Get set for content success: Preparing your organization for content work


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Workshop presented at the Ragan Content Summit, June 2013 by Melissa Rach and Julie Vollenweider, Dialog Studios

Content is a great way to attract and keep customers—but most organizations aren't set up to support the content process. Planning, creating, reviewing, approving, publishing, maintaining, and archiving content takes time and requires constant attention.

To get the right content online and keep it relevant, you need an effective content workflow that addresses all facets of content—people, processes, and tools.

In this session, we'll discuss how to create a successful content practice in your organization, including how to:
- Align on shared values and goals for content
- Identify what content tasks need to be completed
- Assign content roles and responsibilities
- Establish content processes and structures
- Prepare your organization for change
- Measure success and create ongoing room to evolve over time

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  • Content is a great way to attract and keep customers—but most organizations aren’t set up to support the content process. Planning, creating, reviewing, approving, publishing, maintaining, and archiving content takes time and requires constant attention.To get the right content online and keep it relevant, you need an effective content workflow that addresses all facets of content—people, processes, and tools.In this session, we’ll discuss how to create a successful content practice in your organization.
  • Robert Lang TED talk, “The math and magic of origami.”The common theme -- what makes it origami -- is folding is how we create the form. So this art has been around for hundreds of years, and you would think something that's been around that long -- so restrictive, folding only -- everything that could be done has been done a long time ago. What is content?The things that are held or included in something.In this case, it’s the peppers and pistachios.Think “table of contents” in a bookPackaged information or knowledgeSupported by other informationWhat the reader came to getThe reason the publisher created the package
  • FormatsText (articles, error messages, help text, metadata)ImageVideoAudioPurposeInformInstructEntertain
  • Having a shared vocabulary is really important when talkin’ content.But in the twentieth century, a Japanese folder named Yoshizawa came along, and he created tens of thousands of new designs. But even more importantly, he created a language, a way we could communicate, a code of dots, dashes and arrows.
  • Vocabulary exerciseONEWrite down your working definition for two of these termsWorkflowReviewerApproverMarketing StrategyTWOCollect definitions for the same terms from those around youTHREENow that you’ve discussed, how has your perception changed?
  • Think newspapers, brochures, etc.
  • More kinds of contentMore users (and user types) More scrutiny More frequency
  • With all of that content, it’s critical to be thoughtful and planful about how to manage it all.
  • Content acts like a living thingNeeds constant care and feedingHas a lifecycleIs easier if it’s planned forCosts more than you think
  • We’re feeding content the equivalent of junk foodQuickConvenientComfortable Cheap
  • Vocabulary level-setting– like the exercise we just did – is a good example of alignment. Good content workflow requires a lot of outreach and alignment.Alignment isn’t about getting people to think, act and believe things exactly the same way. It’s about creatingcommon understanding.Content impacts people throughout your organization—from all different departments. If you want your content strategy/content to succeed you need to people on your team. You need it to:Get people engagedConvince people to participateKeep motivated throughout the project
  • Most people start bylooking for:People who are close to them People who think like them Departmental representation
  • Know your story What is the problemUsers deserve better EfficiencyCompetitorsNumbers say it allUrgencyRequest for help The players PayoffLikely stories
  • Sailors star go to the north star
  • Prioritize your audiencesKnow them wellKnow their whole story Define audiences clearly Describe why they are important Outline what the content needs to do for each audience and desired behaviors Arrange them in order of importance (no ties)
  • Text about products or organizations that might not be excitingAwarenessDecision making Retention There must be something deeper
  • Text about products or organizations that might not be excitingAwarenessDecision making Retention There must be something deeper
  • Internal and external impact factors (users, competitors, influencers) What content exists AuditsBusiness goals User research Interviews
  • How difficult will this be?
  • Sailors star go to the north star
  • These are separate and distinct tasks Know when you are doing one
  • These are separate and distinct tasks Know when you are doing one
  • These are separate and distinct tasks Know when you are doing one
  • Folding directions
  • More than writing. EditorCuratorMarketerInfo scientist
  • Often, nobody can answer this question.Brand/MarketingCares about features and benefits, SEO, alignment with brand standards, fancy graphicsMight focus less on audience needs, governance planning, usability, measurementWhich means content can be promotional, wither and die after launch, flashyUXCares about audience needs, research, etc.Might focus less on current content, SEO, planning aheadWhich means content can underdeliver on business objectives, scope creep to make it work/liveITCares about CMS and requirementsMight focus less on people, brandingWhich means content can get into an endless cycle of releases to “fix it later”, doesn’t adhere to brand standardsBusiness/SMEsCares about budget, deliverables, schedulesCares about the details Might focus less on UX, actual time/work to developWhich means content doesn’t meet user needs
  • Shared ownership / Advisory boardA group of content stakeholders (Web Services, Internal Communications, content contributors, etc.) should convene on a regular basis to discuss content priorities and plans, strategic evolution, and performance of content. Including the right representatives on the Content Advisory Team means individuals who have decision-making power, can voice their opinions, and can support the blended publishing model.
  • The role or person or entity that is assigned the role type ‘Responsible’ is the one who performs the work. In other words he/she is the ‘doer’ of the task or activity. The person who is ‘Responsible’ need not be accountable for that task, even though in some cases the same person can be ‘Responsible’ and ‘Accountable’. The degree of ‘Responsibility’ can vary and multiple roles can share the responsibility of a single task. Also the responsibility can be delegated by the role to another role. ‘Accountable’ is the person or role who has the final authority and accountability to a given task. For any given task, there is only one role/person accountable. This accountability can’t be delegated to other roles or individuals or entities.‘Consulted’ are the people/roles who are consulted and taken advice from before and during performing the task. When there are many people who are assigned as ‘Consulted’ roles, the time take to accomplish the task increases. Informed are the people/roles who are informed after the task is completed. You need to assign the ‘Informed’ roles properly as otherwise it may lead to miscommunication and delays. You need to make sure the right people/roles are informed after a task is performed successfully.  If too many roles are informed after a task, we need to see if its necessary to do so and minimize when possible.
  • Pie chart accountability … don’t forget about non-content accountabilities.
  • Sharing accountabilitiesFacilitate collaborationReinforce commitment to each otherAvoid duplicationFind help when needed
  • Crease patterns
  • Enough structure for pattern development, but flexible enough to allow for creativity
  • Lots of workflows look like this.Blank.Very sequential order of events.
  • webbmediagroup.comThis is really more how it works. There are large chunks of information that follow a process, but many smaller steps within that leave room for flexibility.
  • We’ve already talked about planning, and will talk about measurement, for example
  • Let’s say that you work for Meet Minneapolis, which is the CVB for our hometown. You get a request from the marketing director to compile a web feature for summer activities. There are several questions that need answering that can impact workflow. For simplicity’s sake, here are a few assumptions for this example:It should use existing design templates.It will live in the existing structure, as a seasonal highlight.There isn’t budget to hire external help.You have publishing rights and access to the CMS.This request is the starting point in this example … but can be different, based on your content needs and organization.What would this workflow look like?
  • In some workflow maps, the first step in the process might be to create the ed cal.In this case, consider:WhatWhyWhenBy whom
  • Body copyCalls to actionMetadataDrivers to related informationImagesWhich might each have their own small workflow processes attached
  • ConsiderationsSourceFormatMessagesVoiceStructureConsistencyRelated information
  • There may be more layers of approval and review.
  • Once content is published, it needs to be maintained.Is it current? (remove events that have passed this summer)Is it accurate? (did we have a wrong phone number)Is it relevant? (how should tone shift from early summer to late summer)
  • In this sample excerpt of a detailed report of quantitative audit findings, we have: 1. A description of the audit factor (content format) 2. Graphic depiction of the results, broken down by the options in the pre-defined list of formats 3. Data cross-referencing site section and format4. Key findings and analysis about the factor This sample excerpt from a high-level best-practices audit findings report includes:1. Summary of the key finding for this factor2. A bit of detail that clarifies problem areas
  • Cat HaikuDifference between cats and dogs is motivation … dog wants to please you, cats could care less.Know your internal audience, and what motivates them.
  • Progress is made (which sets the stage for saving or making money). Sometimes, having an external (neutral) expert come in to talk about content strategy is all it takes to move things forward. For organizations that are set up to implement content strategy, but have no time or resources available to actually develop the overall strategy—getting the plan is the necessary push. In any scenario, this resulting progress is usually the stuff that makes the day-to-day content team happiest.
  • Money is saved. Yes. It’s true. Content strategy work can help companies save money. For example, a content strategy effort might examine and evaluate content that is licensed. If any of this purchased content is duplicative, or doesn’t meet criteria for the user and business—that’s an opportunity to save money by discontinuing the license for irrelevant content. Or, in an organization that uses a blend of online and telephone support for products, having a clearly defined strategy for the information best served online can help reduce call volume (and therefore operating expenses). These are the kinds of results that senior leaders really care about.
  • Time is spent efficiently (and more money is saved). When there is a clear understanding of who does what to which content and when, everyone involved in content processes can be more efficient. Consider this—a product manager wants to feature details on a new product on the company website. She spends time locating the company editorial style guide, and agonizes over the wording for the new web content. She then spends time tracking down who might be able to help with this request (via a manager, IT, or marketing). This is time the product manager could be using to do what she does best—improving the product. Additionally, this is time spent doing the work someone else is already paid to do—the website editor, who can create and publish the content in a quarter of the time the product manager spent. A solid content workflow strategy can uncover and improve a situation like this. Frankly, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t get excited about this type of result.
  • Consumers are satisfied (and money is made). Offering content that’s relevant, easily found, and used for its intended purpose goes a long way toward audience satisfaction. Satisfied content consumers are the ones that contribute to your goals as an organization. They buy your widget. They donate money. They subscribe to your service. They recommend you to friends. Happy customers always equal happy business stakeholders. Everybody wins!
  • Figure out what you’re going to measureTie it to business goalsSet a baseline Measure regularly Not just one page or one day
  • Piano tuners in chicagoPopulation of chicago:2.707 millionNamed after physicist Enrico Fermi (who had a knack for solving seemingly unsolvable or overwhelming estimation problems with impressive speed and accuracy), one of the best ways to approach Fermi problems is a clever trick known as order of magnitude estimation. As a lecturer, Enrico Fermi used to challenge his classes with problems that, at first glance, seemed impossible. One such problem was that of estimating the number of piano tuners in Chicago given only the population of the city. When the class returned a blank stare at their esteemed professor, he would proceed along these lines:The classic Fermi problem, generally attributed to Fermi,[2] is "How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?" A typical solution to this problem involves multiplying a series of estimates that yield the correct answer if the estimates are correct. For example, we might make the following assumptions:There are approximately 5,000,000 people living in Chicago.On average, there are two persons in each household in Chicago.Roughly one household in twenty has a piano that is tuned regularly.Pianos that are tuned regularly are tuned on average about once per year.It takes a piano tuner about two hours to tune a piano, including travel time.Each piano tuner works eight hours in a day, five days in a week, and 50 weeks in a year.From these assumptions, we can compute that the number of piano tunings in a single year in Chicago is(5,000,000 persons in Chicago) / (2 persons/household) × (1 piano/20 households) × (1 piano tuning per piano per year) = 125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago. We can similarly calculate that the average piano tuner performs(50 weeks/year)×(5 days/week)×(8 hours/day)/(2 hours to tune a piano) = 1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner.Dividing gives(125,000 piano tunings per year in Chicago) / (1000 piano tunings per year per piano tuner) = 125 piano tuners in Chicago.A famous example of a Fermi-problem-like estimate is the Drake equation, which seeks to estimate the number of intelligent civ
  • Things you can do to get started when you get back to work.
  • Get set for content success: Preparing your organization for content work

    1. Get set forcontent successMelissa Rach & Julie Vollenweider | Dialog Studiosflickr user: PlasticineMonkey
    2. @MelissaRachMelissaJulie
    3. Contentsflickr user: The Travelling Bum
    4. What is content?
    5. Shared vocabulary
    6. Exerciseflickr user: kodomut
    7. In the past, content was:• Not really considered a business asset• Often meant for one use• Used for one-way communication• Created in isolated departments
    8. Today, there is:
    9. Content is everywhereflickr user: Scarygami
    10. Connectednessflickr user: Fdecomite
    11. Higherexpectationsflickr user:EmreAyar
    12. No, here, you see, it takes allthe running you can do, tokeep in the same place. If youwant to get somewhere else,you must run at least twice asfast as that!—The QueenThrough the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll
    13. Contentneeds careflickr user: Qarylla
    14. If we don’t care forcontent• Mediocre content• Disorganized content• Forgotten or neglected content• Work duplication• Over budget, under delivery• Upset stakeholders• Disengaged users
    15. The single most importantthing most websites canoffer to their users iscontent that those users willfind valuable.—Jesse James GarretThe Elements of User Experience
    16. Questions?
    17. Alignment
    18. Findyourflickr user: docoverachiever
    19. Who’s involved?• Sponsor/financial decision makers• Strategic decision makers• Champions• Derailer/showstopper• Influencer• Implementer• Interested others
    20. MakeyourAn elf, a customerand a competitorwalk into a bar…flickr user: docoverachiever
    21. Keep `em engaged• Set expectations• Communicate and encourage participation• Listen and respond• Distribute documentation• Celebrate milestones
    22. Don’t try togo it aloneflickr user: Anna
    23. Questions?
    24. Setting thedirection
    25. Clarkbunch.wordpress.comAimlesscontentresults
    26. Where areyou going?flickr user: Gabriel GM
    27. Whatare youbuilding?
    28. Find yourguidestar
    29. From: Content Strategy for the Web, SecondEdition ©2012 Brain Traffic
    30. Who do you serve?flickr user: scarygami
    31. TryBuySolveEvolveTriggeringNeedLearngettingkeepingLinda Ireland, DominoWhat do they need?
    32. What’s realistic?flickr user: georigami
    33. Reality checkIs the proposed content:• Wanted by the users?• Useful to the business?• Costly to build?• Maintainable with our current staff?
    34. Content featuresmatrix
    35. Core strategy statement
    36. ConsiderAchieveWhat does your content need to accomplish for your organization,industry, and/or users?BeWhat “content product(s)” will we create? What makes the productvaluable to the users? Or, how will they be valuable to the business?DoWhat will the organization need to do to support this content effort?What resources will be needed?
    37. Where areyou now?flickr user: Gabriel GM
    38. Content factors analysisExisting contentExternal impact factors• Users• Competitors• InfluencersInternal impact factors• Goals, risks, requirements• People and processes• Ideas and opinions• Other projects• Technology
    39. How will youget there?flickr user: Gabriel GM
    40. What are your tasks?• Create• Enforce• Measure and evolveSTRATEGY
    41. What are your tasks?• Research• Plan content• Plan resourcesSTRATEGY
    42. What are your tasks?• Create/publish• Update• RetireContent creation and maintenance• Share• Respond• Measure
    43. Exerciseflickr user: kodomut
    44. Questions?
    45. Assign contentroles andresponsibilities
    46. Don’t plan your future, plan yourpeople. Outstanding people who fityour broad vision will tend to makethe right decisions along the way;not by following a plan, but byusing their skill.—Harry BeckwithSelling the Invisible
    47. Performance-basedrolesWhat candidatesneed to do forsuccess (skills)What candidateshave asqualifications(labels)
    48. Web content manager• Collaborate with internal teams and externalagencies to blend user needs with businessgoals• Develop strategy and plans• Write• Review and edit• Manage approvals and content design• Monitor content• Articulate goals, metrics, and more
    49. Contentliaisonsflickr user: Saucy Salad
    50. Who owns the content?Brand /marketingITUX / webstrategyProduct /serviceSMEs
    51. Why ownership is anissue• Site consolidation• Decentralization• Leadership involvement• “Digital first” teams• Relationships with independents and agencies
    52. Get the gangtogetherflickr user: gpoo
    53. Commonaccountabilities• Identify• Plan• Request• Gather• Prepare• Provide• Create• Edit• Fix• Review• Advise• Approve• Publish• Optimize• Audit• Measure• Sustain• Share
    54. RACI
    55. Exerciseflickr user: kodomut
    56. Task Time DescriptionCreationNew content articles 40% New content (estimating 10 hours per page, 70 pagesannually)Special projects 12% New interactive or multimedia content, microsites;make large-scale site changes (structuraladjustments)Website promotion 3% Select featured content; plan and create teasersdirecting users to featured contentMaintenanceAuditing 4% Review and assess existing content; communicateresults to others (estimating 8 pages per hour, auditannually, plus report creation)Contentupdates/adjustments20% Maintain existing content (edit/rewrite/consolidate);assumes 20% of content needs to be retired orrevised annually (estimating 3.5 hours per page)
    57. Commonaccountabilities• Identify• Plan• Request• Gather• Prepare• Provide• Create• Edit• Fix• Review• Advise• Approve• Publish• Optimize• Audit• Measure• Sustain• Share
    58. On displayflickr user: Jon_Tucker
    59. Create strategicroutinesflickr user: georigami
    60. Routines, not rules• Decision making at every level• Ability to change quickly• Allows for innovation• Responsibility and satisfaction for all
    61. A littlechaos is OKflickr user: Jippolito
    62. People need to know• What they are responsible for• How performance is measured• How their decisions impact others• How their work fits in the larger context• What happens if they are not accountable• Where they can stretch
    63. Creativity canflourishflickr user:Dominic’s pics
    64. Questions?
    65. Map processes
    66. Put it in practice• Focus on creation• Will be one part of a larger workflow• Content creation is often where a lot of time isspent
    67. Review the editorialcalendarTime ofyearHolidays Channels ContentelementHot topics ContentcreatorsSummer MemorialDayFather’sDayFourth ofJulyWebMagazineOfficephoneHomepage/ coverfeatureLandingpages /articlesScriptsFestivalsTwinsgamesSculpturegardenPedal pubCanoe thelakesPatio diningAryaRobNedSansa
    68. Consult the channelsMeet with the offline content creators todetermine:• What plans they have in the works• What topics they plan to feature• How you might create a cohesive story arctogether• How you might re-use or adapt content amongyourselves
    69. Create all the piecesflickr user: mattersofgreyflickr user: mattersofgrey
    70. Rely on consistencytools
    71. Prepare and publish• Requester review• Edits and proofing• Formatting• Functionality test• Publish
    72. Hang on,there’smoreflickr user: Origamiancy
    73. Maintenance tools
    74. Quantitative audit data• ID• Title/topics• URL• Format• Source• Technical home• Metadata• Traffic/usage• Last update• Language82
    75. 83
    76. Takeaction
    77. Questions?
    78. BREAK
    79. Prepare yourorganization forchange
    80. If there is no specific diet that allyour people can agree to follow,then you must conclude that youare not really willing or able topursue that strategic goal.—David MaisterStrategy and the Fat Smoker
    81. Communicate,share & getinputflickr user:owlpacino
    82. Methods• Advisory team• Communication plan• Implementation plan• Interviews• Roadshow• Workshops
    83. The food in my bowlIs old, and more to the pointContains no tuna.Most problems can beIgnored. The more difficultOnes can be slept through.Am I in your way?You seem to have itbackwards:This pillow’s user: OrigamiancyWaiting for Your Cat to BarkBryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg
    84. If people are to make the rightstrategic decision in every locationof the firm, in every operatinggroup, and at every level, thenthey must absolutely trust thatmanagement will back them up.—David MaisterStrategy and the Fat Smoker
    85. Empowered& enforcedflickr user: EmreAyar
    86. Common good• Progress is made• Money is saved• Time is spent efficiently• Consumers are satisfied
    87. Progress is madeflickr user: fiomaha
    88. Money issavedflickr user: soozafone
    89. Time isspentefficientlyflickr user: georigami
    90. Consumersare satisfiedflickr user: josey4628
    91. Questions?
    92. Measuring success
    93. The final frontierflickr user: josey4628
    94. Business expectations• To make an investment, organizations expect:• To know exactly what our product is• Proof of competency/quality• Exactly how much it will cost• Provable value and ROIHard numbers. Right now.
    95. Theexpectationflickr user: PhillipWest
    96. Therealityflickr user: Foglienere
    97. flickr user: PhillipWestEstimate,you will!
    98. Exacts are impossibleMeasurement is a set of observations thatreduce uncertainty where the results areexpressed as a quantity.Numbers reduce uncertainty:• Approximate values• Shortcuts for the brain• Common vocabulary
    99. Create aplanof attackflickr user: origamiguy1971
    100. Use all the weapons youhaveflickr user: georigami
    101. Arm yourself with:• Analytics• Qualitative assessments• User research and usability• External expert review• Internal expert review• Efficiency measurements
    102. Use theforceflickr user: georigami
    103. The power of educatedassumptionsFigure out what you know; fill in the blanks with assumptions• The average Star Wars t-shirt costs $20• Analytics show that 50 people start the process of purchasing a t-shirt onlineevery day, but only 10 finish the process• User research shows that the instructions on the purchase pages are veryconfusing• We assume 5-10 people leave the purchasing process because of somethingunrelated to the site, and 5-10 leave the process when they see the shippingcosts• We assume the remaining 20-30 people would complete the purchasingprocess if the instructions were more helpful• Therefore, the value of the instructional content is likely around $144,000-216,000 per year ($20 x 20-30 people x 30 days X12)• The cost of fixing the content is approximately $5,000
    104. Score!Section score:88 out of 100↑15% since April
    105. Exerciseflickr user: kodomut
    106. Questions?
    107. The finishedproduct
    108. Keeping the momentum• Align• Set direction• Assign roles and responsibilities• Map processes• Prepare for change• Measure success
    109. Thanks!Melissa Rach (@MelissaRach)Julie Vollenweider (the worst at social media)DialogStudios.cominfo@dialogstudios.comflickr user: PlasticineMonkey