LavaCon 2012: Evolution of an Empowered Content Team


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Evolution of an Empowered Content Team
Having a hard time getting the resources to implement your content initiatives? Do your stakeholders think anyone can write content? Not getting the support you need for content management tools and headcount? Then it’s time to take charge of your Content department’s image and reputation. By investing just a little bit of time and effort in a public relations campaign for your department, you can open up the purse strings and get the resources you need to implement content improvements for your organization.

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  • WelcomeThanks for joining us on this last day of LavaCon bright and early.Coffee is downstairs.Water is available in the corner.Bathrooms are just outside the door.Introductions - Eunice – Worked at PayPal for 6+ years. - Started as writer and promoted into management. - Now manage a staff of 9 writers, contractors & consultants in San Jose & Austin, TX. - Joined today by my co-presenter and colleague Mike Stevens.MikeWorked for PayPal for 9+ years.Now manages a staff of web writers and technical documentation writers.
  • Over the last few days you’ve been hearing from various presenters and sessions about the importance of making sure the value of your work as content strategists is understood and valued.Alan J. Porter outlined some great concepts during his presentation last Sunday morning on “5 Ways to Make Execs Love Content Development”. And yesterday, Andrea Ames talked about “How to Influence without Authority” from an individual contributor level.Mike and I are here today to share some of the tactics PayPal’s Global Content team used to create an empowered content team – how we got execs to love our department and how we empowered our individual contributors. Some of what will be presented may sound basic or something that most people with agency backgroundsalready do instinctively– marketing themselves as content experts.But for those of you who are part of a 1 person, 10 person or 50 person content department embedded in a large organization, marketing yourselves and what you do often falls off the radar - and that can be a huge opportunity lost for your own job satisfaction and forthe future health of your Content organization.
  • There are 3 main benefits of creating an empowered content team:Greater job satisfaction – for yourself and for your team. When you’re working for a winning team, who doesn’t feel good about themselves? Leads to better employee retention. Easier to recruit top talent– everyone wants to work for a winning team.Producing high quality work –when your organization is running well, it’s much easier to produce high quality work. People are generally more engaged and self-motivated.Think about the best job or boss you ever had. One thing that made it the best job or best boss was that you felt motivated/empowered to do great work. Long-term benefitsBecause your team is a recognized authority in the discipline it’s much easier to get the resources you need to get the job done - whether its tools or headcount. Secures your department’s future as a key contributor to the health of the overall business/organization. Italso helps overcomes the “anyone can write” mentality.So in order to become an empowered content team, you must gather allies. And to gather allies, you have to give them a reason to join your side.And that’s what this session is about – we’ll show you how PayPal’s Content team was able to gather allies to become an empowered, successful content team.
  • I [Mike] joined PayPal in 2003, and it was still very much in start-up mode. Not much was well organized – including our processes, tools, and the working model with our cross-functional teams – UI/VD/Web Dev/etc…We created and coded our own content directly in the code.Over the last 9 years both the company and the Global Content team has continued to evolve, and has gone from a rag tag group of writers into a mature organization of more than 40 content strategists, content managers, and editors around the world. To grow the organization to what it is now it was absolutely essential to make people outside of our organization aware of the value that we were bringing to the company. These are some of the ways we did it.
  • Starting line:The first step you need to take towards building an empowered Content team is take stock on who you are and how you’re perceived. A starting point. A starting line.In order to figure out where your department fits in the organizational food chain, you need to start asking people.
  • We used 3 methods for gathering information:SurveysFocus GroupsStrategic 1:1’s
  • When we started talking about gathering feedback we immediately landed on conducting surveys. For our company, surveys are the easiest way to reach a lot of people. It’s a relatively low time commitment, and people can fill it out on their own schedule. And when we started talking about conducting surveys, using SurveyMonkey was a no-brainer (and no, I’m not getting a cut or a discount for saying that). If you’re interested in conducting surveys I definitely recommend them, they make it very easy to get something done very quickly, and as long as your survey is pretty short, I think 10 questions or fewer, it’s even free.
  • Focus groupsSurveys are a great way to get quantitative feedback but we found focus groups were a good way to get qualitative feedback.Great opportunity to find out how they feel about the work and personnel you have in their own words.Focus groups are an efficient way to get good cross-section/sampling of opinions at once. We made sure we got a good cross section of personnel - all levels of the company, various years of experience, and all departments were represented.Usually kept the groups small <6 people.We told them we would be recording them, using the iPhone memo record function, so that the moderator of the focus group could concentrate on facilitating the discussion and not worry about taking notes which can be distracting. Usually participants forgot they were being recorded in minutes.We promised participants anonymity so they could speak freely.We later transcribed the conversations so we had a record of what was said.
  • As anyone who’s spent any time in a large organization knows, it can be extremely difficult to get information to the upper reaches of management without some distortion along the way.One way to work around this is to take your wins, your successes, directly to senior members of your organization. And one way to do that is to set up strategic 1:1s. Use these primarily for executives who don’t have time to take surveys and participate in larger focus groups. Their voices are probably one of the most important. And they can be some of your greatest allies when you’re trying to get some traction with content-based initiatives or when it comes time to allocate budget for your department.These are people whose opinions are often based on the sound bites they get from hallway conversations or the managers who report to them. So use this as an opportunity to plant your own sound bites and make sure they’re hearing about the good things your department is doing, as well as to ask the specific questions you need to ask to get the information you need directly from them.
  • For all of these information-gathering methods, you’ve got to ask the right the questions.In order to ask the right questions, you need to brainstorm exactly what information you’re trying to get to the heart of and then compose questions to get those answers. For example:We wanted to find out whether people in our company actually understood what we didand what our processes were. So we asked them.We wanted to find out pain points working with our department.So we asked what frustrated them most about working with our team.We wanted to find out what our cross-functional partners really cared about.So we asked questions about what their expectations were for our department.
  • Here are the 10 questions we asked during our focus groups & 1:1’s.We kept it short and simple.We kept time commitment to a minimum.1:1s were generally 30 mins.Focus groups were usually 1 hour.
  • When running focus groups & 1:1’s you need to set the stageSetting the stage:Give context to why you’re doing this. Be honest. Why are you running surveys, focus groups and 1:1’s? You’re trying to better your organization by getting feedback from those you work with. This makes them feel like a stakeholder in the process, and that their opinion is valued. That alone, is great PR for your department.In every focus group I led with cross-functional partners, there was always one person who said, “this is a great idea, we should all be putting mirrors in front of ourselves and evaluate how we’re doing and finding ways to improve.”Initially, wehad some trouble getting people to participate in the focus groups – lots of people canceling at the last minute. Giving feedback to another department is not high on their priority list of things to do.The solution: we scheduled it during the lunch hour and specifically told participants that a free lunch will be served. If you feed them, they will come. For 1:1’s, we met people at a café or Starbucks – to make it informal. Get them out of their normal environment – it makes people more relaxed and open to being honest.
  • You’ll want to set some ground rules when you’re running a focus groupYou’ll need to actively facilitate the discussion. Often there are dominant voices/opinions. Be sure to call on those who haven’t spoken so you make sure to hear from everyone. You want to make sure that every voice is heard.Try not to answer too any questions during focus groups. Often people make incorrect statements about your department or your processes and the natural reaction is to correct them – but don’t - let them talk. You are information gathering so let them give you their real impressions of what you do.
  • You’re asking people to take time out of their busy day to participate, so it helps to keep it fun.One way you can do that in a focus group setting is to help break the ice. It helps people loosen up and get more comfortable and encourages them to speak more freely and honestly.For example, one of the questions we asked early on in the survey and in focus groups:If the content department was a kind of car, what kind of car would it be?This allowed people to think creatively and broke the ice.The answers we got for this question were probably the most valuable in terms of really getting a good impression of what people thought of our department, personnel, and processes.Most people naturally elaborated on their answers so we could really drill down on why they chose that kind of car.In our case, lots of people called our department a Honda Civic because they see us as reliable, not necessarily fast like a Porsche, but trustworthy and dependable.By reaching out to your cross-functional partners for their feedback, you’ve already engaged them in a positive way. You’re showing you care about what they think about your work and how it affects them. And don’t forget to keep the dialog going after the survey. Most people find it interesting after participating in a survey to see what others thought too, so share your results and make sure you include what steps you’re taking to address them.This is the first step towards creating a positive image of your department – that you’re proactive, and that’s empowering.
  • The next step towards the empowerment of your content team is – The Campaign.Now that you know where you stand, focus on how you want to be perceived.Do research and find examples of content winsUse feedback from your customersExamples of before/afterGet statistics on successful content-driven initiatives.If you’re part of a big corporation, you’ll want to talk about these wins in a language the executives understand - which means talking about money and ROI.It’s all about how much money you helped the company make or how much money you saved the company.If you’re part of other types of organizations, you know what’s important to your organization, so be sure what you do aligns to that.If you’re a non-profit, demonstrate how your content helped bring in donations.If you’re a government agency, show how your content disseminated information more efficiently.If you’re an educational institution, highlight how your content was written in a way that brought more positive publicity to your institution in the mainstream media or attracted more applicants.
  • The first example of one of our Content department campaign was called: Less is MoreIt was initiated and driven by a Director of Content who was astutely aware of the importance of raising the department’s profile within the company and to the executives.He faced a bit of pushback even internally in the department – why are we doing this? Is this a good use of resources?But the legacy of his work/concepts have even outlasted him (he’s no longer with the company).He leveraged the department’s own resources in comingup with some catchy taglines to promote our department’s brand.We created posters placed them in all of our North American campuses.We submit articles tointranet sites, newsletters, and blogs.The result: People at all levels of the company were talking about how the content department was going to reduce the amount of content on the site. AC-level executive referenced the campaign during a major company-wide meeting.And at the individual contributor level, I was a writer at the time, and I walked into a project meeting and the developer, who 5 days earlier had no idea who I was and what I did was asking me, “are you going to be reducing the content for project?”When I said ‘yes’ and that I needed a couple of extra days to really edit/trim the content, he fine with giving me more time to do it because he knew that was my department’s goal. I was actually given more time to write my content. How often does that happen?So from an IC level all the way to up to C-level executive there was acknowledgement that the Contentdepartment was proactively trying to improve the user experience - thus helping the company’s bottom line.
  • Customer Voices CampaignFor this campaign we mined our customer feedback archives - setting up very specific search parameters to try and locate examples of great content that users actually talked about.We created posters that were distributed throughout the corporate campuses.Account OverviewIn this example, we had recently redesigned our Account Overview page which is one of the most heavily viewed pages on PayPal.It was a much simpler, cleaner design from its previous incarnation.Obviously, some of the comments are making statements about the experience in general, but content is a key component of that experience so take the credit for it – “I wish every credit/debit, bank statements are this easy to follow. Even my 10 year old can balance my accounts using this very page – Bravo!”
  • Customer Voices CampaignIBAN exampleA new regulation in Italy required users to enter a 27 digit code identifying their bank account. There was no code available on the back-end to do a check based on existing bank details so it needed to be entered from scratch. If the customer didn’t do it, they wouldn’t be able to send or receive or withdraw money from their PayPal account – which is basically, PayPal’s core business.Given all of these challenges - we had foreseen high contact rates and a controversial user experience.The response:A small pop-up was created next to the input field to explain what the number was and why we needed it. So just a minor content tweak on the site.The result:Customers were happy with the flow. There were no negative comments posted on the community boards when it launched.Customer Service contact rates were very low (<2%). And that can be monetized for executives. All companies have a $ amount attached to every Customer Service contact so it’s a matter of crunching the numbers.
  • Customer Voices CampaignNext generation XOThis is another example of feedback on a redesigned check out flow.“As I am not very computer literate, I usually have to depend on help from my grown up children. So that means the instructions were very easy to understand…I am quite proud of myself”.What’s interesting about this quote is I know the lead writer who worked on this project at the time often described our voice and tone as “its like trying to explain something to your grandmother. You need to be clear and concise, yet respectful and friendly” and I think that this comment reflects that.How great is it for a writer to actually elicit the exact response to their content that they intended. This is a perfect example of that. The writer felt empowered that their messaging hit their target audience.So this is a great example of how the Content department is supporting the company’s brand through voice & tone: clear & concise yet respectful and friendly.
  • Jargon CampaignBackground: We were getting complaints from customers and internal stakeholders that too much jargon was leaking out onto our site. We defined jargon as terminology that doesn’t have universal understanding outside our company or industry.We had a 3 phase approach.Phase 1: Ran a contestContests with prizes engages people in what you do. We worked with our corporate communications department to send these emails company-wide.For this campaign, we askedemployees submit to our team examples of jargon they see on the site that we could go in and fix.We offered prizes to those who made valid submissions e.g. eBay gift cards.
  • Phase 2: Launched an internal websiteExplained what we were trying to accomplish.Promoted the contest.Demonstrated to our internal audience that we’re being proactive about fixing the problem.
  • Phase 3: Poster campaign with resultsWe featured employees and their jargon complaints and our proposed fixes.The result:We were able to get funding to fix some of the content identified through the contest. Also, an editor on the team, working with her husband whose a developer for PayPal, created an internal terminology database that defines which terms can/cannot be usedthat anyone internally can access. Now if there’s any push back from external teams (like a Product Manager who ‘likes to write’ for the writer) about the use of certain terminology, there is a database they can refer to that explains why we use certain terms and why we don’t use others. This tool is extremely empowering for our writers because it gives them something to push back with.
  • Let’s take a look at some of the tactics we’ve used.
  • Brown bagsOur Global Education team runs a brown-bag education program where people all across the company come and speak about products they’re working on or initiatives within their teams. Use this type of training to educate your cross-functional partners on who you are – the roles and contacts within your organization…As well how your processes work, how long each step in the process takes and why, and what – if any – dependencies there are, etc.. Newsletters and blogsWhether you create one yourself or contribute to one that’s at a company level, keeping everyone informed about your latest department wins and initiatives will keep your department and your successes at the front of everyone’s mind.
  • We also decided to try and leverage and expand on existing content and created PayPal Press.We partnered with Pearsonpublishing company – one of the world’s largest publishing houses.We identified content that we could re-use to get startedAnd we used internal talent to expand on that existing content to create these books…
  • > …Then we created an internal and external websites…
  • …And when it was ready we had a launch party – because everyone loves a party! We were able to engage cross-functional team and execs to what we were doing.The result: So far, we’ve published 5 books which helped to establish PayPal as an authority in the e-commerceindustry. It was a great opportunity for our writers, many of whom have always dreamed of writing a book.AND it helped establish our writers and our department as subject matter experts.
  • Tosummarize what we’ve been talking about:We’re here to remind you of the importance of using the same skills you use in your daily job – promoting/marketing your company or organization’s products and services – and using those skills for yourself and your team.Another way to look at it is the current Presidential campaign. For the past 6-10 months we’ve been bombarded with campaign slogans, TV ads, posters, billboards, and social media blitz. But when all the votes are cast and done in November we’ll have a President who, for the next 3.5 years gets to focus almost exclusively on the business of running the country.What we’re saying here today, is that if you give just a little bit of time and money to a campaign for your Content department - gathering allies & communicating your value to the company - all that will pay off when you’re done because then you too can focus on the business of creating and managing your content.And it doesn’t matter how big or small your Content organization is – anyone can do the things we outlined today.
  • When you do all of these things:Leverage existing content and resources and find ways to monetize it as w did with PayPal Press.Engage company employees in content initiativesThrough contests or focus groups or 1:1’s.Educate them on content processes and challenges.Remembering to speak their language. Whether its ROI or customer satisfaction.Highlight the content wins and success of content-specific projects.This reinforces that not just anyone can write.The visibility and respect of the department will follow - which is empowering. And once empowered, it becomes easier to ask for more resources because what you do is understood and valued. And once empowered you and your department get to reap the rewards: More job satisfaction because you get to focus on the content strategy and content initiatives you want to work on. Employee retention and attracting better employee candidates.And the organization wins - because they have a content department that is motivated and empowered and has the proper resources to create the best content for their site.It doesn’t take much to move the needle in your favor. Just a little time and money. Most of the campaigns we ran cost less than $1k in actual materials… but the results of these efforts have been priceless.Thank you.
  • LavaCon 2012: Evolution of an Empowered Content Team

    2. 2. WHY2 Confidential and Proprietary
    3. 3. THE BENEFITS OF AN EMPOWERED CONTENT TEAM • Greater job satisfaction • High quality work • Long-term benefits 3 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    4. 4. IN THE BEGINNING… 4 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    5. 5. STARTING LINE 5 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    6. 6. INFORMATION GATHERING • Surveys • Focus groups • Strategic 1:1’s 6 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    7. 7. SURVEYS 7 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    8. 8. FOCUS GROUPS 8 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    9. 9. STRATEGIC 1:1’S CEO Sr VP Sr VP VP VP Director Director Director Manager Manager Manager Manager Manager Writer Sr Writer Sr Writer Sr Writer Writer Writer Writer Writer Writer Writer Writer Writer9 Confidential and Proprietary
    10. 10. THE QUESTIONS 10 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    11. 11. THE QUESTIONS - EXAMPLES 1. What do you think the Global Content team does? 2. If Global Content were a kind of car, what kind of car would it be? 3. Give us 3 words that describe the content team? 4. What do you like most about the content team? 5. What do you find frustrating? 6. What are your expectations of the content team? Be specific. How do we rate on a scale of 1 to 10: 7. Quality of work 8. Personnel 9. Processes 10. Anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t discussed or covered?11 Confidential and Proprietary
    12. 12. SET THE STAGE 12 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    13. 13. SET THE GROUND RULES 13 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    14. 14. MAKE IT FUN 14 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    15. 15. CAMPAIGNSConfidential and Proprietary
    16. 16. “LESS IS MORE”16 Confidential and Proprietary
    17. 17. “CUSTOMER VOICES” 17 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    18. 18. “CUSTOMER VOICES” 18 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    19. 19. “CUSTOMER VOICES” 19 Confidential and ProprietaryConfidential and Proprietary
    20. 20. “JARGON”20 Confidential and Proprietary
    21. 21. “JARGON”21 Confidential and Proprietary
    22. 22. “JARGON”22 Confidential and Proprietary
    23. 23. OTHER TACTICSConfidential and Proprietary
    24. 24. BROWN BAGS, NEWSLETTERS, & BLOGSConfidential and Proprietary
    25. 25. Confidential and Proprietary
    26. 26. 26 Confidential and Proprietary
    27. 27. Available now in stores and online Peach Pit Press .aspx?isbn=0321768523Confidential and Proprietary
    28. 28. SUMMARYConfidential and Proprietary
    29. 29. KEY TAKEAWAYS • Leverage existing content and resources and find ways to monetize it. • Engage company employees in content initiatives. • Educate them on content processes and challenges • Highlight content wins and success of content- specific projects.29 Confidential and Proprietary
    30. 30. QUESTIONS?30 Confidential and Proprietary
    31. 31. THANK YOUEunice LouieEmail: eulouie@yahoo.comSkype: eulouieLinkedIn: StevensEmail: mike.e.stevens@gmail.comSkype: mike.e.stevensTwitter: @MichaelSaidThatLinkedIn: