Before I started my own consultancy, I spent years in a variety of different types of businesses. I ran the content department at an ad agency. I spearheaded blog strategy and wrote marketing content for a former Fortune 500 company. I edited newsletters and managed message boards for a small church. I worked nationally and internationally on projects large and small.
And I often struggled to make my ideas heard.
You see, my experience working for someone else was this: I had a lot of ideas (great ideas, if I do say so myself). I saw content problems and just knew we could come up with solutions if we threw some time and budget at them. And I wanted desperately to help.
I was motivated, excited…but it was often a struggle to get a seat at the table, to have a voice early in the project process.
Hidden talent right under our noses
So, here’s the point: I think there are a lot of people like me out there. People with a passion for good content—the kind of content that drives business growth and leaves users delighted. People who care about polished editorial processes, creative problem solving, seeing the big picture. People who are ready to step up and take responsibility for content governance, to keep things on track.
Some of them already have a voice. They’re content strategists. They’re writers. They’re invited to the planning meetings. They’re given a say in big collateral decisions.
But some of them are still working diligently behind the scenes, cleaning up content messes that might have been avoided in the first place…and wishing they could do more.
Which is where I think we can help.
And by “we,” I mean consultants.
It’s our job to empower people
When a company brings in outside talent to handle or consult on content strategy, they’re counting on us to understand business goals and user needs—and find a way to reconcile the two.
And part of understanding those business goals and user needs—and setting our clients up for success—is understanding their internal setup: the processes, projects, and…the people that make their business tick. And it’s by understanding the internal business model and the people therein that we can also start to identify and empower talent.
How to identify talent
During the discovery phase of a project, while we’re reviewing content and assets, interviewing stakeholders, listening in on sales calls, etc. all in an effort to dig deep into the business and user needs, challenges, and goals, it’s also a good idea to get ourselves in front of the talent…interviewing not just executive stakeholders, but writers, content managers, the social media team, and others who either work directly with content or have a special interest in it.
It’s in those trenches that you’ll find detailed insights and big ideas. And when you find someone with great insights and ideas, you can also ask if any of their ideas are being implemented—and, if not, what’s holding them back.
And once you know all that, you can help by:
- Building people into your process and workflow suggestions
- Bringing good ideas to the attention of the executives (and giving credit where credit is due)
- Giving people voices—clearing a spot at the planning table for these content advocates
- Making a case for training these content advocates for new roles and bigger responsibilities
It’s your job as a consultant to drive your client’s business success, to add value not only to the end product (the content), but to the behind-the-scenes process that drive that end product.
And that’s not just about launching a killer website. It’s about sustainable internal business. It’s about doable governance plans. And it’s about people who feel empowered to do their jobs well.
This is a guest post by Gigi Griffis. Gigi is a content strategist and web writer specializing in travel, technology, education, non-profit, and wellness content. In 2010, she quit her agency job and started Content for Do-Gooders, where she helps clients solve messy content problems around the world. You should follow her on Twitter.
Photo credits: The Huntington Theatre Company