Content Strategy

Defining Content Strategy

Kristina Halvorson

Kristina Halvorson

Brain Traffic
Content Strategy

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The "Defining Content Strategy" Lesson is part of the full, Content Strategy course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

After defining Content Strategy as a process that guides the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content, Kristina reviews the content lifecycle. The content lifecycle covers the strategy, designing, creating, maintaining, and assessment of content. Kristina takes questions from students.


Transcript from the "Defining Content Strategy" Lesson

>> All right, excellent work, let's jump in and talk about what is content strategy, okay? So, this is me this is last time I will quote myself, but this was a definition that I put forward in my book in 2009 and it has pretty well stuck within the industry.

There are lots of different ways to think about and talk about content strategy. This is a little bit of a catch all, which is, that content strategy as a practice and as a thing guides the creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content. So, here's the difference between content strategy and often times what we see in design workshops.

Is that design workshops oftentimes end up with a lot of post it notes up on the wall about excite, ideas about topics and labels, and so on and then what we end up with is this list, right? But it can often be pretty disjointed and there's a lack of actual substance behind it.

So that the labels and the ideas and the brainstorm those do not translate or have a real bridge to the actual content and substance and experience that is going to be crafted on or across pages or within even an application when we're talking about UI copy, okay? So what happens then is we end up with just like a calendar of a bunch of artifacts that need to be delivered and that's not content strategy.

So what I wanna do is walk you through, this is sort of complex, but we're going to walk through it, list of activities that a content strategist might participate in, and that oftentimes will fall into the lap of a writer or a content strategist. You'll see some of these overlap with UX, stuff that the Dev Team might end up doing especially around like metadata and interface copy.

But let's just take a look at this, so this first piece happens early in a project where we're assessing the content ecosystem. So, we are auditing existing content, which is another thing that an information architect might do, if he or she is trying to figure out what content is gonna be required to keep what we might be able to get rid of.

Usually when we are auditing content upfront, we're looking for redundant, outdated or trivial content or what I call content rot because we know that that's not gonna need to be worked into any sort of a new site map or ecosystem. Conducting stakeholder interviews, which you're all brilliant at now.

Analyzing and validating content ecosystems, this becomes more and more important as the months and years go by, because obviously you can have a single source of content that's being distributed across multiple platforms. You've got responsive site design, of course where you are viewing content in all different kinds of screens and you're gonna wanna look at that ecosystem as well.

You need to understand how your content is connected between all your social channels and potentially marketing platforms, digital asset management systems and so on. So the larger client or organisation you are working with, the more complex these are. We're gonna learn a little bit about how to map those ecosystems where if you've done any work in designing systems, you will recognize that approach.

So we get into the strategy piece, we're gonna be talking about strategy at a higher level here and a little bit. But this is really where we are kind of identifying, what direction are we going to go in? How are we gonna get there? And how are we gonna take care of that content over time?

So we're determining who's responsible for the content. Defining the content recommendations, defining our voice and tone, and preparing what we call a content governance model. And this is essentially understanding who owns what content, who's responsible for what parts of the content lifecycle, and ultimately, who gets to say no to things like really stupid content requests.

Which I'm sure none of you have ever seen before. So here's where the content strategist can and should be participating in the design process. And what I hear quite often from design teams is, I would love to have a content person in the room. I would love to be able to partner with that person early in the process but there's no budget, or I don't get that person.

And here we are really, really talking about a shift in perspective with how our teams are created and structured. And really the only people that can advocate to have that person in the room is you. So here's an opportunity for you to start thinking about how you might be partnering with or what might be happening alongside of you as you're working without knowing it.

Preparing staffing record recommendations, determining editorial calendar, etc., that really falls more on the process side, but the content strategist can be working with the team to develop taxonomy and nomenclature. Design any kind of CMS authoring interface customization that would allow for guidelines to be included in the process, for example, developing content models as needed, preparing metadata strategy, developing migration plan.

This is also where we start talking about page tables and templates, and how we sort of can wrap in content requirements there, but we'll address that later today. And then we have the content creation and typically this is where we call the writer but as you can see, there's so much work and thinking and planning that needs to be done prior to content creation.

When we dump them into this process into this phase without involving them earlier on, this is what we call kind of the 11th hour nightmare where things can really fall apart. I've seen content break large projects more times than I can count. In fact, we call those projects at my company brain traffic rescue mission projects where we're called in during this phase and they're like, content, it's so complicated and I never knew well, surprise.

So here's where we're actually creating content assets writing a copy deck if that is relevant. Reviewing for brand compliance and SEO and implementing our governance model and workflows throughout the team. Here's another role that the content strategist takes that oftentimes post launch we are or pre launch we are not thinking about and this stuff is what comes back to bite us post launch.

Where I often talk about how content, we say that content and sites go live for a reason because once they are alive, they require care and feeding. And content is the biggest pain point I see with organizations where once a site goes live that content dies on the vine very, very quickly if there's no one assigned to care for it.

So planning for periodic auditing, how are we caring for this content and keeping track of it over time, using analytics, and adhering to an editorial calendar. So, those are a lot of activities we are not going to learn how to do all of these today, because otherwise I would have you here for a week and a half, yes.

>> Two questions, one is what about amount of content? When does that come into play cuz one thing I found is a lot of times within, about us page or something, a client will end up saying that they've got a sentence and that's it, you've got a whole page allocated for that.

So it almost feels like how much you've got, versus there are other times too or could be, a truckload of content.
>> Sure, so that is a perfect example of needing to talk about content requirements and purpose very early in the project. Because in a site mapping exercise, it's really easy to assume that they need an about us and so that goes on a post it note goes up on the wall.

And then it appears in the sitemap, well, then it comes time to create the content that's been designed into primary nomenclature and they're, we don't really have any of this we don't need it, it could go on another page. Well, if we had talked to them earlier on, when they're what do you mean an about us page and we'd ask, okay, let's talk about the purpose of that page.

Substantively, what will it include? Who is it for and why do we need it? That's where it could have been caught that, we actually don't have a whole lot to say there or this is really reflected in a different page. So that's a perfect example, another example that you gave is what about when there's a whole truckload of content.

I can say it's almost never a good idea to have a whole [LAUGH] truckload of content but again, if we can have that conversation very early in the process. Where we are defining content recommendations beyond just that site map, then we'll be able to dig into a little bit more.

Okay, what is the content purpose? Who is the audience? What are the goals of this or the objectives of this page? What are we gonna measure its success by and so on, because then what we might determine is that. There's a lot of unnecessary content here that doesn't actually serve any audience needs whatsoever and our content.

That's a good thing to remind people all the time is this content is not for you the organization unless it's legal to cover your butt. But this content is not for you, as an organization's content is for your user and so it's really important that whatever content we're delivering is meeting those user needs.

And if it's extraneous or nice to have get it out of the digital experience, cuz it's just going to get in their way, right? So setting up that frame of mind as early as possible in the project will help us prevent some of that disconnect once it comes time to design or get the content that, did that help?

>> Yeah.
>> Okay great.

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