Content strategy vs content planning

What’s the difference between a strategy and a plan when it comes to content? Do you really need both?

I’m sure you can guess that these aren’t the same thing, however interchangeably they’re (incorrectly) used. Strategy is a pretty essential step before you get to the planning stage. I know, you just want to DO, but if you take the time to think about it, it will focus your DOING to make you more efficient and the content that you then produce will be much more effective. So in short, you do need both. Here’s a closer look at what each of these documents should include.

Content strategy

Before your content strategy, you should have your marketing strategy already hammered out as content is just one cog in the machine. Your content strategy determines how you will use your content to achieve your business and marketing goals. As HubSpot writes, “a successful content strategy will attract your target audience at every stage of the funnel and keep them engaged even after a purchase.” With that in mind, you need to understand your customer journey, developing content for your different audiences at different stages of their journey with you.

The customer journey

The average customer engages with three to five pieces of content before buying. You need to ensure that your content is in front of them and addresses pain points at every stage of their buying journey. There are five stages to the buying process:

Having this considered in the strategy means that nobody gets neglected. While attracting new customers is obviously very important, addressing every stage ensures that you don’t forget to engage your current customers too. Consider your messaging. What problem are you solving for each of these groups? Why are you different?

A quick note – the word “content” is not interchangeable with social media. Social media is just one channel to reach your audience, and you must be certain to consider the best channels for your brand. This may be a social media platform, or it could be another channel. With this in mind, what will be in your mix? Search, display, social, email? If you create website content, how will you drive traffic to it?


A good strategy looks backwards as well as forward. You should consider KPIs and audit your current content activity to see how well you’re doing and whether it’s effective. Examine what’s working and what should be changing.

Think about the budget that you’re dedicating to content. More than the written word, content can include images, video, graphics and more, and you may need specialist support to achieve your goals.

You should set out SMART goals and key metrics for the strategy, as well as detailing who is carrying out the work, how often you’ll evaluate your performance and how you’ll know if it’s successful.

Content planning

Let’s face it, if you’re a small company, it can be difficult to constantly come up with not only fresh content ideas, but then execute them as well. Content planning takes all of the work you did for the strategy and sets out the actions that will achieve those goals. It’s a functional document that lays out what you will create and how, taking the guesswork and last minute panic out of content creation.

A content plan is the bridge between strategy and execution – you now know what goals you want to achieve, but this document outlines every step of the content creation process so that you know how exactly you and your team will be doing that.

The nuts and bolts

In the plan, you’ll list the assets and resources you need to achieve your goals, and how you intend to research, create, publish and track your content, and on which platforms. Think about your team (or your agency) and use their strengths, documenting who is responsible for which elements.

Develop a content calendar which details what you plan to create and when, who the intended audience is and what stage of the customer journey this will be aimed at. Use your buyer personas and consider what format the content needs to be in.

How will you promote the content? You’re creating it so that it’s seen, so which channels work for your target audience and what kind of messaging do they expect to find there?

Record the metrics you’ll be using to measure performance and ensure that it’s reviewed regularly to maximise your content effectiveness.

This calendar, which forms the bulk of the plan, can be managed in a spreadsheet, although some companies prefer to use software such as ContentCal or Airtable.

Content strategy AND content plan…

…Not content strategy VS content plan. You need both elements as they have a different role and focus. If you need any help with your content strategy, planning or writing, just get in touch.

Buyer personas made easy – your free download

Take your target audience from rudimentary to refined. Our free PDF guide and editable template will help you:

  • Better understand your target market
  • Know where they are online
  • Recognise the kind of content that appeals to them