I recently returned from Content Marketing World, where Content Science’s ContentWRX product was invited to participate in the Product Launch Expo. (As if that honor wasn’t enough, Content Science also celebrated winning two Content Marketing Association awards.) Each year, I look forward to hearing highlights from Content Marketing Institute’s annual research. Joe Pulizzi noted that only 32% of content marketers have a documented strategy and the most successful content marketers do have a documented strategy.

I don’t disagree. But, I find sometimes this point about having a documented content strategy for marketing and more is misunderstood. I’ve run into more than one person struggling to figure out how to document a content strategy for all of their brands, regions, touchpoints, or products. I’m going to be straight with you. If you work in a midsize or enterprise organization, one end-all, be-all documented content strategy (or one documented content marketing strategy) will not be enough. One documented strategy cannot be comprehensive, relevant, or nuanced enough to work for such a large scope. No way. So, it’s no wonder people struggle with getting their content strategy documented.

So, what do you do? How do you get unstuck and document content strategy for success? Well, I’d like to share a handy concept with you: Russian nesting dolls.

You’re probably skeptical that the Matryoshka folk toy could help you advance your cutting-edge content strategy. I understand. But, I haven’t found a more effective way to convey this concept of multiple-yet-aligned content strategies. I find it so effective that I included it in one of Content Science’s white papers a couple of years ago.

content strategy
The nesting doll concept of content strategy


So, why do I find this approach so effective? Four reasons…

  1. Everyone knows what nesting dolls are.
    It’s a familiar and unintimidating point of reference for an abstract concept like strategy.
  2. Nesting dolls evoke a human element, and strategy is human.
    Strategy, like the classic toy, is crafted not manufactured. Technology and data might inform strategy, but strategy is ultimately a human decision.
  3. Nesting dolls are similar to each other but not exact duplicates, like your content strategies.
    Across different brands or product categories, for example, you likely will have content strategies with some common elements and some differences.
  4. Nesting dolls get smaller and more narrow, like your content strategies.
    Your enterprise content strategy is like the outside doll, encompassing all of your other content strategies.

Let’s look at a quick example from the travel and hospitality industry.

content strategy
Aligned content strategies inspired by nesting dolls


The enterprise content strategy focused on engineering the capacity to support specific content strategies for brands and products. In this particular case, different brands had different markets, not unlike Newell Rubbermaid’s wide variety of brands. So, one important component of the specific content strategy for each brand was voice. Voice could not be defined at the enterprise level and work for all brands, in other words.

I didn’t show the actual nesting dolls shape. I wanted to because I love a good visual. But, for this organization’s culture, that nesting doll shape could have reduced the credibility of the concept. (I would consider going “full-nesting-doll” visual with some organizations.) So, I verbally explained the nesting doll metaphor. Instead of glazed-over eyes, I saw nodding heads. Yes. People got it!

So, as you scale content strategy, don’t get stuck by trying to cram your entire approach into one content strategy. Instead, take a cue from Russian folk toys and get your content strategy nesting dolls in order.

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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