Content Strategy as a Way of Improving Operational Efficiency

Running a business in 2024 is a balancing act. Between maintaining business operations, ensuring a steady influx of orders, and consistently delivering communications messages to keep the brand on the digital map, business owners find themselves in a state of perennial priority assessment and decision-making. This is especially true if the business is small to medium-sized, propelled by and reliant on the owner’s determination. 

Amongst the many tools that can be used to increase the overall operational efficiency of a business focused on meeting target audience goals sits the discipline of content strategy, “a comprehensive process that builds a framework to create, manage, deliver, share, and archive or renew content in reliable ways” (Bailie & Urbina, 2013). Content strategy has become a much-spoken-about area of expertise (Bailie, 2021), primarily thanks to the chorus of professionals who champion the opportunities and evidence of embracing content as a business asset (Bailie & Urbina, 2013, p. 103).

What is “content”?

Before I make a case for content strategy’s potential for increasing operational efficiency, I will define the scope and boundaries of the word “content” in the business context. 

Let’s start with the simplest nonfigurative definition, delivered by Rahel Anne Bailie during the inaugural lecture of the “Kickoff Workshop: What is Content Strategy?” course, part of the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Content Strategy at FH Joanneum. In Rahel’s words, content is “the stuff between the tags” – and “virtually all digital content is surrounded by tags” (Bailie, 2023). 

The metaphysical definition is where things get interesting. Content is a conversation (Redish, 2012), an experience (Colman, 2013), and “nearly anything and everything” (Wachter-Boettcher, 2012, p. 210). The right content is what your users want (Halvorson & Rach, 2012).

The compounding cost of bad content

Content, in its basic form, is an asset that you will inevitably accrue as you set out to establish your brand digitally. When refined to align with your business and target audience’s needs, content will actively and passively facilitate your brand’s growth. If put through a well-designed content lifecycle (Bailie & Urbina, 2013, p. 244), your content will consistently help your customers achieve their goals, paying you back in trust and transactions. When managed properly, content can be monitored for its performance, transformed for different modes of interactions, formats, and channels (Bailie & Urbina, 2013, p. 25), kept relevant and up-to-date, or sunset at the end of its lifetime. Its persuasiveness and marketing appeal (Zhou, 2020) will substantially increase proportionally to the amount of effort exerted to create a good content experience. 

However, such skilled handling of content, from concept to archiving, is not organic and very rare to behold. Logistics of well-oiled content operations aside, maintaining consistency in brand messages is a regular challenge in siloed organisations (Israel, 2023), where quantity reigns over quality (Bloomstein, 2021). 

When a strategic approach to content is missing, operational efficiency suffers, and costs increase. Content is notoriously “expensive to create, time-consuming to keep up, and impossible to do without” (Wachter-Boettcher, 2012, p. 210). To better explain the compounding cost of bad content, I will describe a real situation from my freelance years:

Two friends acquired a business with an established name after the original owner decided to retire. The channels – website and social media accounts – were handed over. The goal was to refresh the brand and appeal to a younger audience who were still willing to part with a big chunk of money for premium products. The spirits were high, but even the biggest optimist wouldn’t stand a chance when the company realised it had a major content issue. There were no guidelines for social media – the owners wanted to post immediately but were unsure about what message was right, how the images should look like, what language the captions should be (German or English? Or both?). All of these decisions had different price tags. High-quality stock images required a paid subscription. The on-site photographer is charged per hour of work and editing. Custom Lightroom filters would be paid extra, a necessity if the Instagram aesthetic was to be maintained. As they were already overloaded, the owners wanted to involve the team in content creation, but they had no written material to upskill their employees.

Then there was the website. The owners did not know how to operate the obscure CMS nor where to find support documentation and did not manage to update the price list or the list of new services for a couple of weeks after they reopened. The text on the website was out of date, and the images of the former team were displayed prominently in different corners of the website. An offhand comment that migrating to a new CMS could be easier than learning how to work with what they have launched the owners into a tense week of conversations about what they wanted versus what their friend kept recommending. 

You can imagine the increasing levels of frustration of everyone involved when they faced the sad reality of running a business without clearly laid-out content operations. Suddenly, that content (or the lack thereof) costs money, time, and effort. Beyond the obvious costs, there is also the silent penalty of bad content – mistrust of customers, who experience cognitive dissonance when confronted with the company’s website and social media. To be clear, bad content can take many forms and does not necessarily mean bad quality. It can be amazing content that is inappropriate for your brand (Halvorson & Rach, 2012), misaligned with the brand’s communication strategy (Bloomstein, 2021), or even served in a broken experience. In the example above, the existing content was of high quality – only it promoted a company that did not exist anymore. 

Arrival of the hero

This is where content strategy steps in. Content strategy guides “the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content” (Halvorson, 2018). At its core, a content strategy “outlines how content will be used to support both overall organizational goals and audiences’ needs” (Wachter-Boettcher, 2012, p. 39). In other words, content strategy is a holistic way of approaching business-critical content (Bailie & Urbina, 2013, p. 267) to benefit both the organisation and the users. 

One of the most powerful aspects of content strategy is its process-oriented approach, with governance baked into the different steps of setting up a robust content ecosystem that operates efficiently across all departments. According to the Content Strategy House model (Michl & Löffler, 2024), governance provides the stability needed when implementing five main actions (pillars) of content strategy: audit, planning, production, management, and distribution. 

I know that processes, guidelines, checklists, and governance trigger a fight-or-flight response in many people. However, it is most likely due to misconceptions that structures meant to monitor are creating boundaries and unnecessary effort. That is exactly what the lack of governance looks like, argues Lisa Welchman. In her book, she writes, “Governance is an enabler. It allows organisations to minimize some of the churn and uncertainty in development by clearly establishing accountability and decision-making authority for all matters digital” (Welchman, 2015, p. 9-10). It’s difficult to argue with the statement that knowing the characteristics of good content (which is always relative) is equivalent to a green light for those responsible for content production. That team knows where to find the necessary reference guides, what the purpose of the piece of content is, and the context in which that piece of content will be presented to the customers. They also know what formats the content will occupy and the technology that will house it. Finally, they will factor in content maintenance and repurposing, a cost-efficient strategy for companies aware of the value of good content. A framework for content governance is really a framework for empowering an organisation to work efficiently and with confidence.

Let’s rewrite the story of the two unfortunate owners, who involuntarily ended up as a content strategy cautionary tale for the sake of this paper.

The two owners were given the gift of content strategy and sent back in time by the tooth fairy. They created personas for their business and budgeted the cost of a brand refresh, knowing what they wanted to achieve. They held a card sorting workshop with the team lead to create their message architecture and drafted brand guidelines. After they received the keys to the virtual kingdom, the owners took stock of the website and the social media channels with a content audit. They revised their budget – they happened to find a lot of helpful unpublished articles and images on the website that could be repurposed –  and went on to draft two detailed project proposals: one for a freelance social media manager and one for a website administrator. Then, they divided and conquered: one of the owners took on the task of managing the website update project preparing page tables before sending out the RFP. The other collaborated with the new social media manager to develop a social media calendar and an approval process to ensure proper implementation of the brand guidelines…


Content strategy has a major advantage over other disciplines in improving the efficiency of business operations – it forces businesses to ask themselves critical questions about the purpose, feasibility, and fitness of their continent operations. It asks businesses to think about what the customer actually wants. Then,  it examines the micro and macro elements (Halvorson, 2018) that influence a company’s ability to produce the right type of content, giving businesses a clear answer as to why their performance suffers and what to do about it. It takes away the expensive guesswork through resilient processes that address company and target audience needs alike. Finally, and most importantly, content strategy gives companies permission to drop resource-hungry nice-to-haves to invest in content that brings value. And we are all the better for it. 


Bailie, R. A. (2021, February 5). An uneven history of content strategy. Medium.

Bailie, R. A. (2023). Introduction to Content Strategy, Module 1: Topics 1 & 2.

Bailie, R. A., & Urbina, N. (2013). Content Strategy: Connecting the Dots Between Business, Brand, and Benefits. XML Press.

Bloomstein, M. (2021). Trustworthy: How the Smartest Brands Beat Cynicism and Bridge the Trust Gap (1st ed.). Page Two.

Colman, J. (2013, February 4). The Epic List of Content Strategy & Content Design Resources. Jonathon Colman.

Halvorson, K. (2018). New Thinking: Brain Traffic’s Content Strategy Quad – Brain Traffic blog.

Halvorson, K., & Rach, M. (2012). Content Strategy for the Web, Second Edition [Book]. New Riders.

Israel, C. (2023). A master’s thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (M.A.) in Content Strategy. FH Joanneum.

Michl, I., & Löffler, M. (2024). Think Content! – Strategie, Marketing, Formate (3rd ed.). Rheinwerk Verlag.

Redish, J. (2012). Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works (2nd edition). Morgan Kaufmann.

Wachter-Boettcher, S. (2012). Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure For Future-Ready Content (1st edition). Rosenfeld Media.

Welchman, L. (2015). Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design. Rosenfeld.

Zhou, Q. (2020). Building Design Thinking into Content Strategy. Proceedings of the 38th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication, 1–5.