Enterprise content strategy: From content chaos to sustainable success

Your content needs more than tech and structure for long-term success. Here’s how to start building alignment on content strategy across your organization.

Enterprise content strategy: From content chaos to sustainable success

If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you’re at least partially responsible for untangling your organization’s content mess — or, if not responsible, then at least highly invested in seeing it happen.

Whatever the case, hopefully you’re not going it alone, particularly if you work at a large organization. If you are, I strongly encourage you to find coworkers who are up for (and excited about!) the challenge, especially your cross-functional partners. You’ll need to join forces to truly navigate the obstacles to consistently getting content right across channels and platforms. It’s a long journey, but there’s a map to help you get there. Let’s walk through it together.

What is enterprise content strategy?

At Brain Traffic, we describe “enterprise content strategy” as made up of four interdependent frameworks that are shared across an organization — especially large, complex ones, with cross-functional teams responsible for myriad facets of content production and management.

These frameworks are:

  • Purpose: How we make decisions about content
  • Process: How we synchronize enterprise content activities
  • Structure: How we model and organize content for systems and people
  • Governance: How we keep content consistent, accurate, and relevant

Let’s take a closer look.

Purpose articulates how we connect content initiatives to our organizational mission, goals, and strategies. It should incorporate OKRs (objectives and key results, at the business unit level) and/or KPIs (key performance indicators, at the team level) that can be directly impacted by content initiatives and activities. Ideally, it will also include universal user journeys that help guide decision-making across the organization.

Purpose helps ensure content decisions are made based on user and business intent versus assumption, emotion, or ego.

Process includes content roles, responsibilities (and accountabilities), workflows, and tooling. It also defines activities and skill sets along the content lifecycle: strategy, planning, production, distribution, measurement, maintenance, and archival. Sometimes it can include tool selection, but most often it means figuring out how to best leverage existing tools and tech stacks to support processes and people.

Well-defined processes introduce new efficiencies and help clarify responsibilities, which can get confusing when there’s a massive amount of content to keep track of.

Structure gives us a way to conceptualize and organize content types and their relationships within a digital environment. Specifically, having enterprise-wide content models allows us to consistently structure content across digital platforms and channels, which in turn facilitates better organization, presentation, and optimization of content. They are foundational to personalization, and they help “future-proof” our content so we can more easily adapt to new technologies.

Governance is the establishment of policies, standards, and guidelines for your organization’s content. It can also define roles for a content leadership council or team. Governance helps ensure that content is consistent, accurate, and aligned enterprise-wide, working to maintain the quality and effectiveness of content across all channels and platforms.

Who’s responsible for enterprise content strategy?

It can be somewhat difficult to determine which part of a large organization should spearhead this effort or more likely a set of related efforts. Often, it just depends on who has the resources and authority, as well as who’s responsible for what platforms.

There are always a million decisions being made that impact content in one way or another, decisions from creative, technical, legal, UX, sales, and so on. And even the smallest content decision can create the butterfly effect (which, I am just saying, is a part of chaos theory) across platforms and channels. So where does the buck stop, and for that matter, where should it start?

Here’s my take: Whichever leader cares the most about content as a business asset should be advocating for enterprise content strategy, right at the top. And part of that advocacy may very well be the willingness to step up and own it. (And if there isn’t a leader who cares — yet! — identify the leader who’s either excited about large content opportunities or concerned about content inconsistency/risk/waste, and cozy up. Get them talking. Figure out a good entry point to this conversation. Then dive in.)

All that said — and this is very important — if you think an area of the business can own the effort in a vacuum, you are sorely mistaken. To have its intended impact, enterprise content strategy is all about cross-functional collaboration, which requires ongoing alignment, essentially forever. So whoever takes the reins must also be a team player. 

Is your organization ready for enterprise content strategy?

It’s unsurprising that I think every organization should be moving towards building and implementing an enterprise content strategy. To see even the beginnings of success here, four things need to be true:

  1. There’s universal acknowledgment that something needs to change.
  2. There’s a desire to start treating content like a true business asset.
  3. There is sponsorship from leaders with influence.
  4. There is openness and curiosity about new ways of working with content among stakeholders.
  5. There’s a shared understanding that this work is a long-term commitment, not a one-off project.

These are the clients we see succeed over time. 

I will say plainly that, in many instances, it’s massively helpful to work with an experienced third party who can provide a neutral analysis of why things are stuck; collaboratively set a strategic direction; identify priority initiatives; model new ways of working; and help regularly align stakeholders along the way. If you find yourself nodding along here, I invite you to contact us and start a conversation about whether we can help with any of these initiatives. 

Enterprise content strategy is deeply pragmatic, complex work. Treat it as such, and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success!

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Kristina Halvorson is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in content strategy and UX. She is the owner of Brain Traffic, a content strategy consultancy; the author of Content Strategy for the Web; the host of The Content Strategy Podcast; and the founder of the popular Confab and Button conferences. Kristina speaks worldwide about the importance of content strategy, educating and inspiring audiences across every industry. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with her two fantastic teens.

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