Great learning content can take time and effort to create. If you’re building it from scratch, you need to make sure it conveys meaningful, relevant information in ways that reflect audience and business expectations. If you’re curating it from third-party sources, you’ll need to do your due diligence to make sure what’s available suits your organization’s or association’s needs. This way, you can seamlessly weave it into your professional development and continuing education offerings.
So, how do you make sure your hard work pays off? By incorporating content creation, curation and delivery into a solid learning content strategy.
In this article, we take a closer look at what a content strategy is and the role it plays in driving organizational excellence.
What Is a Content Strategy?
It’s helpful to understand the difference between a learning strategy and a content strategy, because sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.
- A learning strategy is your overall approach to learning and development, your vision for what learning means at your organization and how those contribute to business objectives.
- A content strategy, on the other hand, is the planning, development, deployment and management of the content your organization creates and uses to support your learning strategy. This typically includes a road map that highlights both current content and gaps you need to fill.
A content strategy often feeds into content design standards. These help your organization determine how to make your content engaging for your learners and how to build a consistent look and feel that reflects your brand.
What Elements Go Into a Content Strategy?
Your learning content strategy should include the following:
- A clearly articulated vision for learning, which should be informed by the work you did at the learning strategy stage. Remember that this is meant to be a high-level process. With this piece, your objective is to make sure that everyone is on the same page about what learning means, why it matters for your organization, and the ways in which learning connects back to business objectives and goals you’re looking to achieve. The next step is figuring out how you’ll realize it.
- A road map that outlines how your organization will achieve its vision. You can break it down into phases, each with its own goals and success criteria. This is also where you can start to get more granular about specific types of content that you may need to develop to support your overall learning strategy.
You can use different tactics as you’re developing your vision and road map. For example, learner experience mapping can help you understand who your audiences are and what they’re looking to get out of the learning programs you offer. A needs analysis will also be crucial in helping your organization understand the content you already have, the content you’ll need to find or build, the milestones you want to work toward, and the KPIs you want to track, as they relate to learning effectiveness.
How and Why Should You Align Your Content Strategy With Business Objectives?
Misalignment between the content offered by your learning initiatives and the goals of the organization is a common challenge. Sometimes this happens because there’s a lack of a clear learning strategy that ties the vision for learning to overall business objectives. At other times, it could be because, simply put, the developed content doesn’t have a clear relationship to business goals.
For example, maybe your company’s goal is increasing year-over-year employee engagement rates. An appropriate learning intervention might be launching a new corporate university that offers free professional development courses that reflect the growth employees envision for themselves and the goals your organization has for the future.
Why Does Your Organization Need a Content Strategy?
Having a content strategy in place helps you do three things:
- Create better user experiences. Learning platforms can do a lot. They can help prompt learners with relevant and personalized content, automate notifications and communications, and pull data into dynamic dashboards. Yet as critical as technology is, it’s people like you who make the difference. You know what your organization wants to accomplish. You know where your teams’ strengths lie. You know where your learners are looking to develop in their careers and how they want to do that. Part of developing your learning content strategy is understanding each of these pieces and bringing them to life with the in-house content creation and off-the-shelf content curation capabilities available through your learning technology ecosystem.
- Experiment in ways that are aligned with your vision. You want to empower people to push the envelope, be creative and try new things. But at the end of the day, you also want innovation to reflect your core goals. That’s why your vision is your starting point. The more aligned people are with what you’re trying to achieve, the better they’ll be able to deliver content that supports that.
- Track and measure the impact of your content. The pressure is on for companies to be able to highlight the impacts of learning programs. How many people are accessing them? How much time are they spending on content? What are their downstream effects on the business? Having a clear understanding of why content was created will make it easier to identify relevant success metrics and report on results.
Ultimately, what these benefits boil down to is the simple-but-important idea that a strong learning content strategy is key to the long-term success of your learning programs. Alongside your learning strategy and content design standards, it ties everything you do to your core vision and helps make sure that learning experiences positively support business outcomes.
Create Learning Content That Drives Business Outcomes
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Haley Wilson is a Content Marketing Manager at D2L, specializing in the corporate learning space. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Guelph as well as a Master of Arts focused in history from Wilfrid Laurier University.
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