Not long ago I had a conversation with a content strategist for a large company. Because I work in marketing, the conversation naturally came round to content marketing. She, while enthusiastic about content marketing, expressed some irritation that marketers seem to use content marketing and content strategy interchangeably, as if they were the same thing.
Now, anyone with expertise is more precise about their own field than people outside that field — ask a forensic scientist what they think about CSI. Sometimes it’s just nitpicking, and sometimes it’s important only if you’re a professional within the field — but sometimes the confusion is of broader importance.
I think the content marketing / content strategy confusion is an example of where it really does matter that we don’t conflate the terms. Think of the small business owner who wants to hire a content marketer and advertises for a content strategist. Think of the marketing manager who gives a content marketer responsibility for tasks that lie within the remit of a content strategist.
As Greg Secrist puts it:
“In fact, understanding the differences between content marketing and content strategy, as well as planning how they can both work together, is one of the most important things you can do fundamentally for your business to succeed online and beyond.”
What Is Content Marketing?
Defining content marketing is straightforward: it’s the use of high-quality, relevant content to promote or contribute to the promotion of a business. The paradigmatic example of content marketing is gated access to premium content. Someone who wants the content has to submit their contact details, which will be used for further marketing and promotional efforts. A variety of other strategies also fall under the content marketing remit, including blogging and guest blogging.
It should be understood that native advertising — paid content placement — isn’t really part of content marketing as it’s traditionally understood, although the same team might do both.
What Is Content Strategy?
Content strategy is a broader field than content marketing. In a nutshell, content strategy deals with the management of all of the content an organization produces — and for today’s businesses, that can be an awful lot of content.
Content strategists think about everything from documentation to the corporate intranet. They figure out which content management systems should be used and how they’re used; policies for who can publish content and where it should be published; when and how content is archived; internal guidelines for the governance of content; and how the totality of content can be put to use to fulfill a wide range of business goals.
They’re responsible for designing metadata policies, communication plans, content auditing, migrations between content platforms, quality assurance, content auditing, and a multitude of other tasks related to the creation and management of content to the benefit of the business.
Ultimately, content marketers and content strategists have the same goal: to further the needs of the business through the creation and management of content, but the areas of responsibility differ. Both are essential business roles for any moderately sized business, but they don’t do the same thing.