The DIY Content Strategy Checklist

photo of checkboxes and marker to represent the DIY Content Strategy Checklist
DIY Content Strategy Checklist

Content strategy is crucial to your success online.

There are many steps involved in crafting a good content strategy. But it isn’t rocket science. Anyone with a modicum of digital business experience can do it. Follow this checklist to create and implement a state-of-the-art web content program.

How This List Came to Be

After a couple of decades of online publishing and digital marketing, I spent a couple of years:

  1. interviewing 47+ content-strategy experts
  2. reading every content-strategy book, article, and blog post I could find
  3. taking several online content-strategy courses
  4. attending Confab and other content-strategy events, and
  5. otherwise diving deeply into the world of the content-strategy profession

I discovered that there is no shortage of information out there for professional content-strategy practitioners and those who aspire to be. If you have some experience in the digital world and want to get up to speed on the professional practice of content strategy, you can easily do so in six to nine months of diligent study.

But what if you need a content strategy (and we all do now) but don’t have the time to master the profession or the resources to hire an expert?

This checklist is for you.

Who Needs DIY Content Strategy?

Content DIY-ers typically fall into one of three categories:

  1. Website Builders – design and development agencies and others who create websites for clients, but who don’t have a dedicated content strategist on their team
  2. Website Owners – startup founders, small businesses, independent professionals, bloggers, and others who may not have the resources to hire or consult with a content strategy expert
  3. “Accidental Content Strategists” – marketing managers, project managers, information architects, UX designers, and others who find themselves wrangling website content

As I wrapped up my year of content-strategy explorations I wondered, Might it be possible to articulate the content-strategy process as a list of actionable activities that any of these folks could do themselves?

The answer is yes.

This checklist sets out the elements of content strategy as a series of steps that anyone can do.

Many of You Are Already Doing a Lot of This

Many of you, especially those of you who create websites on a regular basis, are already doing most of the activities on this list.

My hope is that this list will both validate your current approach and flesh it out with some content strategy practices that you may have missed.

On to the checklist. There are seven stages. Several steps in each stage.

This early version of the checklist simply lists the steps. I’ll be fleshing out the list in the coming months as well as producing custom guides for various DIY content strategy personas.

1. Discover Your Content Mission

It might seem intuitive and obvious to you why and how you’ll create and share content about your business or mission. But it’s important to validate your assumptions by taking a thorough look at your situation.

  1. Identify & Connect with Your Content Stakeholders
  2. Uncover Your “Why”
  3. Get Clear on Your Business Model
  4. Review Your Business Goals
  5. Understand Your Customers’ Needs
  6. State Your Content Intentions

2. Develop Your Content Strategy

Turn your content intentions into an actionable strategy.

  1. Set Business Goals for Your Content
  2. Define KPIs for Your Business Goals
  3. Identify Your Resources & Capabilities
  4. Inventory Your Current Content
  5. Audit Current Content Against Your Goals & KPIs
  6. Analyze Gaps Between Your Goals & Current State
  7. Write Your Concise Content Strategy Statement

3. Create Your Governance Plan

You want to make sure that your thoughtful strategy is implemented and followed. So document your governance plan.

  1. Identify Owners & Deciders
  2. Create Guiding Documents
  3. Articulate Your Style
  4. Establish Compliance Standards
  5. Gather Your Governance Documents

4. Design Your Content

Content design differs from graphic design, webpage layout design, or website information architecture. It’s more about making sure that your messages and their meaning are designed and engineered properly.

  1. Craft Your Messaging Architecture
  2. Choose Your Content-Distribution Channels
  3. Design Your Content for Your Customers
  4. Model Your Content to Understand Relationships
  5. Structure Your Content for Multiple Uses

5. Build Your Content Operation

Depending on the type of content your customers need, your operation may look like a newsroom, a publishing house, a media studio, or a radio or TV broadcasting station.

  1. Choose Your Content Management System (CMS)
  2. Assign Publishing Roles
  3. Outline Workflows
  4. Create Your Content Calendar

6. Publish Your Content

This stage describes the ongoing operation of your content system.

  1. (optional) Migrate Content from Old CMS
  2. Create Your Content (or repurpose, license, etc.)
  3. Produce Your Content
  4. Distribute Your Content
  5. Promote Your Content

7. Manage Your Content Through Its Life Cycle

Content strategy work is never done . . .

  1. Monitor/Audit Your Content Operation
  2. Evaluate Content Performance
  3. Review Your Content Results
  4. Report to Stakeholders (ROI)
  5. Revise/Remove Content as Necessary
  6. Revisit Your Content Strategy & Plan

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