When I’m brought into a website refresh project as the content strategist, I have a checklist of questions I run through in the kick-off meeting with my new clients. I do this before anything else, and I do it for several reasons:
YES: Good start. The client is already thinking about content and probably considering its impact on the project.
NO: Alarm bells. Commissioning a website project without considering how much content currently exists is not a good start. Quickly get that answer, and share it with client.
YES: Excellent. The client understands the value of auditing content and the whole project will benefit from the insights. Get your hands on the audit / inventory ASAP to see how good it is.
NO: The client may be thinking: “We don’t like our old content, we’ll just start again.” That is a serious case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater and should be confronted.
At this point you may be able to sell a content audit activity into the project. It is always worth doing.
YES: Great. The client already respects content as a finite resource that has a life-cycle and they understand that a new site is the perfect opportunity for a spring clean.
NO: Warning. They may be expecting all the old content to be “lifted and shifted” into the shiny new site. Nip that assumption in the bud.
YES: Good. They aren’t assuming that improved content will magically appear in the new site. Enquire who is lined up and assess their skill level and availability.
NO: Big risk. They’re failing to think about one of the most resource intensive work streams in the project. They may assume the content can be easily migrated from the old site to the new. Set expectations now!
Do they have a budget for hiring writers? You can sell this service in.
Share my previous Stop underestimating content production for web projects blog post with your client if they need a reality check.
YES: Good. There is someone with a lot riding on the new site and will be (in theory) working hard to produce good content. Start building a strong working relationship ASAP.
NO: Alarm bells. If such a person does not exist and is not considered necessary, then the content beyond the project is rudderless.
YES: Good. They are thinking ahead and not seeing the launch of the new site as the finish (but as the beginning). They will also be more realistic about how much content is sustainable and prioritise harder throughout the project.
NO: The client is being short-sighted and dangerously missing the point that a website is a living and evolving medium that needs continuous attention. Set expectations with them.
YES: Good. They appreciate that good content needs ownership and are more likely to work smoothly with the content owners during the project for better results.
NO: Indicates that content is unloved and probably in a state of neglect. The project will need to (re)build ownership between subject experts and the new site’s content. This takes time.
My previous Map people to content during a website project. ASAP! blog post will help with this.
YES: Good. They seem to know their own content eco-system. You need to look at any syndicated content ASAP because you can guarantee it is going to add functional requirements to the new CMS.
NO: Warning sign. What else don’t they know and failed to include in the brief? Conduct a content eco-system audit ASAP before an old legacy content feed catches everyone out.
YES: Somebody cares about content quality and consistency and probably understands the difficulty of producing good digital content. Get a copy of the guide to see if it’s up to the job.
NO: Have they even started to think about a content production process to deliver consistent, good quality content? Potentially not.
You may be able to win some extra work if they need a style guide.
YES: Good. Some value is placed on evaluation (even if little has been done with the data). Get full access to the analytics tool.
NO: Warning sign. So nobody really knows how the content on the existing site is performing or shown any interest in finding out. The project needs to change that.
YES: Good. They presumably appreciate the true effort of producing good content and are anticipating ways to ensure the content doesn’t delay launch, including prioritising content.
NO: They maybe being unrealistic about the content challenge ahead or approaching the project with a print-publication mentality, i.e. it must all be published together. Closely examine the reasons why content can’t be rolled out in phases and challenge them.
And that’s about it. Working through this checklist for 30 mins will immediately focus you on where the client needs to be educated, what red flags to wave at the project manager, and if extra (content strategy) activities need to be added to the project.
It won’t catch everything, but it is a good start. Try it for yourself.
What content questions do you ask clients during the project kick-off phase?
Liam is Founder of Lagom Strategy, a UK consultancy specialising in UX and sustainable content strategy.
With over a decade of content production and strategy experience in the UK and Australia, Liam has built up a wealth of practical knowledge on how to put content back at the heart of web projects.
Liam was previously Senior UX Architect / Content Strategist with Sydney agency, Digital Eskimo, where he introduced and led the agency’s successful content strategy services. Before heading to Australia in 2009, Liam was a Web Producer at the UK Parliament and the Senior Web Editor at the UK Foreign Office.
Liam also has a Masters degree in Web Journalism.
FREE 5 DAY EMAIL COURSE
Pop in your details and we'll email you a class each day for the next 5 days.
If you would like some content strategy goodness once or twice per week join up!
That’s it! You’re signed up to our mailing list and can expect content strategy goodness in your inbox soon.