Content Planning vs Content Strategy: Are They Different?

Christy Walters


October 6, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

planning document with sticky notes on table to compare content planning vs content strategy

In most situations, if you’re talking about a plan and a strategy, they’re usually the same thing. But not in content marketing. Instead, in the world of content creation, these two development pieces work together to create a roadmap and a step-by-step guide to get your content from ideas to published pieces. Today, we’re exploring content planning vs content strategy and all their similarities and differences:

What Is Content Strategy?

Content strategy is the vision that guides your content development to help you reach specific business goals. It includes a lot of high-level ideas that aim to help your brand become more successful in a variety of areas. Some of these areas include increasing brand awareness, making more sales, or pulling in more qualified leads.

One of the most important parts of content strategy is determining how your creation efforts match up with key performance indicators (KPIs) and brand goals. When you make these matches, it’s easier to predict how your content marketing efforts will make your company successful. This alignment also makes it easier to create a content plan that helps put your ideas into action to reach those goals or milestones. The key components of a content strategy include:

  • Research: Content strategy involves extensive audits and competitor research.
  • Goal development: Content strategy helps you decide what you want to achieve with marketing and how those achievements help your business grow.
  • Messaging development: Content strategy lets you choose what messages you want to share with your audience and the best ways to make them appealing.
  • Content themes: Strategy lets you decide how to group or cluster content around similar ideas to create more robust resources on popular and relevant industry topics.
  • Audience segments: Within a content strategy you can group your audience based on similar characteristics and choose which messages resonate best with each one.
  • Content and channel choice: In strategy, you can pick the right types of content to share with each audience segment, such as eBooksblog posts, or white papers, and where to share them.
  • Creation assignments: Within the strategy, you can choose the right team members to work on each piece of content within the content plan.

What Is Content Planning?

Content Planning is a process of determining what content to create and when to share it. Content calendars are the best-known example of content planning tools. Within these planning documents, your entire team can see when you plan to create each asset, who completes the work for each step, and when and where it goes live to the world. There are six important elements of content planning that include:

  • Content processes and workflow: Developed structures put in place to help create content logically and efficiently
  • Content calendar: A schedule that follows all your pieces from ideation to publication and distribution to ensure the team completes every step in the process or workflow
  • Training and onboarding: Preparing the team, both internal and external, for operating within the workflows and using the appropriate tools
  • Content promotion and distribution: Sharing pieces of content with the right audience through the right channels after you’ve finished creation
  • Communication: Developing transparent conversations and channels among team members to help move each project forward
  • Optimization and measurement: Preparing each piece of content to perform its best after publication and tracking its success to influence future campaigns

Differences Between a Content Plan vs a Content Strategy

Though some people use the terms plan and strategy interchangeably, they’re not the same thing in content marketing. Content strategy is the “why” behind your marketing. A content plan is the “how.”

A content strategy is your vision for the types of pieces you want to create and how you want your audience to connect to and engage with them. Your content plan takes that vision and puts it into action. The plan lays out the actionable steps and the processes to follow to make the vision a reality. To create the best content marketing possible, you need both parts.

Without a content plan, your strategy is just an idea. It won’t get you anywhere on its own. And without a strategy, there’s no point in having a plan. There wouldn’t be anything for your team to work toward within the plan.

Content planning also works as a check and balance system to determine how realistic your strategy is. Because the strategy is your vision for content marketing, ideas can often be loftier than your ability to actually follow through on them. With a content plan, you’re able to see how much of your strategy you can bring all the way to completion. Use your content plan to question your strategy in areas like:

  • Do your content topics and themes align with the messaging?
  • Is each planned piece of content relevant and valuable to your audience?
  • Do the content types and channels match up with how your audience likes to consume information?
  • Are there any seasonal or promotional periods in your industry that you should account for when developing content?
  • Can you repurpose content within your strategy to create more pieces out of the same amount of research, data collection, or effort?

When Should You Use a Content Strategy in Marketing?

If you’re using content marketing, you should have a content strategy. Without it, your development efforts won’t have ties to specific brand goals. Lack of strategy can also lead to disorganization and wasting time and other resources. Without a strategy, your team may be less productive and efficient. That means your marketing department isn’t reaching its full potential.

Creating your content strategy typically comes before creating a content plan. You have to know what you’re creating and how it affects your brand first. Then you can put together an actionable step-by-step roadmap for development.

When Should You Use a Content Plan in Marketing?

planning document with sticky notes on table to compare content planning vs content strategy

Image via Unsplash by @furtado

As we’ve said, you shouldn’t have a content strategy without a content plan. The plan helps you work through potential challenges or snags that come with daily content marketing creation and promotion, like:

  • Developing relevant, unique pieces: Content planning gives you a better idea of what already exists and what your audience wants to see in new pieces from your brand.
  • Using the available resources: Content planning accounts for the resources you have and how to use them most effectively for content creation and distribution.
  • Tracking content through the production cycle: A content plan helps you visualize where each piece sits within the creative process and who’s responsible for it at the moment.
  • Optimizing every piece of content: Content planning allows you to dedicate the right amount of time and resources to every piece so that it’s optimized to the best of its ability before publication.
  • Staying on schedule: Content planning tools help keep a timeline for content creation, publication, and distribution so that you’re sharing the right information with the right audience at the right time.

Rather than revising your strategy and overall vision every time you encounter a challenge, it’s better to adjust your content plan for the execution. Your goals and ideas shouldn’t change, but how you reach them might.

Why Is It Best To Use Content Planning and Content Strategy Together?

We’ve mentioned multiple times already that content planning and strategy work best when you use them together. The “why” and “how” work together to get ideas from your team to your audience and turn them into tools to collect leads, conversions, and sales. The content plan helps keep the content strategy on track. It gives direction and points your creation efforts toward the right goal.

One way to think of the relationship between a content plan and a strategy is to picture it like a frame in bowling. Your content ideas are the ball and the pins are your business goals. The lane is the path you want to take to get from point A to point B and make your ideas reach your goals. If you’re new to bowling, you’re more likely to hit the gutter until you get better at the game. The same idea applies to those new to content strategy. Your ideas have the potential to fall off track before they reach your goal without proper guidance from a content plan.

In bowling, you use bumpers to make sure the ball stays out of the gutter while you’re learning. In content marketing, your content plan acts like bumpers for your strategy. It keeps everything on track and focused so you can achieve success.

The more focused and direct your brand strategy becomes, the more credible your company appears to the audience. Credibility increases trust and loyalty, which helps you reach your goals even faster. And the easier it is to reach your goals and find what works, the more data you have for the next strategy and campaign.

Be Prepared For Every Phase of Content Creation With CopyPress

When you partner with CopyPress, we work with you to develop your content strategy. In your first one-on-one meeting, we discuss your brand goals and ambitions. This lets our team create a one-of-a-kind strategy tailored to your needs. Then, we develop the content plan so that you know the clear timeline for the creation, publication, and distribution of all your pieces.

We also have a host of tools and professional contacts to help you with the individual steps of content planning and strategizing along the way. You can test out one of these tools today by requesting your free content marketing analysis report. Our tool helps your strategy planning tracking metrics for content planning by giving insights about your search engine positioning, potential syndication partners, and showing how your content stacks up against the competition.

To get a preview of your information today, share your web address with us below. Then take the time to customize your report profile so we can provide the most accurate results—in as little as an hour.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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