Mind are a UK based mental health charity, offering advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
Main areas of success with GatherContent:
- GatherContent helped Mind bridge the gap and facilitate the switch between writing for print and writing for the web
- GatherContent helps their writers visualise how content will look on the web
- An in-house team of around 14 people use GatherContent as part of their new publishing strategy
Shifting from a printed focus to a digital strategy
Imagine having to convert a list of over 70 printed information booklets into a digital library of resource pages for your website – without doing any significant website redesign – while ensuring you have a clear editorial process in place to regularly revise and update each web resource in future.
This is the situation Mind were in at the start of 2014. With a long history in booklet publishing, Mind had a well-established process for keeping their list of printed information titles accurate and up to date, and since the early 00’s they had been extending their reach by also uploading the content to their website whenever they published a new product in print.
However, over the years they observed a trend in fewer people requesting printed booklets; at the same time, visits to their website were increasing quickly, so they knew where their readers were looking for information. The audience had spoken and the team at Mind realised they needed to change their publishing strategy to meet their readers’ needs. The question was: how?
Mind decided to flip their publishing model on its head. They shifted their focus to digital first and print second, and embarked on what is expected to be a three year process to achieve the transition.
Assembling the right people and tools
The project is led by the Senior Editorial Officer at Mind, Helen Leech, with support from Mind’s Information Manager and Head of Information. It was Helen who initially identified GatherContent as a potential solution, and after a brief trial with a few authors they decided it was going to be a positive choice for them.
Mind’s information publishing team includes 3 editors (including Helen) and five internal authors, plus several freelance authors. Each of the authors work with an assigned editor on their own projects within GatherContent, so the team collaborating on any individual project is usually no larger than 2-3 people; but there are always lots of projects running at the same time to keep track of. The Senior Editorial Officer has an overview of all the different projects, including when things needs to be published and what their rolling schedule is.
They use GatherContent to focus solely on developing the text content for their online pages, as Mind have a separate digital team who create multimedia content, which is then added directly to their content management system (CMS).
“We like that GatherContent feels like a website to use – that really helps us write and edit specifically for the web, as opposed to print. Plus it’s a much more user friendly platform for developing content in than our CMS – the more ‘final’ we can get our content before going into the CMS, the better.”
The content team were familiar with drafting content in Word and then uploading that to the CMS. But that created a disconnect between the writing process and how the final content would look when published on the live site.
Mind invested in training for writing for the web and accessibility. But when it came to applying that learning in practice, authors often struggled to transition from the writing style that had worked well in print. They tended to write long paragraphs and structure content in a linear way with one beginning, one middle and one end, rather than treating each section as a discrete page of content.
Even short chunks of content often looked fine in a Word document, but then readability issues became evident when that content was uploaded and viewed online.
This required more resource for the editing process than Mind could afford to spend. Writing directly in the CMS was likely to be the solution before they found GatherContent but that also had resource implications as the CMS, by their own admission, was ‘often slow and not exactly designed for [our team’s] needs’ as well as being ‘a bit of a nightmare to edit in, and not designed for the kind of collaborative working that we do, or for recording versions.’ Furthermore, Helen didn’t want external authors to have to become experts in using their CMS, she wanted them to be experts in their own subject matter and to focus their efforts on writing the content.
Using GatherContent to keep authors focused on their tasks
Before using GatherContent Helen would get one manuscript (Word doc) with all of the content in. In print Mind’s booklets are around 20 pages long, so the document was fairly big. It was confusing too as the text all looked so similar that it was hard to track changes and versions; “it could take several weeks to move from 98% finished to 100% finished”. This problem was resolved when they started using GatherContent. They had alerts when new comments were added and could respond and resolve very easily across the team.
Mind work on small projects with a staggered and rolling schedule. Each mental health topic is setup as a project in GatherContent and has one author and one editor. At any given time there might be 10-15 projects live in GatherContent. Authors only see their own projects, so it’s easy for them to focus. Editors can have an overview and work on quality and making information web-ready. And if someone else does need to be looped in to review the content, it’s easy to add them on GatherContent.
Roles are defined, workflows created and everyone involved in the content production process is able to focus on their task. Gone are the headaches of many Word docs, emails and having to keep track of numerous saved versions – many indistinguishable from each other. In a couple of clicks Editors can create all the tabs needed and get a structure in place quickly, a process that Helen described as ‘feeling like a giant weight had been lifted’.
“When you write something accessible on the web and then print that content in a booklet, it’s almost always still accessible. But if you write a booklet and then just upload the printed content, that’s often not the case.”
Bridging the gap between print and digital
Though Mind now publish on the web first and foremost, they still need to produce some printed booklets, though on a smaller scale. GatherContent helps with this too.
The editor can export a project’s content from GatherContent to Word, remove the links, do some minor reformatting, proofread and then send to a typesetter to create the manuscript for their print booklet. The exporting feature also helps them send ‘work-in-progress’ drafts out for feedback from people with lived experience of mental health problems, which is an essential part of developing content on any topic for Mind.
They really have flipped their publishing strategy and model on its head while retaining editorial values and focusing on their readers.
Moving from print to a digitally focused publishing strategy? Read how this charity did that using GatherContentClick to tweet
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