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Elements of Content Strategy for the Public Sector

In the private sector, the motivation to strategically market is a direct correlation with increasing revenue. In the public sector, where customer satisfaction and budget aren’t always related, convincing bureaucrats to be “creative and innovative” can be almost impossible.

Today, fears of a downward spirally economy and a taboo on taxation creates an atmosphere of competing priorities for the politicians who allocate public sector budgets. Fortunately, low cost marketing tactics like content strategy makes it easy to show our old-school-minded bosses the competitive edge derived from  clear, concise and creative messaging.

Although few people set out to produce content that bores, confuses, and irritates users, the web (and your website) is filled with fluffy, purposeless, and annoying content. This sort of content actively wastes time and money and works against user and organizational goals.

According to the Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane, done well, content strategy:

  • •  Helps companies/agencies understand and produce the kind of content their target audiences really need.
  • •  Allows organizations to develop realistic, sustainable, and measurable publishing plans that keep their content on track in the long term.
  • •  Cuts costs by reducing redundant or extraneous publishing efforts, while increasing the effectiveness of existing assets.
  • •  Aligns communication across channels so that web content, print collateral, social media conversations, and internal knowledge management are   working toward the same goals (in channel-​appropriate ways).
  • •  Prevents web projects from being derailed by the often major delays caused by underestimating the time and effort required to produce great content.

Sustainable content is content you can create and maintain without going broke, without lowering quality in ways that make the content pointless and without working employees into nervous breakdowns.

The need for this kind of sustainability may sound obvious, but it’s very easy to create an ambitious plan for publishing tons of content without considering the long-​term effort required to manage it. Sound familiar?

There’s really only one central principle of good content: it should be appropriate:

  • •  for your organization,
  • •  for your users,
  • •  for its context,
  • •  in its method of delivery,
  • •  in its style and structure,
  • •  and above all in its substance.

Content is appropriate for users when it helps them accomplish their goals. What are they doing? How are they feeling? What are they capable of? The user’s context includes actions, constraints, emotions, cognitive conditions, and more.

How do I create strategic content?

  • •  Define a clear, specific purpose for each piece of content,
  • •  evaluate content against this purpose,
  • •  omit needless content.

Content strategy is the practice of determining what each of the aforementioned concepts means for your project – and how to get there from where you are now. Simply adding more content to “cover all bases” makes everything more difficult to find and creates a decline in quality. An organization that subscribes to a “publishing everything we can,” rather than a “publishing everything we’ve learned that our users really need” policy usually indicates a deeper problem within management. Avoid becoming part of this problem.

Instead, create an user-​centered system that ensures the content speaks to people in a language they understand and is organized in ways that make it easy to use. Simple isn’t it?

Sorta kinda. In content strategy, there is no playbook of generic strategies you can pick from to assemble a plan for your client or project. Content Strategists rely on a series of core principles about what makes content effective, what makes it work, and what makes it good. The rest is trial and error, creativity and ultimately innovation

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