5 Steps to Building a Winning Content Strategy

Shawn Paul Wood of Woodworks Communications shares his content strategy checklist, borne of hard-earned experience.


The foundation of content strategy is commitment. If your senior leaders or clients are not prepared to put muscle behind developing meaningful content that will engage and cause disruption in the marketplace, forget it. There’s nothing more aggravating in public relations than someone who demands results but isn’t willing to put in the work to get them. Content development requires time. Sure, you can ghostwrite forever, but you need insight and above all, approval. If you write something for the biweekly blog and get approval bimonthly, close that section of the website. If your organization is ready for content strategy, it means it has committed someone to help you develop compelling material that will be vetted and ready to impress.


The following is a passage from the Bible: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 KJV). This means that the “why” is crucial. While you are hoarding knowledge (the “what”) and improving your wisdom (the “why”), you will get more and more understanding (the “how”). That is the essence of true content—information that shares what, why and how. Without the how, there is no call-to-action, no marching orders, no movement. With any content, there must be direction. What do you want your reader to do? What is the takeaway? If you can answer that question every time you develop content, you may have a strategy in the making.


Without knowing your audience’s purpose and passion, it’s unlikely that you will create content that it finds meaningful. Often I’ve told clients and teammates, “Stick to what you know,” and cater your writing to the audience you want to serve. If I write online about baseball, no one will come to me to learn about cooking apple turnovers. And if I’m a baseball writer creating content about cooking, I’m unlikely to be discovered by a food channel. I will make baseball people mad because I’ve wasted their time. They could comment with angst or scorn, but what they will probably do is nothing. Instead, they will stop visiting, sharing and caring. They already do that—you just don’t realize it yet.


Notice this piece’s headline: “5 Steps to Building a Winning Content Strategy.” Those of us in the know (whatever that means) use the term “clickbait.” This practice has been in use for decades, way before the Internet. The people who perfected it are called reporters. A good headline makes people stop. In short, content starts there. You have to know how to grab a reader’s attention, and in this drive-thru world of microwavable attention spans, you must work in reverse. The headline provides the solution or answer. The content describes the problem. It’s like bait on a hook, fishing for your attention…or clicks. See what I did there? Answer first. Questions later.


Back to the commitment angle. You need to get busy. Content must be a priority if you are going to be found online. Without it, your thought leadership doesn’t exist. What’s your voice? What’s your result? What’s your industry? What does it need? What should it want? That’s your job to discover, but the result should be included in the content you develop and publish.

Source: Shawn Paul Wood, founder of Woodworks Communications. This article is adapted from PR News’ Book of Content Marketing Strategies & Tactics. To order a copy, please go to prnewsonline.com/prpress

This article originally appeared in the August 17, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.