I recently attended a Content Strategy meet up in Omaha lead by Kristina Halvorson, one of the most important voices in the content strategy conversation, and a co-author of Content Strategy for the Web. To be quite honest, I was a little overwhelmed being in a room full of developers and interactive-types that had specific questions and well-defined reasons for being there. But as the conversation got going, I realized that I deal with content planning and content strategy all the time – just maybe not always in the context of the Web.
We all have clients who want to get as much into their print ad, TV spot, brochure, or website as they can. As their partners, it’s our job to make sure we understand their objectives for each of those media and help shape the message into something that is easily digestible by their audience.
While you can apply the basic principles of content planning and content strategy to ads, videos, collateral, etc., by definition, they are really about the Web. Content planning feeds into the information architecture of a site –where all the “stuff” is going to live. Web users these days have certain expectations of where content is going to live on your site: If you are looking for the “Press Room” or “Contact” page, check the header or footer. And if all else fails, use the search function. But, content strategy is bigger than that.
Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, maintenance and oversight of your useful, usable brand content. Here’s a very (very) high-level overview of how it works:
The interactive team starts by working with our clients to define site user roles and personas. They ask questions like, who is the intended audience of your site? What do you want them to be able to do? Once these questions are answered, a Web content review is usually conducted to determine how the current site content is being used – if at all. The team and client will work together to determine what content should go on the new site and why. The “why” is important because any piece of content – whether it’s copy, images, charts, videos, etc. – should serve a purpose. Your website content should always relate to your defined user personas and help the user accomplish a goal. Once you have defined what content stays, what goes and what needs to be created, you should have a site map that will be the road map for your content strategy.
With your site map and content outline, then comes the ever important and often forgotten question: Who is going to create, maintain and govern all of this great new content? Having a plan for content creation is crucial in the longevity of your website. Keeping content relevant is great for your users, internal teams and for search engines. Maintaining your content is important as you can’t let your site “go live” and then not touch it for 3 years. Someone must be in charge of making updates, adding content, changing content and deleting content when necessary.
Governance, an often forgotten piece of content strategy, is important as someone needs to be empowered to make the decisions and lay down the hammer to ensure your site’s content is consistent and maintains the standards of your brand. This could be the same person who maintains your content, however this person (or team) needs to have the power to make decisions, act on them and enforce brand standards. As you move forward making these decisions, you might realize this could maybe be a role of someone internally, something you hire for or maybe work with an agency to handle. However you choose to handle it, just make sure you are actively creating, maintaining and governing your brand’s online content.
Content strategy sounds like a lot of work, right? But, having a plan will help cut down on confusion and provide you with the direction you and your team need to keep your website fresh and relevant.
Photo credit: Grant Baker