A digital content strategy is essential to any heritage organisation. Whether writing blog posts on the challenges of maintaining botanic gardens or filming instructional videos on woodland management, all content needs planning, preparation, and sign-off. Content strategies help heritage organisations to think about goals, how they can reach their target audience, the best ways to gain buy-in from staff and volunteers, how to create a consistent tone of voice, and so much more.
It’s important to first define the digital content strategy. The term ‘content’ simply refers to any form of storytelling that aligns, however tenuously, with your organisation’s mission. A fun Facebook post about how to weave a basket is one example of content. A video on the journeys of the Flying Scotsman is another. A report on migration into London is also content. Content comes in various forms, in various sizes, on various platforms, using various types of media.
A digital content strategy is simply the articulation of the guidelines, rules, and processes that dictate the publishing of content. A digital content strategy can support organisations of any size, whether that means a two-page crib sheet reminding you when and what to post, or a comprehensive document complete with title pages, contents, an index, and whatever else.
Strategies can be simple and focussed, perhaps helping you to make the most of time spent on social media, or dictating how best to use emails. Regardless of the size and structure, digital content strategies are there to provide direction and support. And the benefits of an effective digital content strategy are huge. Below we run through five core benefits to heritage organisations and offer advice on how to make the most of those benefits.
A digital content strategy gives your content direction. Organisations, particularly smaller ones, rely on ideas and opinions around content, often from one member of a team, but do not develop such ideas further. A digital content strategy allows you to make ideas concrete.
Making ideas concrete means setting goals. Before you set goals, however, you will need to ensure that you’re taking audience needs into account. You want to produce content that is helpful, supportive, interesting, and perhaps even entertaining to your audience.
To determine audience needs and desires, start by using the information you already have – and you probably know more about your audience than you think. Heritage organisations can check out data from gift-aid sign-ups, membership data, data from anyone who has attended workshops, lectures, conservation trips, lectures, or any other social interactions.
You can use each piece of information to gain a better understanding of the content that resonates with your audience – and what you might be missing. So, for example, you could check out which of your articles or blogs have been well received, or whether images on social media have been more successful than written posts.
You might want to go further and combine the numerical data you have – which we can call ‘quantitative data’ – with some opinions around quality and general feedback – which we can call ‘qualitative data’. Qualitative data can help you fill gaps.
So, for example, you could survey your audience – through email or social media – and ask them questions about your present content offering. And ask what they’d like to see. If you’re a nature reserve, for example, you might want to ask whether the audience prefer videos of wardens talking, or summary articles of future walks and talks? Or maybe the audience wants a podcast discussing the flora and fauna of nature reserves? Who knows? Ask and find out.
So let your audience dictate your content. And, once you’ve established audience needs and desires, formulate goals and create your strategy. Remember to follow these simple steps:
- Involve all necessary people, as that will improve buy-in and transparency
- Brainstorm, narrow down ideas, and develop key goals for your content
- Use the SMART principles to consolidate and define your goals
- Write down all objectives, methods, and responsibilities
- Share, review, and revise in the future
A digital content strategy allows heritage organisations to give roles and responsibilities. The SMART principles mentioned above mean that your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timed – and that alone will vastly improve buy-in from your team.
SMART goals give an indication of what’s expected by each team member and by when. The content strategy should provide the ‘how’ – so that every team member can follow the exact trajectory, without any gaps in knowledge and without any feeling of exclusion.
And the measurable element of the SMART goals means that you can benchmark against targets as you progress. So, whether doing this on your own or as part of a team, it’s best to have SMART goals. Team members who know what’s expected, along with knowledge of the resources and times, are far more likely to buy-in to your digital content. That means they’re likely to be more motivated and feel more valued. In short, digital content strategies massively improve employee morale.
With the widespread knowledge provided to everyone involved, digital content strategies allow heritage organisations to increase transparency. Everyone knows what’s being done, with what tools, and what role they play in that process.
Transparency leads to loads of knock-on benefits. According to studies, employees indicated that organisational transparency is the number one factor in determining workplace happiness. And, as a report on the heritage sector shows, transparency is needed for robust governance and accountability. And, of course, transparency broadly improves creativity and productivity.
And, finally, transparency improves decision-making, as broad awareness of information, particularly budget and schedules, is essential to effective organisational decision-making.
A digital content strategy can create a sense of consistency and consolidation. One way to create that consistency is through branding and tone of voice. Tone of voice should be established in the digital content strategy. The tone of voice should reflect your heritage organisation’s branding, mission, and values.
If, for example, you are a formal organisation, then adopt a formal tone. So organisations that deal with conservation efforts such as protecting species from extinction, then a formal tone is likely the best option. If you are more playful, or have the option to practice playfulness, incorporate that into your tone of voice. Either way, remember to always stay respectful.
Larger organisations could establish a house style. That should not only set your tone of voice, but also impart grammar and punctuation rules that everyone in your organisation should follow on social media, in blog posts, and in event listings. Check out the National Trust, for example, and note the consistency across their website, the tone of voice remaining the same throughout all of their website content, which always aligns with their branding and mission.
House style documents – also known as style guides – are effective in making everything across your organisation consistent. Consistency is key when it comes to content, particularly for a returning audience, who come back to your sites, your communications, and your social media with an expectation of consistency.
Digital content strategies provide various benefits to heritage organisations. It allows them to find direction, establish goals, ensure buy-in, increase transparency, improve productivity, and much more. All of that should translate to better outputs and better results for your organisation’s content.
It should, in essence, improve engagement. The strategy helps you plan to publish the right content, on the right medium, at the right time. It will ensure that content is geared towards your target audience, remains relevant, and is shared through the right social media platforms and other comms.
It’s essential that heritage organisations track content and measure analytics. And, most importantly, organisations should change the digital content strategy depending on their results. For more information on data, analytics, content, strategy, and so much more, please check out the Heritage Digital website.
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Please attribute as: "How will a digital content strategy benefit my organisation? (2022) by Ioan Marc Jones, Charity Digital supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0