TITLE SLIDEBackground is in branding and editorial side of content strategy.10 years of experience as a communications professional, three as a journalist and seven working in content strategy for government and nonprofit entities.For the last 3.5 years I’ve served as the content strategist for AdoptUSKids, a federal project managed by the U.S. Children’s Bureau that aims to raise awareness of the need for foster and adoptive parents in the U.S. You’ll notice my title is different here, because just this week I actually started a new job with GeoEngineers, a company that works in helping manage natural resources and the built environment.For today though, I’ll talking about my work at AdoptUSKids and how content strategy has played a part in creating a unified and consistent voice in all their channels of communication.[click]
JOKE DIAGRAM SLIDEWhen I started my job with AdoptUSKids back in 2009, they were undergoing a redesign of their national photolisting website that is sort of like Match.com, but hosts profiles of children in foster care and families approved to adopt.It was incredibly forward thinking of a government program to bring a content strategist on board. That said, I literally had to carry my job description around with me for the first year to remind people why I was hired. The directors of the project all had a different idea of what my role of a content strategist meant. I had to walk a fine line with a lot of my coworkers, both on my team here in Seattle overseeing the website, and other teams scattered in different offices across the U.S. because they all had a part to play in providing content for the website, email campaigns, social media, and other channels of communication. It’s very easy for someone in the role of a content strategist to be seen as being difficult versus someone who is being diligent about making sure that an organization has a consistent tone of voice and quality across all our channels of communication.[click next]
RAHEL QUOTEAnd at the end of the day, what I’m really doing as a content strategist is a lot of wrangling and making sure the wheels keep churning for planning, producing, disseminating, and most importantly maintaining a consistency in all our content.At the very core of the field of content strategy and the different disciplines within it, it’s really simply about developing a repeatable process for producing content.If you have a bad process or strategy, or a lack of a strategy all together, chances are you’re going to be producing bad content. And vice versa, if you have a good strategy, you’re most likely going to be producing good content.And a brand, particularly online, is only as strong as the content it's producing and its audience is consuming. Whether you're selling a product, promoting a cause, or trying to help children in foster care get adopted, people are interacting with your content on a daily basis and either staying in engaged or walking away.And while it seems simple to develop a process for producing content, it’s actually kind of tricky because …[click]
AUSK COLLAGEContent is political.Each part of a project or an organization has its stakeholders, and those stakeholders have their own history and feelings about the content the organization produces. Imagine if you will 100 cooks in a kitchen and an unwatched pot of stew. The cooks argue for awhile about the best way to season the stew, a dash of this a dash of that, and some extra special seasoning getting added when no one is looking … that’s what AdoptUSKids looked like when I came on board.With a mission to help waiting children in foster care find permanent, loving families – there was a lot of well-intentioned and passionate decisions being made by a wide range of stakeholders. It’s just that no one was overseeing the pot of stew.These decisions produced thousands of small gestures between 2002, when the AdoptUSKids project was launched, and 2009 when I came on board as their content strategist.[click 1]We had our website ran by the electronic media team here in Seattle.[click 2]Our ad campaign run by the Ad Council in Washington, D.C.[click 3, 4, 5]Our social media sites that, when they were created, were run by everyone and no one at the same time.[click 6, 7, 8]Our email campaigns ran out of our central office in Baltimore.[click 9, 10, 11, 12, 13]Yet another email campaign and a host of publications produced by our training center in Denver.[click 14, 15, 16]And all the other pieces of content, that extra special seasoning in the stew, that got added here and added there that no one person is in charge of seeing or approving. Sometimes it’s design by committee, other times it’s design by no one. In the end though, this is what we had.A big political mess of ownership and an inconsistent voice to our audience. [click]
INGRIM DIAGRAMAdding to the politics of the stew making for an organization, are all the roles responsible for producing the content.This diagram by Richard Ingram, a content strategist from the U.K. shows the three different and overlapping disciplines of content strategy,the roles and tasks that fulfill them within a company.However, it also shows all the roles and tasks that are probably either being duplicated or overlooked among different departments because the technical team isn’t talking to the editorial team and the editorial team isn’t talking to the web strategy team.And this diagram, this is just one small piece of what makes up an organization. You also have board members, CEOs, department heads, and so on who may not have any knowledge of how the Internet works or what a browser is, but they’re going to want a say over content on the website because its often one of their most viewed and public spaces.[click]
NEWSROOM PYRAMIDThe good news though is that content strategy isn’t new.I mentioned earlier that I was a journalist before I was a content strategist. And newsrooms are probably the most political and deadline demanding atmosphere you can work in and has an audience with an insatiable appetite for your content.Despite the decline of newspapers over the last several years, there’s a lot we can learn from them when it comes to editorial processes and work flows. It’s not just pure magic that they’ve been able to produce content on a daily basis, and great content, for a hundred or so years.Because whether your organization wants to admit it, once you create a website, you become a publisher of content.Knowing the hierarchy and chain of command is important because despite the politics at play, it keeps the wheels moving so that people spend less time fighting over what goes on the homepage and more time on producing useful and engaging content.Most organizations haven’t had to go through the growing pains of becoming content producers until just recently, so, that means[click next]
INGRIM 2Content strategy is change management.[click 1]All those roles that play a part in the content life cycle need to know where they come in at.That hard part of that is navigating who comes where in that cycle … that’s where a content strategist becomes more of a mediator than anything else.When I started my job at AdoptUSKids, I had no idea how much time I would be spending on getting buy in from people on everything from font choices to wording to what shade of blue the sky really is.So I made a switch in the way I think about my job from being one of just strategy to one of shaping a path to actually move forward with big decisions when it comes to content.[click]
AUSK PYRAMIDShaping a path is particularly important in a beauracratic setting with lots of voices and different opinions at each phase of the creation and approval process.And mind you, beauracratic doesn’t just mean government, it means big and complex. The bigger your company or organization is, the harder it’s going to be to bring about consistent content.So, to shape the path for developing a process to create and approve content in the most expedient way possible, I used the existing hierarchy of AdoptUSKids to develop a system for creating and approving content.I then took this hierarchy to outline a process for every recurring type of content that AdoptUSKids produces – web content, email campaigns, print publications, conference presentations, federal reports, and so on. Each process has four essential phases:[click]
PROJECT BRIEFThe first phase is to write a project brief to outline the goals for a piece of content, which also allows for input and approval early on from those highest up on the food chain.This phase also helps approvals later down the road go a lot faster and smoother. I know, because after we implemented these processes I saw it happen in federal government, which isn’t always known for its expediency.[click]
CREATION AND COMPOSITIONAfter the project brief is approved, we start the second phase, which gathering and creating different pieces of the content – copy, photos, video, etc.What you see here is AdoptUSKids’ outlined process for creating new web pages. After all the pieces of content for the page are gathered and have received the necessary approval,[click]
DESIGN AND PRODUCTIONWe move into the third phase, design and production, to develop and layout the page. After the designed page is blessed with its seal of approval,[click]
DISTRIBUTION AND MAITENANCEWe move into the fourth and final phase, distribution and maintenance, of serving up the final product to our audience and measuring its success or shortcomings, then making adjustments to it as necessary.[click]
BIG VIEW OF PROCESSAnd when you line up these four phases back-to-back with all the players that need to be involved at each step, the lifecycle of one page of content out of thousands looks like this.It looks overwhelming, but in reality having it mapped out like this and who needs to be involved in what step actually streamlines the organic, and often chaotic, processes already taking place.And processes just like this one here, helped AdoptUSKids go from looking like[click]
BIG MESSThis, to looking like [click]
NEW AUSKThis.Not only do we have consistent branding across all our content, we also have a consistent voice, look, and feel while delivering useful and engaging content to our audience.How do know our content is engaging our audience? Metrics.[click]
FIRST ARROWVisits to our website have increased by 418 percent in the first year after the redesign, and return visitor rates by 550 percent.[click]
SECOND ARROWWe’ve also had an 81 percent increase in subscriptions for our monthly newsletters to prospective adoptive families with open rates higher than industry average for nonprofit and government organizations.[click]
THIRD ARROWAnd a 200 percent in our following on Facebook and Twitter, the two social media sites we are the most active on and devote the majority of our resources.[click]
CLOSING SLIDETo wrap up, I’ll say that one of the most fundamental pieces of establishing a brand, particularly online, is to make an investment in your content by planning and prioritizing it like you would in developing any other part of your business.
Consistency in Content: It's More Important Than You Think
Consistency in ContentIt’s more important than you think.SMX Advanced Seattle, Washington June 12, 2013Vanessa Casavant @vancasavantMarketing Communications Specialist, GeoEngineers
“Content strategy is the development of a repeatable process thatmanages content throughout the entire content lifecycle. Andthat means, from planning to creation to management within the CMS, topublishing, to post-publishing activities, and back through the next iterationof planning, and so on.”— Rahel Anne Bailie, Principal of Intentional Design, Inc.What is content strategy?Posted in LinkedIn Content Strategy group on January 28, 2011http://www.linkedin.com/groups/I-challenge-any-CS-group-1879338.S.41243331
REPORTERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, GRAPHIC DESIGNERS,FACT CHECKERS, LIBRARIANS, RESEARCHERSDESK EDITORS© EDITORS.MANAGING EDITORS&ART DIRECTORSPUBLISHER&EXECUTIVE EDITOREDITORIALPROCESSContent strategy isn’t new.Newsrooms have used content strategy for hundreds of years.
Shaping the path.Use existing hierarchy to help shape an editorial process.DEVOLOPERS, WRITERS, DESIGNERS, CUSTOMER SERVICE REPS, CONSULTANTS, ETC.TEAM DIRECTORS.NATIONAL PROJECT DIRECTORFEDERAL PROJECTOFFICERAdoptUSKids
Lifecycle for one page of web contentJust one little page out of hundreds.
418% increase in website visits(5.5 million to 23 million)550% increase in return visitors(2 million to 11 million)
81% increase in familyemail subscriptionsOpen rates higher than industry standardfor nonprofits and governments418% increase in website visits(5.5 million to 23 million)550% increase in return visitors(2 million to 11 million)
100% increase in email subscriptionsOpen rates higher than industry standardfor nonprofits and governments200% increase in social media followingon Facebook and Twitter318% increase in website visits(5.5 million to 23 million)450% increase in return visitors(2 million to 11 million)
Consistency in content is consistency in voice.I promise, your brand will thank you for it.Vanessa CasavantMarketing Communications Specialist, GeoEngineers@vancasavant
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