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Content Management

Content Strategy (Part 2)

Content Strategy is relatively new in the digital media. Is definitively not for the faint of heart since it requires effort – and a very big one – from it’s planning up to its execution and measurement, but the payback is huge and very rewarding. In this article, I tried to go back to the very beginnings of the discipline and went all the way to the current state by highlighting the need to implement a strategy for organizations.

Recommendations to Start Defining a Content Strategy

We’ve talked about Content Strategy origins, and why we need to take it seriously in order for businesses to gain and most importantly retain their customers – I’m using the word customer not from an economic perspective, but from a generalist one.

If you’re as excited as I was six months ago after reading Kristina’s interview in .NET Magazine – even 15% as excited as I was, or if you’re even curious about what would be needed to define a content strategy – then follow along for the last part of this post. It’ll be quite short since I’m not going to go through the details and just going to give you some pointers on where to start.

First of all, we need to start somewhere. Is not enough to think: oh, we have so much to tackle than we might take months in order to get something done, or the tasks are just overwhelming that we feel as drowning before actually diving into it. So, let’s get this started.

  1. Define your goals. Probably the most important thing. Not only for a Content Strategy but also for your overall business. Make yourself a favor and avoid choosing more than three goals, then make sure the goals follow the next set of rules: a) are specific, b) are realistic, c) are measureable. It can be more complex than imagined at first, and don’t worry; these are not carved in stone. It’s expected that goals are refined as time goes by.
  2. Define Governance and Implement it. Meghan Casey provides an amazing background and framework to work on in her article Get Your Content Strategy Out of the Drawer with Governance, but basically it is all about defining the decisions to make, defining who will be the people empowered to make these decisions, develop a plan and the tools and do it. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all by yourself, so you’ll have to delegate. Identify your main advocate for Content Strategist in the organization – that person will be your champion – your main stakeholders and money people – someone will have to pay for the effort, so you’ll have to convince them that it will be one of their best investments.
  3. Perform an Audit. There are two types of audits: quantitative inventories deal with accounting what’s there, and qualitative assessments respond to the question about whether it’s good or not. In order to start, we definitively need to know what do we have, where, and who’s the source for the information.  After the inventory is complete, perform a content gap analysis in order to determine what’s missing in order to meet the goals defined in the first place.
    1. In order to define what’s missing, you will need to perform interviews. Consider some of the following questions.
      1. What is keeping you up at night in terms of information?
      2. Do you know of specific sections or content being reported as troublesome by your customers?
      3. Is there content your site is highly praised for?
      4. Is there content in your organization that is not displayed in your site and you think should be included?
      5. Do you have testimonials from customers or acknowledgments from third party companies?
  4. Create a style guide.  The Publishing Industry is great at this. The Content Editor makes sure nothing is out of consistency when a magazine hits the shelves. Take a look at well-known style guides as AP Style Guide and BBC Global Experience Language. Remember, the word consistency is key in your Content Strategy
  5. Define the social networks you’re going to be participating in. Probably social is the other buzzword besides Content Strategy these days. If you’re not participating in social media, you’re missing big opportunities. This is not to say that you should be in all of them. So carefully identify in which networks you’ll be in – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – what content you’ll be posting – try to remember the nature of the networks – and when you’ll be posting.
  6. Establish an Editorial Calendar and for God’s sake follow it. This is probably the most complex one trust me. I’ve been trying to do it for the last two weeks and it has been excruciatingly painful. After all delivering on a Content Strategy is a big investment if you’re going to do it the right way (remember the phrase, there’s no free lunch), but the rewards are absolutely worth it and I don’t regret the effort for a single minute – I’ve been growing my list of followers and people who invite me to their networks (quick pause - always be grateful and link back to those buzzing on you)

I think I went a little bit longer than expected, but trust me; these six recommendations should get you up to speed in defining and implementing a Content Strategy. We will go in detail on some of these recommendations in later posts, but is better to start with something that not at all.

What to Avoid

As always, there are some common miss-conceptions when trying to figure the best way to define and deliver on a Content Strategy. Now that we’ve defined some items to start with, is time to address those items to avoid at all cost.

  1. More is not better. How many times have we heard, we need something in our site, no matter what it is, more is better. That couldn’t be far from true. Actually in Content Strategy Less is Better – let’s say not less but we should have what is right according to our goals. Kristina Halvorson describes the following three guidelines in her book.
  2. a. Less content is easier to manage
    b. Less content is more user-friendly
    c. Less content costs less to create

    Makes sense right? Joe Pullizi, who regularly posts on the Content Marketing Institute site – and who actually followed me after I started with my regularly editorial calendar (this was one of the rewards I wrote about earlier) – has an excellent post on Content Marketing: The Fallacy that More Content is Better

  3. Not Enough Quality Content. Simple as don’t post just to post. If you’re going to do it, do it right; otherwise, you’re adding more content to the organization’s website which may not be of any value. It can be quite an attractive option at first in order to start getting visitors, but think about it. We explained it previously, more is not better; your posts and content should be aligned to your overall goals. Think about it think way: if the content you’re going to post is not aligned to your goals, or is not going to support your end users, then don’t do it. At the end you’re going to thank yourself for not doing it. Remember the engage part of the Customer User Experience.
  4. Inconsistent Content. This one is a great one and is so difficult to overcome when you’re starting to generate content. The reason for this is because you want to generate content no matter what, so you end up either buying content or plainly syndicating it (lots of likes and shares in the social sites) – which is not bad as a technique honestly, but don’t depend on it. For instance, I do try to tweet on articles as I mentioned previously, but have very specific topics and do follow my editorial calendar (and I don’t just re-tweet it, but include a brief comment on why I think is worth reading); on Mondays, I tweet and comment on Content Strategy, on Tuesdays it’s all about User Experience, on Wednesday it’s mobile time, Thursdays are for web design, and finally Fridays are for Project and Product Management. Keep it clean, keep it consistent.

What follows?

Content Strategy is relatively new in the digital media. Is definitively not for the faint of heart since it requires effort – and a very big one – from it’s planning up to its execution and measurement, but the payback is huge and very rewarding. In this article, I tried to go back to the very beginnings of the discipline and went all the way to the current state by highlighting the need to implement a strategy for organizations.

As I mentioned early in my opening paragraphs, I’m deeply involved in how technology progresses through time, and even when I never stop amazing on how easy our lives are made by accomplishments in the IT industry, I’m also well aware that technology is just a tool – nothing more, nothing less. It’s only to the point we use technology that we can start creating new experiences and provide value for all those using it.

Do you think this will be the year for content?

References

AP Stylebook; http://www.apstylebook.com; Retrieved on February 24, 2013

BBC GEL – Global Experience Language; http://www.bbc.co.uk/gel; Retrieved on February 24, 2013

Casey Meghan; Get Your Content Strategy Out of the Drawer with Governance; http://uxmag.com/articles/get-your-content-strategy-out-of-the-drawer-with-governance; Retrieved on February 24, 2013

Pulizzi Joe; Content Marketing: The Fallacy that More Content is Better; http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/02/content-marketing-fallacy-more-better/; Retrieved on February 24, 2013


Lauro B.

Director of Engineering at Inflection Point and head of one of our largest accounts, Lauro has 15 years of experience on the industry. He has a B.S. in Computer Science (ITESM, 2001), an M.S. in Information Technology Management (ITESM, 2004), and Executive Master in Technology and Industrial Organizations Management (EOI Business School, 2009), a PMP Certification and experience throughout several technologies; all of this makes it really interesting to read what he has in mind.



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