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  • Writer's pictureRhys Wesley

The three horizons model can help you be strategic about content creation

A recent discussion with a prospect reminded me of a common problem faced by content teams in larger and growing organizations:

We want to be strategic, but often there is a lot of pressure on our resources for tactical content that meets immediate demands from sales, marketing, and product teams.

If you are in this type of organization, no doubt you have encountered similar challenges.

So what can you do?

Introducing the three horizons model

The three horizons model is a growth strategy framework by McKinsey that was designed to help businesses deploy their resources for short, medium, and long-term growth. You can read more about the business application here, but today I want to talk about how it could be applied to content teams.

The below diagram gives an overarching view of the concept applied to a content marketing team. The idea is that your team and resources should be split into three groups or "horizons." The first horizon is focused on operational content for the here and now; short-term deadlines and day-to-day work. The second horizon is tactical content that has more complexity and a longer timeframe. And the third is strategic content that you need months to produce.

The three horizons model for content
The three horizons model for content

Why it's useful

Having the three horizons as a workflow management concept can be helpful for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • It helps give you a shared language around the allocation of resources.

  • It helps you enforce discipline around where time is spent.

  • It helps you see where resources are being allocated inefficiently. For example, if you have aspirations to create a certain amount of strategic content but are constantly being sucked into operational content, something needs to change - process, what you say yes to, or even headcount.

Examples of content for each horizon

Let's take a look at some types of content types and tasks and where they might fit into each horizon.

Horizon 1 represents the daily tasks your team needs to work on immediately - short-term requests for brochures, updating web pages, social media, and so on. This type of content is not easily delayed, but also not of enormous strategic value.

Horizon 2 is ongoing content that you create in the short-mid term and which is produced at a steady pace. This might include case studies, thought leadership articles, product or feature announcements, newsletters and email marketing, SEO content, and so on.

Horizon 3 is the big-bang content that you spend months preparing, is often backed with its own budget, involves multiple collaterals, and is launched with a campaign. Some examples might be white papers, proprietary research, a website relaunch, long-form guides or ebooks, big product announcements that include video, PR, and blog content, and so on.

Do you need help optimizing your content team's operations?

Even the best content marketing teams can benefit from an expert outside voice to help them look at different ways to improve their workflows, collaboration, output, and distribution.

If you would like to learn more about how to finetune your content marketing efforts, contact me.


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