Digital Strategy

It seems that everyone we talk to is thinking about their digital strategy. It makes sense. Most not-for-profit organizations that offer their customers (e.g., members, non-members, physicians, researchers, clinical researchers, policy makers, the interested public, patients, etc.) a multitude of services and content-focused products do so through several internal departments. Historically, these departments have acted like independent entities, causing redundancy of effort internally and confusion or frustration on the part of the customer. In recent years many of these organizations have started to recognize the importance of presenting their customer with an integrated experience, bringing the organization’s full weight to bear on fulfilling customer needs and expectations. An early step down this path is often the definition of a digital strategy.

Google “digital strategy” or “content strategy” and you will be hard-pressed to find a concise and clear definition of how they fit together. Additionally, you’ll find terms like content analysis, content inventory, content marketing strategy, and digital marketing strategy embedded in your search results. You’ll also find that many of these terms are used synonymously, further impeding understanding.

Let’s see if we can sort this out!

According to wikipedia, “digital strategy is the process of specifying an organization’s vision, goals, opportunities and related activities in order to maximize the business benefits of digital initiatives to the organization.” As described, that is an enterprise digital strategy. A digital strategy may also be defined for a business unit, a product, etc. The important thing to realize is that a digital strategy, while its components may vary somewhat, translates a vision, mission, and business strategy into a plan or an approach for creating a cohesive organizational digital presence. It accounts for customer needs, organizational capabilities (existing or aspirational), and organizational strategic priorities.

Whew! What does that mean?

It means that a digital strategy addresses how, when, where, and with whom (partners?) you digitally interact with your customers to serve their needs and meet your strategic objectives. A digital strategy also includes success metrics that will be measured, monitored, and managed to maximize impact. Depending upon who you are, impact may be measured by revenue, mission fulfillment, reach, etc.

A content strategy  applies a business, digital, or publishing strategy to content by clarifying intentions, principles, and policies that will guide the creation and management of content types as well as their uses. To quote wikipedia, content strategy covers “the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.” The principles and policies within the strategy are meant to impact resource allocation, as resources should be allocated to content, projects, and initiatives in a manner that supports the strategy. A content strategy does not include the specifics of content structure or detailed implementation requirements.

While a content strategy may be limited to formal content products (like journals and books), it is most effective when constructed to be container independent (i.e., includes all content regardless of how it is packaged and delivered).

Both a digital strategy and a content strategy will have organizational impact, driving requirements for technology, skill set, and processes. For many organizations, a clear digital strategy and content strategy will also amplify the need for changes in culture and values as well.

Admittedly, the lines can blur between digital and content strategy, especially in organizations where content is their primary business. In societies and associations, where most of our work is done, the distinction is valid. Considering the larger holistic context of user interactions (digital strategy) with the association before defining how you will create, manage and deliver content to support those interactions (content strategy) allows an organization to progress through change in an orderly and logical fashion, with the goals clearly defined.