doesn’t cover? Are there content formats that are more successful for the competition than they are in your channels?

Start smaller by choosing 3–5 competitors, or extend to 10 for a broader view.

You can read an example of competitor analysis here.

Content gap identification

The deliverables from all the points above will serve as the basis for the content gap analysis. The purpose of this step is to give you direction and to help you decide what to write about and what to skip for the moment.

Also, the gap analysis should help you see more clearly the weak spots in your processes and the areas for experimentation.

You can find a template here: Content gap analysis template.

Content strategy document

All the reports and documents that you’ve gathered until now should be included or referenced in the content strategy document, which is the final deliverable of this phase.

In the dedicated article, you’ll find a template that you can use when documenting the content strategy of your organization.

NOTE: Please be aware that this is a living document and will be filled in as you go through each of the next steps.

If you’re experienced and can define all processes and guidelines beforehand, that’s wonderful, but in most cases, you will not be able to have the full document ready in this step.

So create the skeleton & templates, and then add or skip the sections that aren’t relevant for your organization, from the ones listed in the next phases.

You can download the working document here: Content strategy document template.

Alternatively, you can download our One-year content marketing strategy template here.

If you need help in developing a scalable content strategy, get in touch with our team. We'll audit your content, research competitors and ideal customer profiles, and create a content strategy that aligns with your goals.

Phase 3: Analyzing

In the first two phases, we looked at the current situation, to know where we’re starting from, what we’re working with, and where we want to go with our content.

The next phases focus on creating a direction for the future and implementing it. Therefore, we'll start defining the practicalities: how the content should be structured, written, and managed, who it should target, how it should be tagged, and so on.

The bigger action points of this phase include:

Content model

This helps you go from unstructured content that is locked in design or CMS templates to structured content that is format- and channel-free, and can be served in a dynamic way across channels.

In this stage, you define the content types that you plan to create, the CMS templates, components, and metadata needed.

You can read more about content modeling here:

Content Personalization Prerequisites: The Content Model

NOTE: Switching to a CMS that allows you to structure your content doesn't always make sense. If your organization's website or blog is rather small and your core businesses doesn't benefit from consistent content creation, you don't need to overcomplicate things.

A decoupled or headless CMS has its advantages, but migrating to one and maintaining it does require additional investment and a development team.

Personas and user journeys

Until now we’ve looked at what content we have and how it impacts the users, but we haven’t talked about our target users. So this is the moment where we decide who we actually want as customers from now on — which profiles, which job titles, which industries.

Also, during this step, we look at the ideal user journeys. We can approach this from different perspectives and use frameworks like the jobs to be done etc.

You can read more on this topic here:

Making Strategic Decisions When Creating Content By Using Journeys, Funnels & Maps

Content mapping

In this stage, you focus on what content should be delivered to the users in which phase of the funnel/user journey.

You should already know what types and formats of content you plan to create and how each of them should be assembled and delivered, so this phase focuses less on the technical part and more on the user experience.

The mapping should be done with the content goals in mind (content conversions, product conversions, traffic generation, etc.).

You can find a practical example in the article below.

Mapping Content to the User Journey: A Practical Example

Taxonomy development

The taxonomy or metadata plan gives guidelines for tagging content and is useful if you plan to deliver personalized content on your platforms. Also, it helps make internal processes more efficient, by improving the findability of content.

By tagging your content and assets, you can avoid duplication and find content for reuse easier. You can read more about metadata modeling in the article below.

The Role of Metadata in a Content Strategy

Content migration plan

Please note that you don’t have to go through all these steps if they don’t apply. If you’re not planning any redesign, domain migration, or content transfer from one platform to another, you don’t need to put time into developing the migration plan at this moment.

If, however, you are planning such actions in the near future, I do recommend to have a process defined beforehand. You can use the template from the dedicated article, or personalize as needed.

You can read more about migrating content here:

Content Migration Framework

Phase 4: Developing

The content strategy also needs to clarify the tone of voice, the channels that you plan to use, the lifecycle processes, and the creation and distribution calendar.

In the development phase, you’ll focus on the following:

Guideline development

The tone of voice, brand image, and positioning.

[This topic will be detailed in an individual article, I will update the link here.]

Content types and matrix of channels

Which content formats will be delivered in which channels and how will that happen? Will you use additional tools or will the CMS dynamically push content in the channels? Who will be responsible for these actions?

[This topic will be detailed in an individual article, I will update the link here.]

Content lifecycle processes

From ideation to publishing, maintaining, and archiving content, all workflows and processes need to be documented in the content strategy document and then implemented across departments.

You can read more about this topic in the dedicated article:

Managing the Content Lifecycle Across Teams: Workflows & Roles

The template is available here:

Content Lifecycle Process - Template

Content creation calendar

This is quite straight-forward so I won’t explain how to create a content calendar, but you can find a template here:

Content calendar template

Content distribution calendar

[This topic will be detailed in an individual article, I will update the link here.]

Content performance metrics

When you set content marketing KPIs, always start with your company’s business and marketing goals.

If your company aims to acquire 100 new customers in the next quarter, and the entire marketing department is responsible for 50% of this number, then content marketing can probably acquire 10–25%.

In real life though, you don’t want to guess and come up with numbers based on intuition. So in this article, I’ll show you a data- and goal-driven approach to setting content marketing KPIs.

Content Marketing KPIs: What to Track and How to Measure Them

Phase 5: Maintaining

The last phase of this framework focuses on:

Content analysis and reporting

Depending on the analytics platform used, you may want to create some reports and dashboards that can help you interpret content performance and extract insights easier.

In the article below, I've detailed the metrics that are important for content, how to calculate them, and where to find them in Google Analytics.

Content Marketing KPIs: What to Track and How to Measure Them

Content optimization

This step refers to optimizing new articles or existing, underperforming pages. I’ve detailed the approach and best practices in this article:

Content Optimization Framework: When & Why to Optimize Content

In the content strategy document, you’ll find the framework and template for the optimization of the content included.

If you need help with your content strategy development or scaling, don't hestitate to contact us!

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