In the digital age, where content is king, having a robust content strategy feels like holding a golden ticket. But here’s the twist—not everyone makes it to the chocolate factory. Why? Because there’s a world of difference between having a content strategy and executing it. The former is about planning; the latter, about action. And in the gap between them lies the potential for transformational growth or missed opportunities.

For senior marketing executives overseeing content teams, this distinction is crucial. The landscape of digital content is vast and ever-changing. Staying relevant, engaging, and impactful requires more than just deciding on what the team will do; it demands a meticulous, hands-on approach to bringing it all to life.

So, as we delve into the nuances of content strategy planning versus execution, we’ll explore not just the definitions and differences, but the actionable insights and strategies that can turn a plan on paper into a dynamic engine driving your brand forward.

Understanding the Creation of a Content Strategy

When we talk about content strategy, we’re referring to the master plan behind your brand’s content creation, distribution, and governance. It’s not just about deciding what you’re going to publish; it’s about understanding why you’re publishing it, who you’re publishing it for, and how it will impact your business goals and audience needs. Think of it as the blueprint for building a house. Without the blueprint, you might know you want a house, but you wouldn’t know where to start with construction, what materials you need, or how to ensure it meets your living needs.

You can have a look at our guide on how we approach content strategy to give you an idea of what your blueprint can look like.

Understanding the Execution of a Content Strategy

Executing a content strategy, often referred to as “content operations,” is the act of bringing your content blueprint to life. It’s the “construction phase” of your content strategy, where plans and ideas are transformed into tangible, impactful content that reaches and resonates with your audience. Execution is about more than just content creation; it involves the distribution and governance of content across multiple channels to ensure it achieves its intended goals, from ideation to archiving.

Content operations encompass everything from content planning, production, publication, to analysis and optimization. This means not only deciding what to publish but also when, where, and how to publish it to maximize the impact. It involves coordinating teams, managing resources, and leveraging technology to streamline processes and measure results effectively.

Just as a blueprint is essential for building a house, a content strategy is crucial for guiding content operations. However, the strategy itself cannot build the house. You need workers, materials, and tools to bring the architectural plans to life. Similarly, executing a content strategy requires a team (dedicated or not), processes and workflows to guide the work and effective tools (such as content management systems and analytics platforms), all three of these elements ensuring that every piece of content—from blog posts to social media updates—aligns with your strategic goals and meets your audience’s needs.

Make sure you also have a look at our Content Operations Hub to discover other resources on how to execute your content strategy.

5 Challenges of Bridging Strategy and Execution

  1. Keeping things flexible and agile: Taking some time to slow down, or even stop and reflect on your content strategy is a great way to put it on paper and establish the guidelines that will allow you to achieve the business goals on which you have an impact through content. But one that is often overlooked is how you also learn a lot when executing your strategy. The way your audience reacts, the way formats evolve, the trends in your industry, all these elements should also be able to allow your strategy to evolve over time. Execution insights should be able to be reflected into the underlying documented strategy.
  2. Managing bandwidth and capacity: We’ve seen clients approach us with an amazing strategy which they developed in-house (or had developed by another agency or partner), and then looking at what’s in front of them and saying: “Whoa, this doesn’t make sense with the team we have, we’ll need help to either tone this down or to execute it with external help!” These are examples of situations where the strategy was developed, but without looking at what it would take to execute it. Great ideas need team bandwidth to be executed, and it is sometimes a fact that is overlooked when concentrating on what should be done versus what is required to actually doing it.
  3. Keeping a long-term view even with last-minute demands: When executing a content strategy, you will always come across last-minute needs from other stakeholders in the organization, or news events that will steer you away from your well thought out strategy masterplan. What is dangerous is that through time, you end up only focusing on what’s needed right here right now, disconnecting the execution with strategy. Make sure to always keep that strategy document close to you when executing. It is too easy to deviate from it in the whirlwind of the daily execution.
  4. Building efficient workflows based on the strategy: Great content teams have workflows and established processes. But sometimes these should be adapted to a new element in the strategy. Maybe a new content pillar needs more in-house approval than usual, which means adapting the workflows of content creation. Content managers and Chief Content Officers need to be aware that new strategic elements might have an impact on operations and should look for those accordingly.
  5. Adapting the team and talent to the strategy: A new and updated content strategy might bring up new formats, new approaches, new content pillars (see previous point) that could have an impact on the balance of talent required. The team should do an analysis to evaluate if the right partners, freelancers and experts are available and keen to this new reality. Attacking brand new things with the same team can often work, but oftentimes a new external partner (video production, podcast deployment, etc.) might be required to really keep the delivery at the best quality possible.

These are just a few of the elements that a content leader needs to consider when going from “having a content strategy” to “executing the content strategy”. We see these challenges come up with the clients we work with and this is the type of work required to not only aim for the right objectives, but also getting there.