Later this week, I’ll be talking with attendees at the 2013 NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) about techniques that nonprofits can use to help their content take flight.

During the session, “Air Traffic Control: How to Guide Your Content from Ideation, to Creation, to Publication” (Friday at 1:30 pm CT, hashtag #13NTCair) I’ll share tips for keeping your content production flying smoothly. This will include techniques like keeping an idea bank and building an editorial calendar (like the free Editorial Calendar we publish at LightBox Collaborative), useful project management tools, and more.

My fantastic co-presenter, Betty Ray, will talk about the air traffic control process she uses as senior blog editor and community manager at Edutopia. She’ll discuss how she has recruited contributors, coped with turbulence in the content production process, and adapted her process over time to lead Edutopia’s award-winning blog and other content channels.

But, before the NTEN attendees — and you — launch your editorial process and content publication, it helps to have a clear content strategy.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is the groundwork that strengthens your editorial process and content choices. Your content strategy sets out the value your organization offers to your audiences and how you will use content to get and keep them engaged.

Content strategy is a deliverable, something you formalize in a document and in processes. It is also a discipline that forms the groundwork for successful content production.

Keep in mind that content strategy is bigger than a blog post. One could write entire books about it (in fact, some very smart people have written very good books about content strategy).

Even if you are tasked with getting content published ASAP, you can still keep the core elements of content strategy in mind, even if you don’t have time (yet) to formalize it.

Core elements of content strategy

Content strategy helps your internal stakeholders be aligned about what your organization is trying to accomplish with your content, who your content is for, and how your content will inspire them to action. Content strategy:

  • Establishes the organizational goals that your content can support. These goals are your content’s purpose, the reason why your content exists. Knowing your goals will also give you a filter to help you choose which content ideas merit publication and which do not.
  • Identifies your organization’s audiences and the content they want to hear from you. If you try to say everything to every audience, the people you most need to listen may tune you out.
  • Examines your available resources for content creation. This needs to be firmly based in reality, so don’t overestimate the resources your organization is willing and able to commit to your content production. What resources — people, financial, and technical — do you need to “right size” your content to fit?
  • Pinpoints your content formats and types you can and should offer that will be useful, interesting, usable, and relevant to your audiences. This could include the written word, video, photos, infographics, or user-generated content. Also, think about longer-term themes for your content that will be engaging to your audiences.
  • Defines the channels that will help you best reach your audiences. This may include a blog, newsletter, website, podcast, or various social media channels — but you won’t necessarily use all of them to engage every audience. Consider both your organization’s channels and any that your staff may use in a professional capacity.
  • Explains your editorial voice and tone. What voice and tone is appropriate for your audiences that will also engage them and catch their attention? Is the voice and tone the same in all channels? (Probably not, you’ll sound more authentic if you use a casual tone on social media).
  • Clarifies any legal and cultural considerations. If your organization works with children, what is your policy on using photos of kids? What content needs to be reviewed by legal counsel? What should not be shared publically to protect the confidential information of the people you help?
  • Formalizes your editorial creation process and governance, setting out the steps that will get the content produced, reviewed, and published in the way you intend it to get out.
  • Plans for content maintenance, including how often specific content needs be updated and by whom.

If you’ll be at the 2013 NTC, my presentation will pick up from here — particularly about how to use an editorial calendar to map relevant, compelling content to your channels and track your content production.

If you won’t be at the 2013 NTC, keep an eye on this blog for a future post in which I’ll share highlights from my Air Traffic Control session.

Image courtesy of Ho-Yeol Ryu

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Lauren Girardin
Lauren Girardin is a LightBox collaborator and looks forward to seeing you at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Minneapolis, MN on April 11-13, 2013.