Rachel McConnell • 3 minutes
The following article is an excerpt from my book, Why you need a content team and how to build one, where I write about why it’s important for content to sit right at the heart of product development.
As we move into the future an entire business should be digital (it will be the only way of doing things). Start-ups are digital by their very nature and don’t have ‘digital’ teams, but we’re in a weird state of flux where older companies are struggling to shift to a digital model and often have centralised digital teams. But companies that aren’t digital by their nature and who haven’t yet adopted a digital first approach often still regard digital as a ‘channel’ (as it once was when it was just a small part of your marketing mix). Digital is quickly becoming the main route (and in some cases the only route) to your customer.
If you run a service or sales business, it’s likely your website sits the heart of your customer journey’s ecosystem.
The problem with having a digital team inside a company, is that digital can be thought of by those outside the team as a ‘channel’, and one that can often be the last thought by non-digital product teams, who have already created a product and the messaging without as much customer insight as they could have had. It means the digital team becomes a delivery service – responding to other teams in the business who want to create digital content but haven’t started with the end user in mind – rather than allowing the the digital team to lead the service design.
Good digital teams use design thinking. This is user-centred design process that enables them to develop products and services based on evidence and user insights (the most effective companies are those whose products are designed to meet users’ needs). You can see the conflict that may arise when digital teams are just responsive, and not part of the initial product development.
So much can be gained from engaging your digital teams early. Being given collateral and messages that need to be communicated, without the ability to help mould them into a format better suited to your customer can feel very frustrating. But it also means the digital team aren’t adding as much value as they can to product and service design.
Digital content experts who understand users and their digital behaviour, can add a lot of value at the product development stage (along with research and design). If you’re in a non-digital team, why not explore how you could work alongside a multi-disciplinary team from the digital department to see how much it could help enrich your product?
And if your product is purely a digital one such as software, it’s even more crucial to have content experts onboard – your content can really make or break the usability of your product.
To end up with a brand, product or service (and the messaging), that’s relevant and useful to your customers and doesn’t need to be re-written to work better online (or in your offline communications), engage your content experts as early as possible on any project.
If you’re doing any research, it’s particularly valuable for your content experts to hear first-hand from the end users. They’ll listen for insights but also listen for the language they use – particular words and phrases – that can help with their content development later on.
So content experts should be involved at every step, from creating physical or digital products, developing your brand’s positioning, and tone of voice, identifying the content and communication strategy, and creating channel executions.
The below diagram shows how this flow works. But it’s likely you’ll need different content experts with the right skills for each of these areas.
In my book I explain these different roles and the value they bring, as well as how to recruit for them. Why you need a content team and how to build one is a light introduction to content for non-content experts.