The Content Breakdown

You should probably update the basic principles underlying your content strategy more often than you update your personal style.

The world of content is changing, and those changes are coming fast. Between the ease of use and wide availability of tools like ChatGPT and companies like Google changing how sites are indexed, algorithm changes on platforms like LinkedIn, and changes in how people search for information, what we know about how people look for and find content is in flux, possibly more than it ever has been before.

The situation might be comparable to fashion. Maybe you found a look you liked and didn’t update it way past when you probably should have. The last time I bought glasses my children gently suggested I “come out of the 90s.” Content strategy needs to be updated more often than your fashion, but, much like I bought new glasses regularly and updated my prescription every year or two, you might not be reconsidering the basic principles of your strategy—but you should.

A white woman with dark brown hair wearing wire-rimmed glasses, smiling.
Me, in 2008, wearing the style of glasses I’d worn (and would wear) for many years.

The 70:20:10 Approach Applied to Strategy

In the earliest reference I could find, Ian Lurie suggested sometime around 2013 the idea that 70% of a company’s content should be “safe,” which means no one is at all surprised to find a business discussing it, there’s no risk at all involved. For example, your FAQ page is probably very safe content, if you have a resource library or company directory, it’s likely safe content.

Along with 70% safe content, 20% of your content should be “moderately safe.” This category could include something like making the bios of your leadership team a little more relaxed, a bit less buttoned-up than your audience might expect. This portion of your content shows more originality and sets you apart. It could involve reaching out to a new audience or a slightly different take on a popular topic.

The final 10% of your content, according to Lurie, should be risky. It might cause someone to pause, or to laugh, or to be a little surprised. Maybe you’re dipping your corporate toes into TikTok with a song and dance number, or perhaps your CEO is a guest on a podcast about their hobby and you promote it on the corporate site.

Original Content Is Better Than Safe Content

With the current state of the world of content, these numbers are outdated. Originality is crucial right now, and no more than 50% of your content should be in the safe category or be information that can be found elsewhere.

Honing in on your unique offer and why it solves the problem your audience faces is key, so at least 20% of your content needs to be original. It can be thought leadership, research, case studies, or other exclusive-to-your-organization content. Demonstrating expertise clearly and describing it in ways that are interesting to your audience is the most important element in bringing and keeping the right folks engaged with your content. Original, useful content is still safe but the important thing is that it cannot be found anywhere else.

The next 20% of your content should still be moderately safe content, where you attempt to reach new audiences or offer mildly controversial opinions. The last 10% should still be somewhat risky where you try new distribution channels or formats, offer unpopular opinions, or otherwise surprise people.

Industry Standard or Disappearing Act?

At a certain point, your overall style, including eyewear in my case, becomes representative of who you are. Changing it can feel like a big risk. I decided to go right out on a limb and buy a pair of glasses that were completely different from any I’d ever had before. I’d always worn small, rectangular glasses, usually brown or with wire frames. The new pair were big and bright blue.

The blue glasses

Once, I had a very niche assignment, writing about a really specific part of the drug development industry. To prepare for an interview, I looked at about 20 different websites of companies that offered the same services. A couple of things stood out:

After looking at all those sites, reading about pages and leadership team bios, and even case studies, it wasn’t clear what these companies actually did.

Every one of those 20 companies used the same vague language, they touted the same benefits, and even the way their sites were designed and the colors they used were remarkably similar.

I interviewed two different subject matter experts for the article, and they offered two, nearly opposite pieces of advice. The first one said that making sure it was obvious your firm offered all the same things the rest of them did was a top priority. The second one said that differentiation was the path to success. Guess which expert was a well-known and highly regarded CEO?

When I started wearing the blue glasses (confession: it was only when my old ones broke), I was shocked that people complimented them fairly often. Eventually, the dog chewed them up, and I got a pair of tortoise shell ones but should have stuck with the bolder option. I’ve never gotten a single compliment on the most recent ones.

Me, wearing the most recent tortoise shell glasses.


Keep Your Content Strategy Current

The whole point is that finding an approach to content strategy that makes sense, suits your industry, and works well makes it easy to settle down for too long. You might tweak your overall strategy to meet your business goals, much like I was buying new glasses every couple of years with updated lenses, but keeping the same basic style. It’s probably time to exam the underlying principles of your content strategy, just as it was time for me to get some more modern eyewear.

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