Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy: Let's Settle This

By Jason Patterson

Founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency
Content marketing and content strategy are both misunderstood. And the terms tend to be used somewhat interchangeably. And while they have some overlap, they're not the same thing.

And the reasons why that's important to know are not purely academic. They have real consequences.

What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is the planning, creation, managing, publishing, sharing, and promotion of content to achieve a marketing goal (or goals). I know that's a little vague, but there are different schools of thought regarding how content marketing should work.

Some consider content marketing a brand-level activity (some might call this awareness). Others view it through an SEO lens. We prefer to view it as filling a funnel and leading people down it. But however you view it, I think the definition in this article encompasses all dominant views.

And if you're not doing all the things I listed in the definition (planning, creation, etc.), in my opinion, you're not really doing content marketing. You're just publishing content.

What Is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is harder to define from a marketer's point of view because content strategy can be used for marketing or non-marketing purposes.

Basically, a content strategy is a plan to lead someone on a journey using content. That journey might involve a purchase at the end of it, but it doesn't have to. A content strategy might be a conversation script for a chatbot on a library's website. And that certainly isn't marketing.

And even if that chatbot is on a website that does sell something, content marketers may have nothing to do with it (since writing a chatbot script is often more akin to technical writing).

And a content strategy journey doesn't have to involve a definite endpoint either. It might involve keeping someone "orbiting" your brand (a lot of brand-level and social media content strategies work like this).

Confusing, I know. But bear with me.

How Content Marketing and Content Strategy Are Different

As already implied, all true content marketers are marketers, while not all content strategists are.

But from this point on, we're only going to discuss content strategy that falls under marketing, since, you know, "content marketing" is part of the full name of our company.

In the broadstrokes, content marketing can be thought of as a war in its entirety. Its planning, fighting, supply, logistics, reporting, treating the wounded, and burying the dead.

While content strategy is what the generals do. They study the terrain, try to understand and anticipate the other side, plan the battle, read reports while the battle is happening (and perhaps try to direct it somewhat), and write reports about the battle when it's over.

In terms of the journey I mentioned earlier, content strategy is the planning of a prospect's journey, with content pieces used like a trail of breadcrumbs.

Content marketing (in theory) includes this, but it also includes everything else you do to make sure that prospects start following those breadcrumbs and continue to do so, including the content creation, content promotion, etc.

Are Content Marketers Also Content Strategists?

Whoever is running your content marketing should also be a content strategist. But in the real world, content marketers often aren't employing or following a particular content strategy. They may have a content plan, framework, and calendar in place, but not a strategy.

And even if they have something labeled a content strategy in place, it might not really be one.

A content strategy is a planned journey using content. But many companies and content marketers aren't using a content plan that formal.

And what's more, for content strategy to serve marketing strategy, there must be a marketing strategy to serve. And often there just isn't.

Or maybe there's a marketing strategy in place, but the rank-and-file marketers tasked with implementing it aren't incentivized to work with content marketers in any way to create a path for prospects to follow down the funnel (they may be too busy ticking boxes and filling out checklists).

Or perhaps a content marketing leader may simply be too busy feeding the beast and managing the channels to have any time for content strategy, and may lack incentive to have one if the boss simply hands them a bunch of arbitrary metrics targets to hit.

Or perhaps the company is a startup with a one-page website that doesn't see much point in crafting a formal content journey. It could be lots of reasons.

Should Your Content Marketing Be Based on a Content Strategy?

If you're serious about content marketing, the answer is yes. And by "serious" I mean you consider content marketing essential to both attracting and winning customers. And the second part is what really creates a need for content strategy.

Creating awareness of your brand and the problems you solve through content can be done with very little content planning, since this is mostly about noisemaking (i.e., creation, publishing, and promotion).

And if the world is already aware of your brand and the problems you solve, and you mostly just need to fill a checklist of product-related content and promote it, you don't need much planning for that either.

But if you want to create awareness of your brand and the problems you solve, and reinforce this for a while by keeping prospects in your funnel through their following your social media or subscribing to your blog or newsletter, and then educate your prospects about what you sell and about you as a vendor using content, and finally use content as bait to contact you (or ultimately convince you to buy), that does take planning and strategy, because you're creating a journey with multiple steps using content.

And if you consider such a journey vital to winning business (and not just attracting eyeballs), you definitely need a content strategy (even if plenty of businesses have no trouble winning without one).

Still a little fuzzy? Think about it this way.

A brand's content efforts can be a brawl or a war. A good content marketer can handle either one. But bring a content strategy if you're going to wage war.

Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing