Content strategies. You’ve done the hard work and spent months auditing every piece of copy your organisation has written – and where that content goes. You’ve reviewed your audience groups and aligned their needs and expectations to what your organisation offers. You’ve also circulated it to your team with an expectation that it will solve many a complex content problem.
Fast-forward three months and your beautiful strategy is gathering dust. From your side you’ve done everything right but your document has fallen flat.
Instead of giving up on your content strategy, it’s worth reviewing it instead. There are a few fixes you can make to get buy-in from your organisation and make sure your content strategy is put into practice.
If your content strategy has fallen flat, the first thing to examine is why.
Quick and dirty research can uncover the changes you need to make to get your strategy off the ground. One of the easiest ways to do this is to speak to people. Schedule in a few coffee breaks or short meetings with your closest colleagues first and ask them if they have heard of, seen, or used the content strategy. Getting honest feedback will help you understand the basic rationale of why your content strategy didn’t get implemented as you expected.
Broadening this and getting feedback from people within your organisation who you don’t normally work with will give you an overview of the politics, decisions and emotions in their team. Gather the repeated thoughts and the individual feedback via a lightweight method – a short structured survey or an email with a few questions. Then reassess whether your content strategy meets their requirements.
Your senior team need to understand what a content strategy is because their support is vital. If you didn’t get buy in from them originally, now is your chance to persuade them. And if they were all for it in the first place, show them the strategy and ask them to link it to the needs of the business.This backing will give your content strategy more weight in the organisation.
Content strategies can fall victim to trying to do many jobs, when their main function is actually really simple. They need to:
Any more than this and your strategy has morphed into something that is serving a different need within your organisation. If this is the case, you’ll find that your strategy is longer than you’d initially planned, with more detail that you’d anticipated. Your strategy may also be weighed down with jargon or phrases that are only there to please the senior management team.
Ask: is it relevant? Is what you’re suggesting actually achievable in your organisation? Are you including the right people at the right stages? Can you summarise your strategy succinctly?
When we read, we need white space, bullet points and simple language to guide us through a document. A content strategy can easily become a cumbersome manual without enough thought about readability.
Breathe new life into your document by considering the layout. A clean font with bold headings, subheadings and plenty of white space is much more appealing than huge paragraphs of text. Where possible, involve your design team and get your strategy branded to make sure it’s recognisable as a document your organisation has produced.
It’s worth getting a second (and third) opinion on what makes sense for the hierarchy of information. Remember: what feels right to a content producer might not make sense to people in different departments. Work with someone who’ll be using the content strategy and see what makes sense to them.
Now you’ve cleaned up your strategy, put together a ‘show and tell’ session and block some time out in the diary to run through the strategy with everyone who’ll be using it.
Start with why your organisation has commissioned a content strategy now. Depending on the size of your organisation, many people won’t be privy to the business decisions behind developing a content strategy. Not everyone has the same level of knowledge, so there’s also an exercise in educating people about users and the importance of talking to them.
Using the content strategy is everyone’s responsibility, not just the writers in your organisation. This is a really important step as it creates a forum where people can ask questions. It’s vital to have your senior team with you during this session as they express the business need for this strategy to go ahead.
During this session, you can empower the team who’ll be using it – it’s their content and they’re in charge of making sure it aligns with the values set by the strategy. Be open and take feedback, it could actually be that some suggestions help to shape the strategy.
Close the session with clear action points for everyone to take away. It could even be simple steps like re-familiarising some of the team with the company tone of voice to see which documents can be quickly reworked.
To keep these learning fresh in everyone’s minds, use trigger points wherever you can. Simple, clear posters or a repeat of the ‘show and tell’ session for people who want to re-familiarise themselves will help.
Your content strategy is a living document and should be regularly reviewed and updated as the content and business changes. Just like a piece of content, your content strategy should be regularly reviewed to make sure it stays relevant.
Reviewing your content strategy, the processes it describes and the outcome that is produced will give you a really clear idea of whether it is being followed or not. You’ll want to look at the strategy and a sample of content regularly – say every quarter – depending on how much content you produce. Getting input from people across the organisation will also help it become adopted and useful. Maybe there are further needs that will be identified as people use the strategy – do you need a tone of voice manual? A style guide?
Make sure you consider your content strategy to be a work in progress rather than a one-off piece of work.
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