Ask An Expert: Content Marketing vs. Content Strategy – What’s the Difference?

In our first ever “Ask An Expert” column, we asked digital marketing leaders to weigh in on the distinction between content marketing and content strategy. While they all agree that the two go hand in hand, they set unique expectations for each.

Drumroll please… Introducing a new, monthly column titled “Ask an Expert” where the iAcquire team will step into the minds of thought leaders in digital marketing to get a pulse on common questions or scenarios marketers may face.

As part of this week’s meetup with Zemanta and Distilled, we polled next week’s speaker panel and digital marketing high rollers on the great debate between content strategy and content marketing. As content comes to the forefront of brands’ marketing tactics, it becomes of critical importance to understand the pieces of the content puzzle.

“What is content strategy, what is content marketing — and are they the same thing?”

The Meetup’s Speaker Panel Weighs In:

Content strategy is the “how” that oversees the “what” of content marketing. While the marketing part is the execution, promotion, and measurement, content strategy is what gets it done.

Content strategy involves who is going to execute, why it’s being done in the format that it is, and who is taking care of the upkeep.

Another way to think of it is strategy is the personnel that get it done, and marketing is the content types and how they are promoted. I define both here on slides 9 and 15.

They are absolutely not the same thing, and you also cannot have one without the other. Without strategy, the marketing never gets done, or at the least is much less effective than it could be.

John Doherty, SEO Consultant and Office Head, Distilled


Content strategy and content marketing are not the same thing, however; are both integrated into the process of creating the vision/publication/distribution of media and content.

For me, content strategy is comprised of the following:

  • Collection of data
  • Vision and mission for the content
  • Overall strategy and road map of compiling and creating the content.
  • Answering how can we learn and iterate upon our past content pieces? How can we improve upon this process?

On the other hand, content marketing is the actual content that is being produced. What content is being produced? Where is it being distributed? What happened once it has been distributed?

In a nutshell, content strategy answers the how’s and why’s of content creation, whereas content marketing focuses on the what’s and where’s of content creation.

Stephanie Chang, SEO Consultant, Distilled


Content strategy is the plan for content research, creation, implementation and measurement. Content marketing is the use of any kind of content created for the purpose of marketing. They are different and both necessary.

Although all content may in a way serve as marketing and all content requires a strategy, content strategy and content marketing intrinsically differ based upon goals.

Content strategy can explore various goals, whereas content marketing focuses upon attracting and engaging target audiences for an end acquisition (any kind of conversion, not just commerce-based).

You can’t have one without the other. There’s no point in creating great content if no one sees it. Marketing isn’t useful if you don’t have strong content assets.

Megan Brown, Social Media Strategist, iAcquire


Content marketing and content strategy, while both beginning with the same word, are two very different concepts: the former being more tactic-oriented primarily used in the promotion phase of content strategy.

Content strategy is what the name implies, a strategic framework for how a brand approaches their content on all channels (paid, earned, and owned).

They work together in the sense that content marketing comes in at the later stages of a content strategy and is used as a vehicle to promote and draw in audience members to the content.

Tom Harari, SEO Manager, iAcquire


More Digital Marketers Weigh In On The Great Debate:


At EContent, we’ve defined content marketing as the blanket term that describes the process of creating and sharing relevant brand information in hopes of engaging current consumers and attracting new ones.

Content marketers believe that sharing specialized content leads to a better informed consumer, and a better informed consumer yields more profitable results.

And, content strategy is exactly what the name implies, a strategy for your content. Whether you’re engaged in content marketing, blogging, ebook publishing, apps, or any number of content endeavors, you need a strategy.

In order to be successful at content marketing, you need a content strategy. It’s as simple as that. You wouldn’t start a new business without a plan, and if you want your content marketing to work, you need to have a strategy in place. Who will create your content? What format will it be? Where will you publish it? How will you distribute it? What is relevant to your consumers? How often will you publish? These are all questions you need to answer.

 Theresa Cramer, Editor, EContent Magazine


Content marketing is specifically designated to attract customers. Content marketing is the tactical promotion of on-site and off-site assets – and that promotion can be inbound or outbound. Content strategy defines the why, what, and how content will be conceived, created, and managed. Proper content strategy is what enables content marketing to be successful.

As an example, a website is part of a brand’s content strategy, and it’s also part of a brand’s content marketing. On the strategy side, the audience is identified, the amount of and type of content is determined, the structural hierarchy is determined and internal linking is decided upon – the content creation players are identified and the editorial processes are put in place. A content strategy will often define the content marketing tactics required to ensure customers are reached.

On the content marketing front the website is a tool – it a means of reaching an audience. It is one important piece of a larger strategy to reach customers using content.

In many ways content marketing embraces all facets of marketing (i.e. a television commercial is a form of content marketing), but generally when people talk about content marketing they are specifically referencing digital media being promoted through earned media channels.

These channels include organic search, social media, owned and third-party websites/blogs, and email. The ongoing development of rich on-site and off-site content assets, and the promotion of those assets via inbound marketing embodies the generally accepted meaning of content marketing.

Joe Griffin, CEO & Co-Founder, iAcquire


I look at content marketing as marketing your business, products, and services using content. Content strategy, on the other hand, is the planning and implementation of your content marketing.

Some people may consider it the same thing, but I would say that if you don’t set up a specific content strategy, you won’t have a successful content marketing campaign. Your strategy should include what your content marketing goals are, how you will develop your content, how you will promote it, and how you will measure your results.

Kristi Hines, Freelance Writer and Professional Blogger


Content marketing is the practice of creating and promoting engaging editorial content for the purpose of building attention and lead sources, whereas content strategy is the approach a brand takes to the digital content they create and distribute.

Content strategy informs content marketing efforts. Whereas content marketing efforts are typically editorial in nature, content strategy can encompass other types of digital content and interactive experience.

Ross Crooks, COO & Co-Founder, Column Five Media


Content strategy is about devising how content will support and further your business objectives. It’s the planning that precedes any type of content development and is absolutely a critical part of any content marketing program. In other words, “why are we doing this?” Content marketing on the other hand (and here’s where it gets a bit muddled) usually refers to the execution of strategy (e.g. planning specific tactics and executing on them).

They are not the same but are often used interchangeably. They work in tandem.

Clare McDermott, Editor, Chief Content Officer


Clearly, the consensus is that content strategy and content marketing are two separate yet deeply connected entities.

Now that we’ve helped define the difference, stay tuned for a recap of the meetup, which will cover:

  • Using data to audit and improve your content strategy
  • Examining content strategy as the backbone of marketing strategy
  • Exploring  social strategy as an aspect of content strategy – not something separate
  • Creating effective micro-content that drives conversion
  • Repurposing non-social content for social use.
  • Creating a unified brand voice for social & content strategy across disparate audiences
  • Using social media to shape your content strategy
  • Determining the content strategy “order of operations”

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree with these definitions?

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