I never thought I’d say this, but content strategy–even multiple content strategies–is no longer enough to succeed at content.

Today, brands, media companies, nonprofits, and other organizations have more ambitious plans than ever for their content. They spent $43.9 billion on content creation and distribution in 2014 alone, notes the Custom Content Council. IBM recently found that CMOs plan to invest more in content than in advertising in 2016. Whoa. With so much at stake, you need to give yourself and your organization the best possible chance of succeeding. And that means you need a vision of what content success looks like.

But, let’s get more specific here. I’m sharing three reasons why a content vision is essential to achieving your content ambitions or dreams.

1. The Most Successful Content Leaders + Teams Have a Content Vision

Earlier this year, the team at Content Science conducted an exhaustive study of the critical success factors for content teams. The top theme was also the most surprising theme to me: Vision = Success. When we asked about what makes content leaders successful, the top characteristic reported, by a long stretch, was vision. When we asked about what makes content teams successful, vision came up again in a variety of issues (see point three below). While I always thought vision was important, I didn’t realize the extent of its impact. Content vision is the foundation for content success.

2. A Common Content Vision Aligns Different Stakeholders for a Long Time

At Content Marketing World this year, perhaps my favorite moment was not Robert Rose making John Cleese laugh (thought that was great) nor Kristina Halvorson sassily cautioning us against content self-indulgence (though I agree) nor seeing a hilarious re-enactment of Hollywood Squares using content trivia (though that gave me serious nostalgia). Instead, my favorite moment was rather quiet at first blush. Carlos Abler of 3M mentioned in passing while answering a question in a panel session that he has a vision for content and a roadmap that lasts years.

Think about that.


That’s not something you heard five years ago. Exciting, eh? And, now think about the effort involved in wrangling aligning stakeholders such as subject matter experts, IT, content strategists, content creators, and more around a roadmap for years. Daunting, eh? But, a content vision makes this alignment easier.

Marriott, for example, aspires to be the Red Bull of travel and hospitality content. Marriott has clearly conveyed this vision publicly and put a studio in place to achieve it.

As another example, Carrie Hae Dennison mentions one key to her success in leading change for content and more at American Society for Civil Engineers was strategically nagging. In other words, reminding stakeholders of the vision. A content vision acts as a north star. If you’re a content leader with a content vision, you can more easily remind stakeholders of where you’re going and why when stakeholders become lost.

3. A Content Vision Drives Team Clarity + Motivation

In our research, we found that vision gives important context for content team members about their roles and goals. This context is important not only for assuring their work aligns with the vision but also for motivating the team. As an example close to home, our vision for Content Science Review is to be the HBR of content. This vision has rallied us to accomplish more than we thought possible when we simply published an occasional blog post or a research report. We now attract contributions and sponsorship from a large range of outstanding brands and organizations.

A related benefit is that having a content vision makes evaluating your progress easier. And the research is undeniably clear that making progress motivates teams.

So, as you assess your content situation, consider more than whether you have the right strategy. Consider whether you have the right content vision. I discuss what makes a successful content vision in 6 Characteristics of a Kickass Content Vision.

And to learn even more, don’t miss these resources.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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