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Overwhelmed by content strategy? Here’s where to start

Happy new year! It’s summer in Australia, which means many of us have just returned from a week or two of holidays. Nothing like some time sitting on a beach to recharge and refocus in preparation for the months ahead. For those of you thinking 2015 will be the year you tackle content strategy within your organisation – here’s a post to get you started. I wrote it for and it was originally published on Follow the UX Leader, but its blog has been removed now so I thought I’d re-post it here. Enjoy!

Recently I was at a networking event where another content strategist and I were excitedly discussing all of the great things happening in the world of content strategy. I admit we were geeking out a little, and throwing around lots of words like responsive content, taxonomy, governance, and mobile.

This went on for a while, when we realised the other person in our little group wasn’t saying much, and in fact was looking moderately terrified. Keen for him to join in, I turned around and said “so what’s happening in terms of content strategy in your organisation?”

He paused for a moment before replying, “to be honest, our biggest achievement this year was moving our site from Dreamweaver to a basic CMS.”

And with that simple statement he brought us back to the reality that many businesses are still in the early phases of their online journey, and a lot of the content strategy talk happening at the moment often is too advanced for their situation.

So what do you do? If you’re in an organisation where the web is still quite new, how do you bring in content strategy without freaking everyone out? Here are three simple ideas:

First, start by knowing what you’re working with

There’s no point being a content strategy advocate without having a good grasp of what you’re working with. Do a quantitative audit of all your content. How many websites are there? Is there other content hidden in intranets, knowledge bases or call centre systems?  If you’re brave, then move to a qualitative audit. Does the content you’ve got support the goals of your business? Is it up to date? Are there gaps in key messages?

Second, start to foster a close relationship between the business areas who create the content

For most organisations the usual content creation suspects are the marketing team, the information technology team, and the human resources team. What sort of content are they generating? How often? Are all of these areas working with the same messaging and content goals? What’s the best way to get these areas talking to each other?

Third, offer a solution to the problem

Management like solutions, not problems. So before you go and point out all the things which aren’t working, make sure you’ve got a plan to fix the problem. At a basic level, this could be a style guide or document that outlines who is responsible and can approve which types of content, and how content must fit in with the overall goals of the business. Over time this can grow into a governance model, training material for authors, and an ongoing plan of attack for your content.

What was the first thing you did when introducing content strategy to your business?

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The evolution of author experience

For years we have been focused on the needs of our users, while overlooking the fact that one of our most important user groups are our content authors. You know, the poor souls who have to enter the words into the CMS. The ones who need to follow our style guides, get our voice and tone right, and understand  how to correctly apply tags and metadata.

Happily, author experience (AX) is starting to get some of the recognition it deserves.

Eileen Webb recently wrote an excellent post on author experience and the CMS, and Rick Yagodich is about to release his book Author Experience – Bridging the gap between people and technology in content management.

Rick and I had a discussion about the role of style guides in AX. He’s transcribed the interview as a post: Author Experience and the Style Guide. Have a read – I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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