Helping a startup achieve higher reach and engagement by developing a web content strategy

CMX Media's web page.

“Clem’s work with CMX really turned our content ship around. I worked with Clem over the summer of 2015, and he helped us transform our content production, measurement, and governance processes. Clem lead the charge on all these changes and opened all of our eyes to the power of content strategy.”

– Carrie Melissa Jones, Former Editorial Director, COO, and Founding Partner @ CMX Media


CMX Media educates and empowers the world’s community professionals through events, editorial content, and training and workshops.

When I came onboard, my primary responsibility was copy editing articles for the website. But as a team of two, the CEO and the COO (previously the Editorial Director) had little bandwidth to think more strategically about their web content. Before long, it was clear that they needed a content strategy and a more streamlined editorial process for scaling content production.

With larger projects and partnerships in the works, it was crucial that the company transition away from ad-hoc content development. I worked directly with the COO to develop and implement a content strategy using a modular approach.

Defining the challenge

The editorial side of the business faced several challenges:

  • No clear audience needs and goals: They intimately understood their audience but that knowledge wasn’t made explicit in a way that helped them produce targeted content.
  • Not sure if content was meeting business objectives: They had a vision for content but it wasn’t articulated enough to guide their efforts. It was hard to tell whether the content was contributing towards business metrics.
  • Editorial process wasn’t scalable: They had a process for content production but it wasn’t organized in a way that was repeatable. Inefficient content production ate up time that could be spent on more strategic work. Their workflow wouldn’t be sustainable as the company grows.
  • No clear line-of-sight from metrics, insights, and action: They used web analytics to measure content performance but they weren’t sure how to consistently integrate insights into business strategy and operations.


The results of creating and implementing a content strategy:

  • Grew email list by over 50% while implementing content strategy (5 months)
  • Increased weekly traffic to the CMX website by 60% and doubled its return visitors
  • The ebook generated 50% open rate for the emails that promoted it, which is 30% higher than the main mailing list

“We now consistently receive messages from our audience members that our content goes above and beyond anything else in this field, and that we’ve become an indispensable resource for them.”

Carrie Melissa Jones, Former Editorial Director, COO, and Founding Partner @ CMX Media


I worked closely with Carrie–Editorial Director at the time before elevating to COO–to develop a content strategy. I relied on her to provide business and operational knowledge while occasionally consulting with the CEO on future business developments that may impact how content strategy is being implemented.

Audience research and personas

To align business operations to audience needs, I gathered as much audience data as I could. I worked alongside the COO to develop 4 personas that became the North Star to the company’s editorial strategy and writing.

  • Analyzed qualitative feedback from CMX Summit conferences and Google Analytics for top performing pages
  • Performed keyword research and developed SEO strategy for articles
  • Developed a process for the COO to conduct audience interviews
Documentation of primary persona for CMX Media in the editorial style guide.
One of the first things we tackled in our minimum viable approach was learning about our audience’s needs and creating personas which we then prioritized.

Content framework and messaging

The COO and I developed a core strategy statement to articulate how content will meet business objectives while satisfying audience needs. We used it to drive decisions around what content to create and for whom and for what purpose.

CMX Media's core strategy statement.
  • Identified business objectives, audience member needs, and content goals through workshop-style stakeholder interviews
  • Developed a core content strategy that frames what each piece of content should accomplish. Then mapped content types to each stage of the marketing/sales funnel.

We also wanted the messages we communicate through content is on-brand. I worked with the COO to develop a message architecture to ensure that all content in production demonstrated similar value proposition.

  • Conducted a card sort to develop CMX’s message architecture as well as its brand voice and tone
  • Synthesized card sort result into a communication framework and high-level messaging
  • Documented everything in a style guide for all CMX content
Carrie Jones, CMX Media's Director of Content, doing a card sorting exercise to figure out CMX's voice and tone and message architecture.
Carrie, our COO, doing a card sorting exercise to figure out CMX’s message architecture and voice and tone.

Prescriptive editorial processes and standards

To scale our editorial processes, I documented our workflow and developed a toolkit for systematically creating high-quality content. I also outlined standards and best practices to ensure the content consistently met business objectives.

  • Created templates, checklists, and guides for writing articles and collaborating with contributors
  • Assembled best practices for topics like writing headlines and repurposing older articles
  • Documented responsibilities for anyone involved in content production and how key content decisions will be made
  • Created a system to generate new and relevant topics for articles and when to evaluate editorial plans
CMX Media voice and tone guide in the editorial style guide.

Measurement plan for content performance

I assembled a data-driven plan to continuously learn and iterate on our editorial strategy based on content performance. I focused on how data will be used to optimize each segment of the sales and marketing funnel.

  • Created a measurement plan that clarified what to measure and why, what each metric tells us, and how to improve content based on insights
  • Tailored measurement plan based on channel and content type
Measurement plan for the KPI, Engagement. Includes content objectives, metrics, method of measurement, frequency of measurement, and decisions to make based on analytics data.
An example of a measurement plan for web content. We also defined metrics for Awareness content and Sales content.

Roadmap for implementing content strategy

Since CMX was a startup, it needed a method to integrate content strategy into its operations without losing momentum on its business priorities. I proposed an approach to make incremental changes while being mindful of our team’s workload and upcoming initiatives.

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