At the dying of the year I succumbed to the temptation to run one more half marathon: the cleverly billed Last Chance Half Marathon. One of the reasons was that I wanted to deliver on my half-forgotten resolution to run four half marathons in 2017. After the race, I had no regrets. It was a beautiful fog-to-sun kind of winter morning, perfect for running along the scenic Interurban trail.
So, not every decision we make on the spur of the moment leads to catastrophic results. Many successful startups adopt a bias-towards-action mindset. When in doubt, do something: It’s often better to act than to stand still, especially in an emerging or dynamic marketplace. And the same is true for running: You can always think of a reason not to run – heading out on the trail is generally better than staying home.
That said, spontaneity can only go so far. Lack of planning is not a great way to reach your goals.
Content strategy helps you stay on track
With the new year gathering speed, you may have a few content-related resolutions to act on, including:
- Create more content
- Create more effective content
- Try out new formats, such as infographics or podcasts
- Find new writers (some of your subject matter experts may have a “start writing” New Year’s resolution!)
- Establish a new editorial team
A well-developed content strategy plan supported by appropriated processes and systems can help ensure your stepped-up content efforts will deliver value on an ongoing basis.
Here are three common traps that content strategy can help you avoid as you go to act on your 2018 resolutions:
#1 Lack of clarity around strategic goals
Why goals are important: Clearly articulated goals clarify what you should focus on. They also help generate enthusiasm and keep your team on track when the going gets tough.
This is not just a content problem: Few runners have the stamina to stick to their training without a clear goal, such as breaking a PR, finishing a race, or winning one.
Content strategy safeguard: Every content strategy plan worth its salt starts with digging into the evolving needs of your users, members, and readers, as well as those of your organization. This will give you insight into what your strategic goals should be for the year – and beyond.
#2: Going straight to tactics
Why a strategic mindset is important: Without a strategic focus, it’s tempting to jump to tactics, such as producing more video, doubling down on social media, or tripling your blog production. A lack of strategy also leaves you without a strong defense when you get an impromptu request from a stakeholder that is unlikely to drive value for the organization.
This is not just a content problem: Runners who follow a training plan but don’t understand the reasoning behind the different types of training sessions often skip the hard interval training sessions that are so critical to race-day success.
Content strategy safeguard: A comprehensive content strategy plan lays out your overall strategies. For example, a strategic goal may be to establish yourself as a leading brand in a specific industry. To accomplish that goal would require understanding who you’re competing with, what your competition is doing, and what types of content resonate with that audience. That’s a much more powerful approach than jumping to a tactic like “Let's blog about topics related to this industry.” Blogging may end up being the tactic you use, but it shouldn’t be the starting point for your efforts.
#3 Lack of follow through
Why follow through is important: To accomplish something that requires sustained effort, you need a way to keep track of what you’re doing, and the flexibility to adjust as needed.
This is not just a content problem: Many people who make a New Year’s resolution to get in better shape join a gym, but they often don't last longer than a few weeks.
Content strategy safeguard: A content strategy plan shouldn’t be gathering dust on a shelf. Make sure to frequently review and adjust (at least once a quarter) based on evolving business needs or user needs and interests. An agile approach to content development is one way to bake an iterative approach into your editorial systems.
In a nutshell: Get clarity around your content goals, spend time throughout the year to develop and adjust your overall strategy, create a concrete, actionable plan for reaching your goals, and iterate often – otherwise your lofty resolutions may die a silent death after a few weeks.
Bonus points if you apply the same principles to your personal goals for 2018 too!