Last week I presented Content Strategy That Fits at the User Focus 2012 conference. I teamed up with Lorelei Brown to come up with ideas that would appeal to user experience professionals who know what content strategy is and know that it needs to be part of their projects. But they don't always know where to get started, whether they have a small, medium, or large project. Or maybe the don't necessarily know how to get buy in from others in their organizations or clients. So we set out to help them get started and build momentum within their organizations.
It starts with boiling content strategy down to 3 distinct parts:
- Audit – figure out how where you are
- Strategy – create a roadmap of where you are going
- Governance – plan what to do once you get to your destination
You can’t know how to get where you’re going until you know where you are. People often ask where they can start. I nearly always recommend starting with an audit. You can do this at any time and with any level of effort. You can start small by picking a section to inventory and assess. Or you can start big by doing the whole site. Just do something. Once you have this base, you can do more later. Ultimately it’s about the process and this gets you started.
Strategy lays out where you want to go. It gets everyone on the same path. You should have some definition, even if they are educated guesses about
- Who you are trying to reach (not everybody)
- What they want from you
- What you can give them
- Providing it to them in a usable format
You can still argue about how you’re going to get there, but you have agreed on where you’re going, and the basic route to get there. Designers don’t have to guess how big to make an element (is it a button with 1 word or a box with 100 characters?). Developers don’t need to guess what kind of field to create (is that an email field or a multi-line, rich-text field?).
You've gotten to the end of the road. Now what? Start small by documenting what is already being done. Write an editorial style guide to enforce consistency. Or do a little more. Expand the style guide to include full visual and brand guidelines and define voice and tone. Maybe you can go big – form a governance board to make big decisions, coordinate with your digital marketers to create layered content, or coordinate editorial calendars across the organization. Ultimately, you want a place at the table to ask the hard questions early before it’s too late.
Some amazing things happen when you have a plan. Content is relevant, current, easy to find. Content doesn’t contradict itself. Everything on your website looks and sounds like it came from one organization. And increased relevancy keeps customers coming back.
The slide deck has further details to help get you started. So now you have some ideas. Get started today by finding some easy things that you can fix and show success to build momentum or get buy-in. Find partners within your organization. Then keep it going. Once you start showing success, you'll get more buy-in and have a better chance at having a well-maintained site. Keep vital numbers and build goodwill, and before long, you’ll be where you want to be.
What are some ways you've been able to do content strategy?