Develop Strategic Content for Your Brand – with the Content Strategy Canvas

Most content marketing strategies fail because they are designed for a single campaign – rather than to promote a brand. The Content Strategy Canvas helps companies avoid this costly error. You can download the powerful content-creation tool at the bottom of this article – completely free of charge.

In the past, businesses and brands had at least some control over the information that circulated about them. This is no longer the case. Economist Thorsten Hennig-Thurau compares brand management in the digital age to a game of pinball. Marketers reach their customers on as many points of contact as possible. The customers then modify the messages and continue the game from their side. Branding has to try to put its own stamp on this constant back-and-forth.

This is why enterprises produce masses of their own content. Unfortunately, however, most of it ends up in the bin. This includes thousands of videos that go unwatched, white papers no one downloads, and infographics nobody understands. The expression ‘every company is a media company’ – although bandied about a lot – does not hold up in practice.

Know Your Target Audience

Content Canvas: You can request the high-resolution version via email.

Today, digital channels provide businesses with all kinds of opportunities to reach their target audience. There are technologies and tools that can help, too. But most enterprises still lack real expertise when it comes to creating and organising content. What’s more, in the mobile age, commercial publishers and news outlets are under no immediate financial pressure. For them, simply engaging their audience is top priority. As Ryan Holiday explains, “Every decision a publisher makes is ruled by one dictum: traffic by any means.” No clicks, no money.

An organisation’s marketing, sales, and communications departments follow a different set of rules. The majority have individual and often quite distinct aims; they want to convey their core brand values and deliver consistent messages. They also want to sell their products – at least indirectly. By taking this approach, an enterprise can easily lose sight of its audience’s interests. The result is perfectly-aligned, highly-polished content that fails to inspire any follow-up communication – and so falls flat on its face.

This is where Callies & Schewe’s Content Strategy Canvas comes in. The tool is based on the Business Model Canvas, founded by Alexander Osterwalder, which allows startups to visualise their business models. With the Content Strategy Canvas you can develop content to promote your brand, reach your target audience, and address the needs of internal stakeholders.

How the Canvas Works:
  1. At the start of a content-creation project, there will be a workshop allowing up to eight people to fill out the Canvas – simply using sticky notes. In an open discussion, participants are encouraged to question anything – no matter how obvious it seems – and to tackle to the most important strategic issues together.
  2. Adding ‘personas’ to the Canvas helps the group to more accurately align content and processes to the consumer.
  3. It is crucial to create a compelling storyline on which to base the choice of channels and formats used. This prevents the classic marketing mistake of first choosing the channel and then adapting the content to fit it.
  4. The Canvas affords the group a constant overview of the business model content, as well as sales, brand, and communications aspects.
  5. Once the Canvas has been established as a blueprint, each department can organise and produce its own content – geared to its individual aims and with very little redundant material.

This all helps a company overcome its silo mentality whilst simultaneously reducing the cost and increasing the impact of its content. It also enables the organisation to tell its brand story more compellingly – with a different tone of voice for each channel. In this way, the Content Strategy Canvas is the starting point for a new form of iterative collaboration – the kind that the pace of the digital age demands of larger enterprises on all levels. It thereby supports brand management’s entire digital transformation.


Fog, Klaus; Budtz, Christian; Yakaboylu, Baris (2010): Storytelling – Branding in Practice. Springer.

Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten; vor dem Esche, Jonas, Bloching, Björn (2012): Flippern statt Bowling – Marketing im Zeitalter von Social Media. Marketing Review St. Gallen 4.

Holiday, Ryan (2013): Trust me, I´m Lying. Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Portfolio Penguin.

Lipiäinen, Heini; Karjaluoto, Heikki (2015): Industrial Branding in the Digital Age. Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing 30 (6).

Osterwalder, Alexander; Pigneur, Yves (2011): Business Model Generation. Ein Handbuch für Visionäre. Campus.



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