A Nine Discipline Content Strategy Maturity or Readiness Model

When working with our clients in helping to develop content strategies, I am often asked at some point during the initial discovery or assessment phase “how are we doing?”.Human nature dictates that people are naturally curious if their problems or processes are normal – and if not – how far from normal they are.

Then once we get to the recommendations stage of an engagement, clients are often wondering what to do first, or where to place their emphasis or investment. In addition, it is obviously good practice to baseline performance at the start of any project and I have found that clients like to know where they are today, with a view to where they’d like to be tomorrow.

To this end and in order to help frame the conversation and shape the project going forward I have developed a maturity model across nine different content strategy disciplines that, following a discovery or assessment phase, can give the client a qualitative statement of their current state. In having these structured conversations.

I have also found it a great way to drive to organizational issues, challenges with the overall digital strategy, the story they want to tell and to who – all great conversations. Anyway, I thought I would share those nine disciplines here.

#1 – Alignment with business strategy and objectives

How the current content strategy is aligned with and supports the overall business strategy and objectives of the corporate digital marketing strategy.

Ratings: (1) Content messaging developed tactically within silos to (5) content is well aligned with corporate strategy and measured

#2 – Audience Understanding and Customer Insight

How well the organization as a whole understands the audience and the segments, the content they need along each stage of a buying or customer task journey.

Ratings: (1) limited silo’d or aspirational understanding of the audience to (5) the enterprise has a central view of the audience and personas

#3 – Measurement

The organization’s ability to measure the value and effectiveness of content compared to the business objectives. For example linking content to revenue, lead generation or the reduction in support calls.

Ratings: (1) Rudimentary web analytics (page views) to (5) business metrics (e.g.: leads/revenue/support calls) are directly attributed to content

#4 – Content Relevance

How well audience insight and business objectives are applied to the commissioning and development of new content and it’s impact and relevancy compared to the industry and audience once published.

Ratings: (1) Content development is haphazard and is not resonating with audience to (5) content is correctly positioned within the industry or audience conversation, contributing positively to appropriate metrics, such as brand sentiment and customer satisfaction.

#5 – Messaging and editorial framework

How the organization orchestrates a common messaging framework and editorial guidelines (tone of voice, writing style etc.) that is consistent with the brand strategy, coordinated across business units, products and events.

Ratings: (1) Content is created on a reactive, haphazard or tactical basis to (5) there is a clear messaging strategy with central coordination

#6 – Content Operations

How content is provisioned, managed, re-used, localized and published by the business users and the effectiveness of the tools.

Ratings: (1) Content publication is poorly managed, publication is a technical task and highly constrained to (5) marketing and communications business users are fully able to publish content, create content variants for personalization and localization, able to manage metadata and manage the experience.

#7 – Common Vocabulary and Metadata

The way an organization manages a common vocabulary across the organization that supports personalization, related content functionality, content re-use, search and SEO. For example the way products and services are described or the way content is tagged for specific audiences.

Ratings: (1) Haphazard or inconsistent content tagging strategy to (5) a centrally defined and maintained common vocabulary, taxonomy or metadata strategy

#8 – Channel Distribution

The capability to share, re-purpose and publish content across multiple distribution channels, including (for example) mobile, email, internal call center, social sites and syndication to partner websites.

Ratings: (1) Content published as static web pages on single websites to (5) content items are managed, repurposed and distributed across multiple digital publications and formats. 

#9 – Governance and Compliance

How an organization manages the content publication workflow, it’s legal and brand compliance and accuracy, including the people, processes and tools. Once published the organizations implementation of policies for audit, compliance checking and retention and the tools used to achieve this.

Ratings: (1) Content publication is haphazard, with little process or policies to (5) all content is appropriately approved through a tight workflow process and there are documented and automated compliance audits, retention and archive policies.

There you go, my 9 areas to rate your content strategy readiness or maturity.

One quick caveat – typically we work with larger clients, who’s web properties or digital strategies span a number of business units, products and geographies, so these disciplines have been developed through this lens, so may not be appropriate for your organization or project. But, I hope you find something, maybe a subset of these ideas useful.

If you have any feedback, or if I’ve missed something, then please comment.

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