The Secrets of Brand-Driven Content Strategy (Workshop)

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Facing feature creep and disagreements among stakeholders? Does your CMO prize modernity and innovation, while the CEO insists on passive voice… but can’t wait to start blogging? Sounds like you need to get a grip on content, the people who make it—and the brand they want to establish.


Brand-driven content strategy can complement your user-centered design techniques, and this workshop will help you get up to speed on the philosophy, questions, tools, and exercises to implement it. You’ll gain practical, hands-on experience by taking sample organisations through a website redesign engagement. First, we’ll conduct a hands-on exercise to prioritise communication goals and develop a message architecture—ideal whether you’re designing for the web, a mobile app, social media, or an offline experience. Discover how a brand attributes cardsort can help you identify potential pitfalls in the engagement and points of disagreement—and then improve organisational alignment around the brand and content.


Next you’ll use this foundation to conduct a qualitative and quantitative content audit. We’ll discuss the content opportunities a gap analysis reveals when we use the message architecture as a metric of quality content. You’ll leave with confidence, savvy, and experience to bring brand-driven content strategy techniques and thinking back to your own organisation.


- Learn how—and why—to establish a hierarchy of communication goals in a message architecture with a hands-on exercise.
- Discuss the right questions to ask—and how to ask them—to minimise distracting, off-brand features, like the blog no one has time to update.
- Use a content audit to evaluate content against the message architecture.
- Gain additional tools to keep your projects on track, on time, and on budget.
- Inform your work with an air-tight approach to better user experiences.


Presented as a workshop at CS Forum 2012, Cape Town South Africa; #CSForum12, October 24, 2012.

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The Secrets of Brand-Driven Content Strategy (Workshop)

  1. @mbloomstein 1 Margot Bloomstein CS Forum October 2012 @mbloomsteinThe secrets of brand-drivenCONTENT STRATEGY © 2012 © 2011
  2. @mbloomstein 2“ Unless you understand what people are trying to do with your content you cannot know if it’s working or not.” Gerry McGovern © 2012
  3. @mbloomstein 3Your serve.And who are you again?  © 2012
  4. @mbloomstein 4What is content strategy?Planning for the creation, aggregation,delivery, and governance of useful,usable, and appropriate content in anexperience. © 2012
  5. @mbloomstein 5Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent modelEditorial style guidelinesMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelines © 2012
  6. @mbloomstein 6Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent modelEditorial style guidelinesMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelines © 2012
  7. @mbloomstein 7Deliverables aremerely punctuation inthe conversation.Don’t let them replacethe conversation. © 2012
  8. @mbloomstein 8Why content strategy? © 2012
  9. @mbloomstein 9Why content strategy?Because we all want the same thing,but content keeps getting in the way. © 2012
  10. @mbloomstein 10First things first.What do you need to communicate? © 2012
  11. @mbloomstein 11First things first.Why even do this… © 2012
  12. @mbloomstein 12First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website, © 2012
  13. @mbloomstein 13First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, © 2012
  14. @mbloomstein 14First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, © 2012
  15. @mbloomstein 15First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter, © 2012
  16. @mbloomstein 16First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter,consolidate the current site architecture, © 2012
  17. @mbloomstein 17First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter,consolidate the current site architecture,add video testimonials, © 2012
  18. @mbloomstein 18First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter,consolidate the current site architecture,add video testimonials, incorporate userreviews, © 2012
  19. @mbloomstein 19First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter,consolidate the current site architecture,add video testimonials, incorporate userreviews, develop new brand guidelines… © 2012
  20. @mbloomstein 20First things first.Why even do this…redesign this website,let the CEO start blogging, audit thecontent, start engaging on Twitter,consolidate the current site architecture,add video testimonials, incorporate userreviews, develop new brand guidelines…if you don’t know what you need tocommunicate? © 2012
  21. @mbloomstein 21If you don’t know whatyou need to communicate,how will you know if yousucceed? © 2012
  22. @mbloomstein 22What’s a message architecture?A hierarchy of communication goalsthat reflects a common vocabulary. © 2012
  23. @mbloomstein 23A little thing with big impact. © 2012
  24. @mbloomstein 24 A little thing with big impact.“ How could we prove this is a car not like anything else out there? It’s a small car, but it’s premium. You get a Porsche 911 ride for a fifth of the cost. It’s got history… but in Europe. You need to give people content to give them history.” © 2012
  25. @mbloomstein 25A little thing with big impact. © 2012
  26. @mbloomstein 26Message architecturePremium technology• Assertive; ready to perform as a driver’s car• Proactive and supportive of spontaneityClassic design• Experienced and savvyCheekiness• Smart, “punny,” hip• Fun, gleeful © 2012
  27. @mbloomstein 27 © 2012
  28. @mbloomstein 28 © 2012
  29. @mbloomstein 29 © 2012
  30. @mbloomstein 30 © 2012
  31. @mbloomstein 31If these emails are boring youand you don’t mind missing outon all the lip-smackin’ stuffwe’ll be sending in the future,simply send a message to owner-unsubscribe@insiders.miniusa.comand include “Unsubscribe” andyour favorite fruit in thesubject field. © 2012
  32. @mbloomstein 32Message architecture drivesthe user experience © 2012
  33. @mbloomstein 33…in contentNomenclatureCalls to actionInstructional contentSentence structureDiction © 2012
  34. @mbloomstein 34…and in designPhotographic anglesDark backgroundsBold headlinesThick stroke weights © 2012
  35. @mbloomstein 35…and in the choice of featuresand content types © 2012
  36. @mbloomstein 36What’s a message architecture?A hierarchy of communication goalsthat reflects a common vocabulary. © 2012
  37. @mbloomstein 37What’s a message architecture?Concrete, shared terminology,not abstract concepts. © 2012
  38. @mbloomstein 38Welcoming,but elite.Selective? © 2012
  39. @mbloomstein 39Accessible,open, andpremiere. © 2012
  40. @mbloomstein 40Words are valuable,but meaningless withoutcontext and priority.(In a few minutes, we’llgive them context.) © 2012
  41. @mbloomstein 41Why do this?Words are cheaper than comps. © 2012
  42. @mbloomstein 42Why do this?Let creative colleagues refine the concept,rather than confirm the purpose. © 2012
  43. @mbloomstein 43How?• Engage in a tangible, hands-on way• Encourage debate and conversation• Identify points of disagreement• Prevent seagulling• Force prioritization• Encourage ownership & investment © 2012
  44. @mbloomstein 44Cardsorting• Groups of 7• Pick 2 people to represent the brand• Everyone else: put on your content strategy hats! © 2012
  45. @mbloomstein 45 © 2012
  46. @mbloomstein 46CardsortingStep one:• Who we are• Who we’re not• Who we’d like to beGo with your gut for about 20 minutes. © 2012
  47. @mbloomstein 47 © 2012
  48. @mbloomstein 48CardsortingStep two:• Who we are  Who we’d like to beThink aspirational.What needs to change?~10 minutes © 2012
  49. @mbloomstein 49CardsortingStep three:• Form groups: what goes together?• Prioritize the goals or groups• Tell the story of those aspirations~10 minutes © 2012
  50. @mbloomstein 50Why do this?Gain standards by which to conducta qualitative audit.(What is “good” anyway?) © 2012
  51. @mbloomstein 51Why do this?Sell new content types to manifest themessage architecture—not just becausethey’re trendy. © 2012
  52. @mbloomstein 52So where to from here?Content audit: measure quality againstthe aspirational attributes in the messagearchitecture. © 2012
  53. @mbloomstein 53So where to from here?New content types: prioritize featuresagainst the new communication goals.Experience? Portfolio.Trust and responsiveness? Testimonials. © 2012
  54. @mbloomstein 54Audit time! © 2012
  55. @mbloomstein 55The organizationEstablished and premiere• Founded in 1896• International reputation for depth in several areas • Not really a “destination” for tourists—but definitely for academics and researchersTrusted• Known for research among competitors, but not local audience• Target audience is loyal, but places greater appreciation in its tradition and history than modern updatesKid-friendly• Seen as ideal for family visits, school field trips, but relatively unknown for adult applicability within the local target audience © 2012
  56. @mbloomstein 56Message architectureEngaged and curious• Creating knowledge by supporting rigorous scientific research and disseminating information• Driving the public discussion to promote stewardship• Comprehensive in questions, open-minded in answersWelcoming• Accessible “for ages 5 – 95”• Relevant, tailoredApplicable and relevant• Practical; engaged & empathizing with the community• Immediate, cutting-edge, and “in touch”Innovative• Ends > means in research, development, and engagement © 2012
  57. @mbloomstein 57 © 2012
  58. @mbloomstein 58Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative? © 2012
  59. @mbloomstein 59Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative? © 2012
  60. @mbloomstein 60 © 2012
  61. @mbloomstein 61 © 2012
  62. @mbloomstein 62Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative? © 2012
  63. @mbloomstein 63Audit to understand what youhave and what you need.Don’t just do it for fun.Before you can start, you needto know why.What are you trying to learn? © 2012
  64. @mbloomstein 64 © 2012
  65. @mbloomstein 65Each section* gets its own tab. © 2012
  66. @mbloomstein 66Every tab tracks the same dataQuantitative:• Head count: what do we have?• Is it consistent? • Are similar content types consistent in size and structure? • Is there parity of length, level of detail, and tone? © 2012
  67. @mbloomstein 67 © 2012
  68. @mbloomstein 68Every tab tracks the same dataQualitative: is it any good?• ROT analysis: redundant, outdated, trivial• Current, relevant, and appropriate to the message architecture• Does it serve the communication goals?• Does it speak to the target audience? © 2012
  69. @mbloomstein 69 © 2012
  70. @mbloomstein 70Each piece of content gets a rowSet up dropdowns to constrain data• Data  Data validation  List  Sources © 2012
  71. @mbloomstein 71 © 2012
  72. @mbloomstein 72What will you learn?• What do we have?• Is it any good?• Do people even like it? (Check analytics!)• What do we need to update?• What do we need to translate?• Where do we need more? © 2012
  73. @mbloomstein 73What will you learn?• What do we have?• Is it any good?• Do people even like it? (Check analytics!)• What do we need to update?• What do we need to translate?• Where do we need more? © 2012
  74. @mbloomstein 74Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent modelEditorial style guidelinesMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelines © 2012
  75. @mbloomstein 75Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent model Gap analysisEditorial style guidelinesMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelines © 2012
  76. @mbloomstein 76Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent model Gap analysisEditorial style guidelines HowMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelines © 2012
  77. @mbloomstein 77Steps along the way…Message architectureContent audit/inventoryPrescriptive content matrixContent model Gap analysisEditorial style guidelines HowMetadata guidelinesGovernance guidelinesBy whom & when © 2012
  78. @mbloomstein 78But first things first:What are you trying tocommunicate?What content do you have andwhat do you need to do that? © 2012
  79. @mbloomstein 79Thank you!Margot Bloomstein@mbloomsteinmargot@appropriateinc.comslideshare.net/mbloomsteinamzn.to/CSatWorkTitle image: http://flickr.com/KandyJaxxAll other images property of their respective owners or public domain. © 2012

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