Preparing for a content strategy: your project checklist

Where do you start to develop a content strategy for your university, school or college? The team at Pickle Jar Communications have created a handy checklist of questions that you should consider before you start.


Everyone’s getting their content strategy nailed down… and so should you, right?

The temptation to jump in and crack on with your content strategy development or project is strong, especially when everyone else seems to be developing theirs and you’re convinced it’s what you need.

But let’s pause for a second and take a moment to plan the project properly. To help, we’ve developed this checklist of things that you need to consider, establish and agree ahead of working on your content strategy, as well as questions to ask yourself.


Goals and objectives

  • Why are you developing a content strategy?
  • Why now?
  • What problems will the content strategy aim to solve for the institution?
  • Who is the strategy intended to serve?
  • Who will use the strategy?
  • What do they need from this?
  • What does success look like for this project?
  • Are there success milestones that you break down into smaller project chunks?


  • What is in and out of scope of your strategy project and why?
  • What is the breadth of the strategy? Does it go towards a full-scale whole-organisation approach that encompasses internal communications and information management, or is it more focused on being a content marketing strategy for a specific marketing goal or audience?


  • What does this project and the strategy need to produce as tangible outputs? This should align to the project goals. This could include a great many things, examples include:
    • A written and documented content strategy
    • Comprehensive understanding (audit) of existing content and roadmap for improvements
    • Clarity over ownership of content strategy
    • Audience insights, journey maps and empathy maps
    • Content models and maps
    • Campaign strategies and plans
    • Information architecture
    • Content plans, page tables or editorial calendars
    • Content automation flows and plans
    • Content personalisation plans
    • Content types, modules and elements
    • Taxonomy
    • Workflow process
    • Governance process
    • Content risk assessment
    • And much much more…


  • Who needs to be involved in this project? A RACI framework can be helpful for this (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed)
  • What do they need from the project?
  • If they have decision-making power or influence over your project, what will it take to persuade them? What matters to them? How should you persuade them?
  • How will you involve them throughout the project?

Dependencies and existing strategies

  • What existing strategies and plans must this align to? This might include:
    • Institutional strategy and plan
    • Brand strategy
    • Information management strategy
    • Marketing strategy
    • Web strategy
    • Any other content strategies that have already been created
    • And so on…
  • Are there other projects underway in your institution that the content strategy needs to complement, inform, or align to? Examples might include:
    • CRM roll out
    • Website redevelopment
    • Internal communications strategy or project
    • Student experience projects
    • And so on…

Time, management and co-ordination

  • Who is going to lead and work on this project?
  • Do you realistically have the time to do this as well as your day-to-day activities?
  • How will you carve out time?
  • Will you commission external partners/agencies to lead any or all of this work?
  • Who will project manage and co-ordinate all moving parts?
  • Beyond the end of the “project” who will retain ownership of this area of work as it is implemented?

Budget and other resource

  • If working with external partners, have you allocated (and had approved) an appropriate level budget?
  • Have you budgeted for tools, technologies and resources that you may require. These might include:
    • Testing tools (for user research, for example)
    • Research panel access (for recruiting research participants)
    • Budgets for incentivising research participants
    • Costs for room hire for audience research
    • Tools for planning and content creation


This may feel like a lot to think about up front, and some of it can become part of the strategy process itself, but defining as much of this as possible before you begin will enable you to:

  • Clearly define success criteria
  • Manage stakeholder expectations
  • Give yourself the power to say “no” to project scope creep
  • Gain support and budget (if needed) to commission external partners and consultants to work on this with you
  • Produce a strong brief for external partners and internal collaborators
  • Set the criteria through which you will assess what gets approved or not, thus avoiding compromise by committee.

If you’d like help with defining your content strategy project and designing an approach, the team at Pickle Jar Communications (the content strategists behind ContentEd) can help. 

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  • Ross McCall says:

    I’m in the middle of writing a content strategy for a non-profit in Ireland who have never had one before. This is exactly the tool I needed at this point. Thanks.