Animation, riveting images and a contemporary color palate get you noticed. But a content strategy is the secret to giving your audience a more meaningful relationship with your website, your brand and your organization.

A website redesign is a significant investment in resources. The temptation to take shortcuts is understandable. But even Ferrari-sleek graphics, won’t make posts that have been gathering digital dust go viral. Your web provider will thank you for taking the time up front to create a thoughtful content strategy. Starting the project with clearly defined parameters around voice, messaging and audiences ensures that the old adage form follows function works to your advantage. Your top priorities will be reflected in the way information is organized and presented.

Yes, building a content strategy for your website will take time and effort. But it is also a chance to unleash creativity. Teams have the opportunity to step outside their day-to-day tasks and explore what makes your brand unique.

The following topics are among the issues to consider as you develop this important document.

Define the Vision

Don’t build a parking lot for information and expect it to be a place where people want to spend time. Inspire visitors by reinforcing the organization’s mission, vision and goals. Your strategic plan should be the touchstone to identify high-level communications priorities and messaging.

Posts must tell a story and, above all, motivate action. Consider how you want to make the audience feel and how you would like them to respond. What do you offer that is unique in the market? Why should visitors care about you? Every page should address these questions.

Audit Content for Strategic Alignment

A content audit is an opportunity to replace content that’s outlived its usefulness with meaningful information.

Any activity that includes the word audit sounds tedious and possibly judgmental. However, a content audit has more in common with Marie Kondo, renown champion of decluttering, than stern-faced accountants. It’s an opportunity to replace content that’s outlived its usefulness with meaningful information. The goal is to document current content and determine what to keep, toss or repurpose. Decisions should be based on how well each item advances the vision you identified. A completed audit reveals where there are gaps, where new information is needed and where popular information can be repurposed. Below are examples of questions that should be asked about each item:

  • How up to date is it?
  • Is it still correct?
  • Is it redundant? Does the information exist in multiple locations?
  • Is it posted in the right location?
  • Does it help visitors answer a question or address a problem?
  • Is it accomplishing your strategic goals?
  • Does it express your vision?

Promote Brand Identity

Your website is the most visible representation of your brand. Does the current design, voice and tone reflect your brand identity? Describing specific brand attributes and qualities and identifying any inconsistencies in the current site will help your web provider to create a new platform that reinforces the image you want to promote.

Identify Your Audiences

Trying to be all things to all people makes you meaningful to no one. Identify your VIPs. Determine which relationships are the most valuable to your organization and create content that strengthens those bonds. Audiences could include members, prospects, some sectors of the public, suppliers and other types of partners. The number of audiences you define will depend on the size and complexity of your business environment.

This segmentation is going to help you develop content that resonates with each group. It will also allow your web provider to structure the site so visitors have easy access to the information they need. You’ll avoid making a 30-something member click through multiple screens to find out what it takes to get certified. And, you might attract a new fan by providing a satisfying experience.

Understand Audience Needs

What you, your board and your colleagues think is important about your organization may not be relevant for your audiences. Creating content from an insider’s perspective is a common mistake. Stepping outside yourself is critical. Marketing personas are an effective way to form an objective point of view.

Building marketing personas is an opportunity to closely study your constituents. These profiles extend beyond demographics and into the realm of psychology. The goal is to create a fictional person from each of your audience segments. You’ll want to have a clear understanding of why each persona visits your site, what they are expecting to find and how they want to interact with the information. Once you’ve identified personas, your web provider will be able to create user experiences designed to appeal to each group.

Personas can include these basic characteristics—and, much more:

  • Demographics such as age, gender, income, level of education, geographic location
  • Occupation, title, other professional details
  • Personality traits such as goals and values (This information could be developed based on surveys, focus groups, personal experience or general knowledge about your constituent base.)
  • Level of engagement with your organization

Creating a persona template, a form designed to capture the data, can be helpful to ensure that you are collecting uniform information across audiences. Developing marketing personas is both enlightening and fun. This site features some examples that will brighten your day.

Target Messaging

Understanding personas allows you to interact with your constituents in meaningful ways. You can create messaging that answers their most pressing questions. This targeted approach centers around the Goldilocks principle, or making your site feel “just right” for a variety of visitors. A content strategy ensures the stylish design you create to get attention is balanced by substance that delivers engagement.

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