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How to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

How to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

6 minute read

How to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

6 minute read

How to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

Paige Toomes

Copywriter and Digital Marketer

Content has the potential to be one of an organisation's best assets — or worst shortcomings.

And, really, we should be thinking about all content as high-stakes content.

‘Cause good content ain't comin’ cheap.

What I mean by that is: good content will never be a rush job. And time can equal money.

If a piece of content is targeted, strategic, well-researched, helpful to audience needs and driving organisational goals, then it is always going to be (relatively) time-consuming and therefore (relatively) expensive. Although, there are lots of ways to make content more efficient with the right tools and techniques — more on that later.

If you’re getting messaging wrong, duplicating work, or deadlines are missed and you’re going over budget, then content becomes expensive.

What is high-stakes content?

Content that is particularly high-stakes is the stuff that directly influences people’s decisions or content that is otherwise important. This can include things like:

  • Content marketing campaigns designed to drive leads and conversions
  • Thought leadership content
  • Applications for awards/programmes
  • A winning proposal
  • Bid writing
  • Course content if you're a college or university
  • Urgent content or content with a hard deadline
  • Policies, procedures, legal compliance
  • Critical information documents (both internal and customer-facing)
  • Website redesigns and launches

Whatever your content project is, if it’s a big one, you need to think ahead to deliver it effectively. Because often, high-stakes content means:

  • Lots of stakeholders and contributors, particularly in large organisations
  • Strong strategic goals, objectives and KPIs
  • Potential risk (legal, reputation, financial and time losses)
  • Needs to adhere to high content standards (such as for accessibility or legal)

But again, from this list, it is arguable that most content is or should be considered high-stakes when you think about things like being compliant with consumer law, or plain language regulations.

7 steps to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

It can be difficult to manage this type of content strategically (and the relationships that come with it) when you're dealing with lots of people internally and externally.

Here are seven steps to manage and deliver high-stakes content with lots of contributors.

1. Identify stakeholders, understand them and engage them

Understanding who your stakeholders are is crucial if you’re managing content that involves a lot of people.

In a survey we did at GatherContent, we found that a piece of content can pass through between two and ten people before it gets published. This was just for higher education, but it could be even more in a particularly large organisation, or if you have to engage a lot of subject matter experts.

Director of Content Strategy, Brittney Dunkins, has written an excellent article for us on understanding and collaborating with stakeholders. In it, she says the top two things are:


“1. Know thy stakeholders
2. Identify what is at stake”

Stakeholder interviews are often used in UX research, but they can be applied to any content project. These are good for:

  • Engaging people and getting them on side
  • Raising important questions or constraints that you might not have necessarily considered
  • Building trust and ensuring everyone feels heard
  • Helping with a shared understanding of content goals

Our article on how to conduct stakeholder interviews and a stakeholder interview template can help you understand what to ask and how to ask it. This includes categories and suggested questions to help you get to know your stakeholders. You can use this as a place to capture pain points and motivations,  and organise people by support level, team and decision-making power.

2. Align teams, goals and objectives

Once you have your stakeholders engaged, for your content to be successful and high-quality, you need to ensure everyone is on the same page about goals and objectives. Think about:

  • How does the project meet user needs and organisational objectives? Content should always tie back to clear purposes. You need to communicate these to teams properly, so everyone is working towards a common goal.

  • Do people have clear roles and responsibilities in the project? Use a framework that clearly defines responsibilities and prioritises actions. A RACI matrix is a great tool for this. It is designed to show tasks within a project and then who is involved at different levels — RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted.

  • Is there a clear content project brief? This is important for any content project, to set and manage expectations, and have something to refer back to throughout the project. Lauren Pope has written an excellent article on what goes into a content project brief. Or, use our content project brief template to help.

  • Is there a content style guide for everyone to follow? And more importantly, will this get used and referred to? Is it accessible and up-to-date? We have a content style guide checklist for this if it’s useful.

3. Create a collaborative, accountable culture around content

When managing the production of content that is high-stakes, you need to ensure that everybody is accountable. This is achieved not through blame or high-stress, but through creating the right collaborative culture. To get the best out of your high-stakes content, and work across disparate teams, you need to connect silos. Think about:

  • Centralising content production. Email strings with lots of different versions of Word docs attached get confusing when there are lots of people involved. To collaborate effectively across teams, use a content project management tool that has a content ‘hub’ to centralise content and get a single source of truth.

  • Creating a clear content delivery workflow with assigned people and tasks. You need a workflow to keep content on track, with deadlines at every stage. Particularly if content will need to go through multiple rounds of edits and reviews in the approval process.

  • Communicating and engaging people throughout the project. Communicate around the projects in a way that is logical and centralised — get a tool that allows in-line commenting in documents, and comments around the larger project, where you can tag and automatically notify internal and external contributors.

  • Tracking milestones and celebrating wins together. Large groups of people are difficult to rally and keep engaged over a sustained period of time. If everyone involved in a project can clearly see where they have been and where they are going, it is going to boost motivation and morale throughout a project.

4. Engage Subject Matter Experts effectively

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and their input can make or break a content project. So, it’s important that writers and contributors build up good relationships with SMEs. This ensures projects to go smoothly, and goals are reached together.

Often, SMEs and writers come at a project from very different mindsets, and speak totally different languages. This can make the editing and approval process tricky. A simple, but sure-fire way to help this is to think about pair writing. Instead of sending drafts back and forth with a red pen, sit down and create content together.

5. Govern content properly

“Governance may sound as dry as burnt toast, but when done correctly, it can make sure you both delight your readers and drive business growth,” says Content Strategist Edward Baldwin.

Content governance is to do with inventories, ownership, consistency, compliance, policies, regulations, risk management, updating content, and accessibility. High-stakes content needs to be governed. It needs to be maintained, and adhere to overarching guidelines and frameworks.

One example is a lot of content may be subject to R-O-T which stands for markers of “Redundancy, Outdated, and/or Trivial.” If you have important content, you need to make sure you have appropriate ownership and review cycles set up to manage it in relation to things like this.

6. Calculate the cost of content

For high-stakes content like marketing campaigns, very good content can generate leads, conversions and financial gains.

If you have lots of stakeholders and contributors, things can get messy quickly. Bottlenecks happen, communication breaks down, one person misses a deadline and it quickly has a domino effect on the rest of the process.

The first step to solving inefficiencies is to work out exactly how much content costs you currently. Start by asking:

  • How much content needs to be created
  • How long it takes to create each type of content
  • The financial cost of the hours required

We have also put together a content cost calculator template to help you keep track of this.

7. Measure and feedback content success

If something is high-stakes, it is tied to clear goals and objectives — with things like KPIs, and conversion rates if it’s a marketing campaign. So, it stands to reason that you should be measuring success where you can, to see what went well, what didn’t. What worked, what didn’t.

This will not only help you prove the ROI of high-stakes content initiatives, buy when you can feedback and share this with stakeholders, this will help you build long-lasting relationships, confidence and trust around content for future projects.

How GatherContent can help you collaborate and create successful high-stakes content

As we’ve discussed, the jury is out as to whether there is such a thing as low-stakes content. GatherContent helps you with your content operations and is particularly good for high-volumes of on-going content where it’s necessary to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and contributors.

  • Avoid communication breakdowns. Keep everyone on the same page where you can collaborate quickly and easily on urgent and high-stakes projects.

  • Get better productivity and happier teams. Create, manage and deliver content efficiently. Keep teams productive, avoid bottlenecks and endless review cycles.

  • Keep to style guides and rules. Embedded style guides and rules for content helps with consistency, quality and compliance.

  • Reduce the time and money it takes to produce content. Speed up content and rally up contributors with focused content project management and easy communication.

To find out what else GatherContent can do, try a demo or free trial.

Content has the potential to be one of an organisation's best assets — or worst shortcomings.

And, really, we should be thinking about all content as high-stakes content.

‘Cause good content ain't comin’ cheap.

What I mean by that is: good content will never be a rush job. And time can equal money.

If a piece of content is targeted, strategic, well-researched, helpful to audience needs and driving organisational goals, then it is always going to be (relatively) time-consuming and therefore (relatively) expensive. Although, there are lots of ways to make content more efficient with the right tools and techniques — more on that later.

If you’re getting messaging wrong, duplicating work, or deadlines are missed and you’re going over budget, then content becomes expensive.

What is high-stakes content?

Content that is particularly high-stakes is the stuff that directly influences people’s decisions or content that is otherwise important. This can include things like:

  • Content marketing campaigns designed to drive leads and conversions
  • Thought leadership content
  • Applications for awards/programmes
  • A winning proposal
  • Bid writing
  • Course content if you're a college or university
  • Urgent content or content with a hard deadline
  • Policies, procedures, legal compliance
  • Critical information documents (both internal and customer-facing)
  • Website redesigns and launches

Whatever your content project is, if it’s a big one, you need to think ahead to deliver it effectively. Because often, high-stakes content means:

  • Lots of stakeholders and contributors, particularly in large organisations
  • Strong strategic goals, objectives and KPIs
  • Potential risk (legal, reputation, financial and time losses)
  • Needs to adhere to high content standards (such as for accessibility or legal)

But again, from this list, it is arguable that most content is or should be considered high-stakes when you think about things like being compliant with consumer law, or plain language regulations.

7 steps to deliver and manage high-stakes content with lots of stakeholders

It can be difficult to manage this type of content strategically (and the relationships that come with it) when you're dealing with lots of people internally and externally.

Here are seven steps to manage and deliver high-stakes content with lots of contributors.

1. Identify stakeholders, understand them and engage them

Understanding who your stakeholders are is crucial if you’re managing content that involves a lot of people.

In a survey we did at GatherContent, we found that a piece of content can pass through between two and ten people before it gets published. This was just for higher education, but it could be even more in a particularly large organisation, or if you have to engage a lot of subject matter experts.

Director of Content Strategy, Brittney Dunkins, has written an excellent article for us on understanding and collaborating with stakeholders. In it, she says the top two things are:


“1. Know thy stakeholders
2. Identify what is at stake”

Stakeholder interviews are often used in UX research, but they can be applied to any content project. These are good for:

  • Engaging people and getting them on side
  • Raising important questions or constraints that you might not have necessarily considered
  • Building trust and ensuring everyone feels heard
  • Helping with a shared understanding of content goals

Our article on how to conduct stakeholder interviews and a stakeholder interview template can help you understand what to ask and how to ask it. This includes categories and suggested questions to help you get to know your stakeholders. You can use this as a place to capture pain points and motivations,  and organise people by support level, team and decision-making power.

2. Align teams, goals and objectives

Once you have your stakeholders engaged, for your content to be successful and high-quality, you need to ensure everyone is on the same page about goals and objectives. Think about:

  • How does the project meet user needs and organisational objectives? Content should always tie back to clear purposes. You need to communicate these to teams properly, so everyone is working towards a common goal.

  • Do people have clear roles and responsibilities in the project? Use a framework that clearly defines responsibilities and prioritises actions. A RACI matrix is a great tool for this. It is designed to show tasks within a project and then who is involved at different levels — RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted.

  • Is there a clear content project brief? This is important for any content project, to set and manage expectations, and have something to refer back to throughout the project. Lauren Pope has written an excellent article on what goes into a content project brief. Or, use our content project brief template to help.

  • Is there a content style guide for everyone to follow? And more importantly, will this get used and referred to? Is it accessible and up-to-date? We have a content style guide checklist for this if it’s useful.

3. Create a collaborative, accountable culture around content

When managing the production of content that is high-stakes, you need to ensure that everybody is accountable. This is achieved not through blame or high-stress, but through creating the right collaborative culture. To get the best out of your high-stakes content, and work across disparate teams, you need to connect silos. Think about:

  • Centralising content production. Email strings with lots of different versions of Word docs attached get confusing when there are lots of people involved. To collaborate effectively across teams, use a content project management tool that has a content ‘hub’ to centralise content and get a single source of truth.

  • Creating a clear content delivery workflow with assigned people and tasks. You need a workflow to keep content on track, with deadlines at every stage. Particularly if content will need to go through multiple rounds of edits and reviews in the approval process.

  • Communicating and engaging people throughout the project. Communicate around the projects in a way that is logical and centralised — get a tool that allows in-line commenting in documents, and comments around the larger project, where you can tag and automatically notify internal and external contributors.

  • Tracking milestones and celebrating wins together. Large groups of people are difficult to rally and keep engaged over a sustained period of time. If everyone involved in a project can clearly see where they have been and where they are going, it is going to boost motivation and morale throughout a project.

4. Engage Subject Matter Experts effectively

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and their input can make or break a content project. So, it’s important that writers and contributors build up good relationships with SMEs. This ensures projects to go smoothly, and goals are reached together.

Often, SMEs and writers come at a project from very different mindsets, and speak totally different languages. This can make the editing and approval process tricky. A simple, but sure-fire way to help this is to think about pair writing. Instead of sending drafts back and forth with a red pen, sit down and create content together.

5. Govern content properly

“Governance may sound as dry as burnt toast, but when done correctly, it can make sure you both delight your readers and drive business growth,” says Content Strategist Edward Baldwin.

Content governance is to do with inventories, ownership, consistency, compliance, policies, regulations, risk management, updating content, and accessibility. High-stakes content needs to be governed. It needs to be maintained, and adhere to overarching guidelines and frameworks.

One example is a lot of content may be subject to R-O-T which stands for markers of “Redundancy, Outdated, and/or Trivial.” If you have important content, you need to make sure you have appropriate ownership and review cycles set up to manage it in relation to things like this.

6. Calculate the cost of content

For high-stakes content like marketing campaigns, very good content can generate leads, conversions and financial gains.

If you have lots of stakeholders and contributors, things can get messy quickly. Bottlenecks happen, communication breaks down, one person misses a deadline and it quickly has a domino effect on the rest of the process.

The first step to solving inefficiencies is to work out exactly how much content costs you currently. Start by asking:

  • How much content needs to be created
  • How long it takes to create each type of content
  • The financial cost of the hours required

We have also put together a content cost calculator template to help you keep track of this.

7. Measure and feedback content success

If something is high-stakes, it is tied to clear goals and objectives — with things like KPIs, and conversion rates if it’s a marketing campaign. So, it stands to reason that you should be measuring success where you can, to see what went well, what didn’t. What worked, what didn’t.

This will not only help you prove the ROI of high-stakes content initiatives, buy when you can feedback and share this with stakeholders, this will help you build long-lasting relationships, confidence and trust around content for future projects.

How GatherContent can help you collaborate and create successful high-stakes content

As we’ve discussed, the jury is out as to whether there is such a thing as low-stakes content. GatherContent helps you with your content operations and is particularly good for high-volumes of on-going content where it’s necessary to collaborate with multiple stakeholders and contributors.

  • Avoid communication breakdowns. Keep everyone on the same page where you can collaborate quickly and easily on urgent and high-stakes projects.

  • Get better productivity and happier teams. Create, manage and deliver content efficiently. Keep teams productive, avoid bottlenecks and endless review cycles.

  • Keep to style guides and rules. Embedded style guides and rules for content helps with consistency, quality and compliance.

  • Reduce the time and money it takes to produce content. Speed up content and rally up contributors with focused content project management and easy communication.

To find out what else GatherContent can do, try a demo or free trial.

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About the author

Paige Toomes

Paige is an English Literature and Media graduate from Newcastle University, and over the last three years has built up a career in SEO-driven copywriting for tech companies. She has written for Microsoft, Symantec and LinkedIn, as well as other SaaS companies and IT consulting firms. With an audience-focused approach to content, Paige handles the lifecycle from creation through to measurement, supporting businesses with their content operations.

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