Day 19 – Asking content requesters the right questions ​

by , Content Strategist, GatherContent

How many times have people asked you for content without being able to explain who the content is for and what purpose it serves? On day nineteen of our Content Strategy Advent Calendar Padma Gillen shares some questions we can ask content requesters to ensure we have all the information we need before we commit to putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys.

Video transcript

Hi there. My name’s Padma. I’m from Scroll and one thing that I find when I’m talking to content people around the place is that quite often they’re kind of stressed, don’t feel like they’ve got much power, get to hear about things last minute and spend a lot of their time chasing around the organisation trying to get bits of information that they need in order to be able to do their jobs.

So here is my antidote for that particular problem. What you need to do is have a process where you ask a set of questions from any content requester, before you will say yes, we’re going to do something.

The first question is, is there a user need? And you want that user need articulated as a user story. If you’ve got a user story, you want to ask, is there any evidence that this is actually a user need. Do any users actually need it? So is there any data?

You want to ask, ok, so this is a user need, we’ve got some data, should this user need be met on our website? So for instance, if you’ve got a website which specialises in talking about heavy metal and somebody is asking you to write something about how to tie your shoes, that might not be the best place to meet that particular need. If it’s in proposition, if it should be on your website, you need to ask is it already met on the website? You know, is this need already met and would we just be duplicating content if we were to write something else? Or is it already met on somebody else’s website that we could just link to rather than trying to compete.

If all that’s looking good you need to ask, do you have acceptance criteria, a clear set of bullet points that lets you know when the need is met. You’re probably not a specialist in the subject matter, so you need the specialist to say this need is met when the user knows X, Y and Z. And then you can have a chance at writing something that actually makes sense to the user and has enough information in it to meet their need.

You also need source material or you need contact details of somebody in the organisation that you can talk to, who will be available to fill in any gaps that you might have in your knowledge as you’re writing the thing, so that you can write it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

If you have all that in place then you say yeah ok, we’ll do something, this will get added to our list and we will work on it, let us know when the deadline is, let us know when’s the deadline, so that we can prioritise. But if you don’t have all that information, it doesn’t make sense to start that piece of work because you’re going to end up chasing around. It’s really inefficient. You do that with four or five pieces of content, all of a sudden your life’s chaos.

So if you don’t have everything that you need before you start, push it back to the content requester and say please can you give me all this information before we can start looking at this piece of content, thank you very much.

I hope that’s helpful, hope that improves the quality of your life in 2018 and may you have a Merry Christmas.

About Padma

Padma is a partner at Scroll – a specialist content company providing content designers and strategists to government and the private sector. Scroll also provides public and bespoke courses in all aspects of digital content.

As a consultant and speaker, Padma’s expertise in content design and agile content production allow him to support organisations to create quality content and maximise the effectiveness of their content teams. He also advises on how to set up and deliver successful web content projects, and coaches organisations through the process.

Previously, Padma was Head of Content Design at the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS).

About the Author

Content Strategist, GatherContent

Rob is Content Strategist at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways, WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy at leading industry events.

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