Content strategy and content marketing strategy might seem the same, but they’re painfully different. And even the biggest corporations are sometimes guilty of using the terms interchangeably.

While mixing up content strategy and content marketing strategy might work for some, it can keep a good inbound marketing strategy from becoming great. And though overlooking the difference between the two isn’t a crime, it might cause content makers problems at the planning stage.

To find out why, let’s dig a little deeper into how these two terms differ and how you can make them work together for your business.

Content Stratgey

What is content strategy?

Imagine an artist painting a canvas. She begins by sketching with a pencil. When she’s completed her sketch, she inspects it and makes some changes. After she’s satisfied, it’s time to break out her oil colors and bring the sketch to life. Assuming she’s a skilled artist, the entire process is now a work of art.

Content Strategy is much like that initial sketch. It defines boundaries, provides scope for improvements and gives a glimpse of what is desired.

Kristina Halvorson, CEO and Founder of Brain Traffic, defines content strategy as “the focus on the planning, creation, delivery and governance of content.” In other words, content strategy is the blueprint of any business.

A good content strategy lays out exactly how content, onsite or offsite, should be used to accomplish a business’ goals. Your content strategy should be treated as a master plan for using content in all aspects of your business.

What exactly does content strategy do?

A good content strategy answers each and every question related to the use of content. Content strategy answers the who, what, when, where, why and how of the content a business uses. When in need of a good content strategy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who will maintain and publish the content?
  • Who do we want to see it?
  • What content should be published?
  • When should we roll out our content (onsite and offsite)?
  • Where should we publish our content?
  • Why do we need content?
  • Why should the content be published?
  • How will the content be organized?
  • How will our target audience find us?
  • How often will the content be published?

Depending on your business, these questions will cover most of your bases, or at least get the ball rolling!

What is content marketing strategy?

In the previous example of art, content marketing strategy is similar to filling in the colors in a painting. This is where a content team’s skills matter the most. Content marketing strategy is the execution of inbound marketing.

CMI defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content marketing is typically a sales approach used to attract customers and retain them through creating and delivering relevant and meaningful content, thus making it the heart of any marketing strategy.

Content marketing strategy focuses on creating, measuring and publishing content marketing pieces such as inbound marketing, SEO, blog posts, social media marketing, white papers and more for specific audiences. It precisely addresses the how of your overall strategy. (This is where the two terms get confusing. Even though the focus is on marketing, the practice of content marketing strategy seems to share almost all the hallmarks of content strategy.)

A real-life example of the blurred line between content strategy and content marketing strategy

Sonja Jefferson, the founder of Valuable Content, has shared an amazing piece that shows exactly how we confuse content strategy and content marketing strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy

In this article, she explains how at the Publishing for Digital Minds conference, she was a panel member at a session that had originally been titled “Effective Content Strategies. In that context however, she felt the title of the session was misleading and changed it to “Effective Content Marketing Strategies.”

Here’s an excerpt from her article that helps clarify the difference:

“….Talked to some book publishers about content strategy and they immediately focused on how best to monetize the content they own. Their business is content; how should their business models evolve to capitalize on the digital opportunity?

But when looking at the case studies we were asked to present, it was clear that the conference organizer’s intent was to host a debate on marketing, not on wider business strategy. So the session name has rightly been changed to ‘Effective Content Marketing Strategies.

In this case, there was a need to differentiate between content strategy and content marketing strategy. It would have caused the audience confusion, so it was important we made that distinction clear.”

The key difference

The problem in distinguishing between content strategy and content marketing strategy is that their definitions are almost the same. The key difference is your focus.

Your brain has two lobes, and your left and right brain have to work simultaneously for it to function as a whole. In the same way, an iron-fisted content strategy accompanied by a solid content marketing strategy will play the role of your brain in maximizing your reach online … and they should complement each other.

Your content strategy should be the foundation for your content marketing strategy. Hammer out a robust content strategy first and surprise yourself by seeing what your content marketing can actually accomplish.

Please feel free to ask our efficient folks at Inbound Kitchen for their expert opinions.

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