Image: Natalie Kurz from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau presents at 18F.

Natalie Kurz realizes that the concept of content strategy can seem nebulous to many, especially to folks who don’t work directly with content.

“When I’m introducing content strategy to people who aren’t as familiar with the topic, I like to start by comparing different error messages,” Kurz explained. “404s are a bite-sized way to understand how a company communicates with their users. It’s an easy way to illustrate a content strategy in practice.”

Creating and promoting digestible, user-friendly content has been Kurz’s professional focus for more than 15 years. Hailing from a journalism background, Kurz has crafted content strategies for enterprise clients such as Canon, State Farm, Jiffy Steamer, and more. She’s currently a Technology and Innovation Fellow at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she’s conducting user research to improve the organization’s intranet and develop content governance strategies, among other projects.

Kurz recently visited 18F to discuss how to build a content strategy from the ground up, even if you don’t identify as a content strategist.

“Who are content strategists?” Kurz rhetorically asked the audience. “They’re a lot of different people, actually, but most importantly, they’re you.” She went on to explain that each person’s talents and skills bring unique value to bear on an organization’s approach to content.

She then went into more detail, providing concrete steps folks can take to develop a content strategy.

While there are many deliverables and tasks associated with creating a content strategy, Kurz recommends starting with six main components:

  • Inventory: Conduct a content audit to create a snapshot of your current content, and determine how it maps to your future content.

  • Analysis: Perform a qualitative assessment of your content to determine whether it’s readable, understandable, and on-brand.

  • Messaging: Develop your organization’s brand voice and identify context-specific tones.

  • Editorial Guidelines: Create editorial guidelines and workflows that ensure consistency.

  • Content Types: Identify the types of content necessary for each page, developing content models, metadata, and guidelines for how content will be chunked.

  • Governance: Define the people, processes, and policies central to your content strategy.

Kurz concluded by offering several tangible ways folks can start developing a content strategy at their organizations. “You can start by identifying content strategists already on your team or by selecting an executive sponsor,” she said, “or you might hone your brand voice, develop contextual tones, or get to work on a mobile strategy.” Regardless of where you start, Kurz’s practical, actionable advice will make the process a lot simpler.

If you missed the live event, you can watch a recording of it here, and stay tuned for our soon-to-be-published interview with Natalie.