Legendary strength coach Mike Boyle tells the story of a young athlete who reports not being able to tolerate squats. “They make my back hurt,” he says. The coach wisely asks for a demonstration.

“Squats don’t hurt your back,” said Boyle after seeing the athlete’s improper squat. “What you’re doing and calling a squat is hurting your back.”

Which brings me to Tiger Woods, who last week said running 30 miles a week during the first five years of his career ruined his body.

While that distance is nothing to sniff at, it’s not high mileage. Tiger’s issues likely stemmed from running incorrectly, not from running itself. People think you can buy a $100 pair of running shoes, do some static stretches and then hit the road, tallying up the miles pain-free for years. Nope.

While it looks simple, running is a quite complicated, high impact, high repetition activity.

For example, a mile consists of more than 1,500 steps for the average runner. Add in the faulty movement patterns prominent in many athletes and you can see how running can be a disaster waiting to happen.

“You don’t run to get in shape,” says coach Boyle. “You get in shape to run.”

Content strategy readies your brand for the race ahead

I understand this well. In college, I started running a couple of miles a day. On weekends, I’d up the ante and run five to seven miles. In less than three months, I was running 30 miles a week. This went on for more than a year until I developed shin splints and couldn’t run at all.

When I later visited an orthopedic surgeon, he immediately knew what was going on. My lack of dynamic stretching matched with my poor running gait and my de-conditioned body made me ripe for feeling pain.

I was putting exercise on top of dysfunction.

Tiger and I have plenty of company in the business world. Brands turning to content marketing to earn trust, loyalty, and authority nearly always bite off more than they should attempt to chew.

– To attain traffic, they create blog posts, white papers, and e-books
– To acquire links, they double down on link building, designing, creating and sharing massive, expensive content assets (e.g., videos, guides, etc.)
– To goose conversions, they A/B test every action under the sun

And, like Tiger, when things go off the rails, the actions they took are the culprits. Not the plan they failed to deploy.

I call this the curse of doing a lot what you don’t yet do well.

None of the ideas are bad; they are simply not very useful without a sound content strategy. To fully recognize the hard-won success of any or all of the actions above, you need to know not only the what, but the why as well.

Otherwise, it’s darn impossible to replicate your success. Sadly, most brands see content strategy much the same way as a novice, overzealous runner sees conditioning: something for a later date. It’s partly the content strategy community’s fault. We make content strategy sound like an albatross that only the biggest and best brands have the time, the money or the stomach for.

Content strategy is a through line for your brand

Once you get past all of the rubrics, the fancy nomenclature and the multi-disciplinary approach, content strategy can be distilled, quite simply, to creating a through line that connects your brand’s goals to those of your prospects and customers.

That through line comprises the design, creation, delivery, amplification, and governance of your brand’s content.

In theory, this is complicated; in practice, it’s anything but.

For example, before creating a blog, your brand would do the following:

  • Have a clear goal matched to a prospect or persona in a given buying stage
  • Conduct keyword research to discern the terms being used by people searching for the product or service, or whatever they currently use in its absence
  • Ascertain the best format for the content to be created
  • Decide who will create content
  • Design the content
  • Determine the best platforms for sharing the content
  • Distribute, promote and amplify the content
  • Analyze the results

Content strategy is necessary and doable

The above information represents a gross oversimplification, yes, but the point is made: You need a content strategy—not just for individual pieces of content, but for your brand overall—and it’s not beyond your brand’s capabilities to successfully employ a content strategy.