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what is the difference between content marketing and content strategy?


Content strategy and content marketing are relatively new words.

Even though many of us have been blogging, writing articles, outlining pages, auditing websites, and doing other strategic and content marketing tasks for years, it’s really been over the past five to 10 years that these disciplines have taken off.

Which is probably why we still mix them up—telling friends we’re attending a content marketing conference when we’re really going to a content strategy event, or tweeting about content strategy when we really mean content marketing.

So today I’d like to clear up the confusion a bit by answering that one pesky question:

What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing?

what is content strategy?

Content strategy is “planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.”

In other words, it’s the process of determining what you’ll create, how you’ll create it, where you’ll create it, when you’ll create it, who will create it, and who it will be created for.

And then it’s the process of determining the what, when, how, who, and where of delivering that content.

And then it’s the process of determining the what, when, how, who, and where of maintaining, retiring, and updating your content.

Sound like a lot?

That’s because it is. Content strategy is a huge discipline that can cover everything from creating a workflow for your content teams to developing consistent voice, tone, and style guidelines for your content.

At the end of the day, though, every content strategy has two things in common:

It is a strategy (a plan) and it’s for your content. 

What is content marketing?

As I said in my recent Marketeer post on the topic:

“Content marketing is the art of using content and information to market your product or service. Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing doesn’t focus on the product or service itself. Instead, it focuses on your audience: What do they care about? What do they need? What information is useful to them?

Based on those needs, you create piece of content—an eBook, a blog post, a newsletter, a Facebook post, or perhaps all of the above—and offer it to your users, often for free or very cheap.

So, that content marketing content—useful, usable, and branded—communicates both your expertise and the fact that you care about and understand your customers’ needs.”

In other words, content marketing is a tactic…an action. It’s a vibrant and less-intrusive form of marketing.

So, how do they fit together?

When you think about content strategy, think big picture. Think about a plan that impacts every single piece of content you create—be it a video, a blog post, a product description on your website, or a presentation you make to your clients.

When you think about content marketing, think real, tangible content pieces—blog posts, newsletters, white papers, tweets, etc.

Content strategy is planning. Content marketing is one tactic that might stem from your careful planning.

Which is why content strategy should always come first. It’s the foundation for your content marketing—the carefully thought-out plan that makes it possible for your content marketing to reach your target audience, meet your business goals, and build your brand.

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  • Marlim

    Love it. My understanding of the two has always been:

    Content Marketing is “The creation of content that is relevant, compelling, entertaining and valuable and this content must be consistently provided to maintain or change the behavior of customers.” (to quote Google)

    Content Strategy, however is not always about marketing. Kristina Halvorson once gave a wonderfully succinct explanation: “Content Strategy is planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” In other words, it is the strategy behind creating all of the content across your brand, delivering it to the appropriate audiences, and keeping it easy to find and use (whether it is for spreading information, marketing, entertainment, or something else entirely).

    I love hearing other perspectives though, and yours is great!

    • Gigi Griffis

      I think we’re definitely on the same page. Content strategy is a much larger, more inclusive thing and can apply to everything from content marketing to internal communications. :)