Book: The Hows and How-Tos of Content Strategy – John Verhoeven

Content is king and a good content strategy enriches and strengthens customer relationship. But how do you start? How do you connect your products with the solutions that the customer requires? Content strategist John Verhoeven wrote a practical book about it, our Wouter Verkerken put it onto practice.

I discovered this book after a reading by author John Verhoeven about content strategy for external communication. Verhoeven was one of the passionate speakers during a Vonk-convention. Although Vonk is the biggest Belgian network for internal communication, Verhoeven’s enthusiasm meant that no one was too bothered that he mainly spoke about external communication. Afterwards, I bought the book.

Verhoeven’s method mainly comes from his experience in the world of popular magazines. But that is not an issue, as it means he focuses on how you determine your message and how you plan the publishing of your articles. I read the book with Flow’s external communication and our website in mind. There are two techniques we will start using: Perspectives and pillars/themes/subjects. Are these new insights? Maybe not, but Verhoeven provides you with a clear and simple framework to use.

Three perspectives

Which ‘twist’ do you give to your – in my case – messages on your website? Which point of view do you use? Verhoeven gives three options:

  • Product: e.g. “Next month Flow organizes a training on Structured Authoring.”
  • Question: e.g. “How to easily publish technical content?”
  • Need: e.g. “There’s no time. We need to be able to focus on our core business!

What to write?

The Hows and How-Tos of Content Strategy provides you with a framework for your article subjects. When you go through the themes of your current articles, most often than not, you’ll notice there are a lot of them (also the case at Flow). That’s why you should group your themes into ‘pillars’ that you should keep in mind when planning your articles. Make sure all pillars and themes get equal time and that you frequently change perspectives.

To help you with all of this, Verhoeven developed a Content Canvas (MS Excel) that is cleverly designed, but I still found it rather complicated. You could do the same type of thing in Microsoft Planner.

All in all, I think the book is rather long but worth the time as it provides you with a clear and practical method. As I said, I mainly read it with Flow’s external communication in mind. It could also be interesting to focus on where it applies to technical communication, of course, which is something to keep in mind for the future. (WV).