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Hello. My name is Kate Kenyon. I'm a content strategist. (SLIDE). That's me. I
run a small practice in the UK, and I work ...
support you. You can also better see where to focus your initial efforts.
Warning: it might not be your favourite content ...
Some minor points on storytelling: (SLIDE)
Don't use words to tell a story.
Once you have your narrative, don’t bother wit...
internal and external customers. Adapt your stories as you need to, and tell
them more stories about things still to be do...
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Tricks to get content strategy adopted in your company - talk transcript


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Transcript of the talk I gave at Content Strategy Forum 2014

Published in: Marketing, Technology
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Tricks to get content strategy adopted in your company - talk transcript

  1. 1. Hello. My name is Kate Kenyon. I'm a content strategist. (SLIDE). That's me. I run a small practice in the UK, and I work mostly with big ecommerce sites and charities. It means I've come to specialise in being good at separating people from their money, which is easier than you'd think. But what proved harder than I originally thought is getting content strategy embedded as a discipline within these companies. (SLIDE) It hasn't mattered whether I was perm or freelance, inhouse or agency - I think I spent about 3 years feeling like I was stuck, repeatedly running into a glass door. So, this is a talk based on what I discovered in my attempts to stop running into glass doors. It's odd that this is a problem really. I've never met anyone who disagrees with the idea of content strategy. BUT (SLIDE) I've also never met anyone outside of the people in this room who agrees that it's important enough to be prioritised way above other company projects. So this is what I want to talk about today, and share some practical ways that I have found for getting the funding and the air cover that you need to be able to work. And before you think, oh lord, this is not going to be something I'll enjoy, I'll give you some better news. (SLIDE) As you're about to see, I found that when I looked back, these were all things that I and you already know, skills you already have, just applied differently. So. Let's assume you have already spent some time working on a site - you know what works, what needs to change. You have a strategy, a plan and a list of projects needed to get you there. How do you get that adopted? These are my ten tools. The first five are practical things I'd do before even trying to get something adopted, the next five are ones for when you're in motion. (SLIDE) First tool: Audit your audience We all know about understanding our audience, doing research, personas, etc. But have you ever done them for your colleagues? When it comes to a successful, adopted content project, you have more customers to please than you think. Saying 'our customers need this, the research says x' only works if you're in a truly customer-centric company. I don't think I've ever worked in one. The reality is that within business, customers are a vague group of clicks on a screen (SLIDE) - if you're trying to get a project green-lit, doing it because that project that will solve problems for Joe Smith and his sales team will get you much further. If you want content strategy adopted, you need to understand what the needs of your colleagues are, and look very hard at how what you want to do fulfills their needs. But like I said, this is nothing you haven't done before: this is good old fashioned interviewing and auditing - how well do your content ambitions mesh with the needs of your audience? (SLIDE) Here's a sheet to get you thinking - copies available after the talk, and some worked examples. (SLIDE) Note the reality of conversations with stakeholders. As you audit, benchmark their answers against your plans – is what you're worrying about really the business problem and priority you think it is – where does this fit within overall company priorities? - Is now the right time, or would you have greater success in the new financial year? Once you know what's needed internally and externally, you can see who will
  2. 2. support you. You can also better see where to focus your initial efforts. Warning: it might not be your favourite content projects that you start with, but if you're changing minds, you need to start with what's top of mind. Go back and reorder your list of projects. (SLIDE) 2nd tool: Tell people what you’re going to fix, not how Once you know what the business problems are, please don't start talking about how content strategy will fix this. In fact, (SLIDE) stop talking about 'content strategy'. It is the biggest turn off ever unless you're talking to people who have already experienced the benefit of it. Without that, it's just a strange, meaningless phrase that sounds like you're making stuff up to sound important. Don't talk about content strategy, and oh you should read McGrane, Halvorson, Bloomstein. Seriously that's your job, not theirs. Take the learning and then frame your work in the language of your audience so that they continue supporting you. (SLIDE) I can still remember how well this worked. I was talking to a product manager while I waspermanent at Expedia about the impact of that was for her personally and for the business of our badly translated content. And rather than my usual patter about how structured content would really help us improve the accuracy of our translated content, reduce the product page bounce rate, and customers complaints, I said I can help you reach your international sales targets twice as fast if we do the translation differently. (SLIDE) Name the problem in their terms, not yours. (SLIDE) 3rd tool: once you've found the right topics, go for the influencers. This is more of a journalism tool but it's something all content people know: once you've found a few subjects people care about, get someone influential to talk about it to build it up even more. (SLIDE) CS adoption is a lot easier with an influential sponsor. In companies there has been a fluid dynamic of power - who's on top, who's on the rise, who has influence beyond their job title, etc. It's stupid, and frustrating, and non-customer centric and everywhere. So don't ignore it, use it. When you're auditing your colleagues and projects, put a star next to the ones that would directly benefit influential people or teams. Tell them what benefit they will get (what's in it for them) and specify what you need from them to support you, either money or political support. (SLIDE) 4th tool: Pain and pleasure go together People don't change without a little drama and anguish, so if you're promising a brighter tomorrow, it's good to remind them of the pain of today. (SLIDE) When you've found your influencers, remind them of what they don't have today. People are motivated by self interest, but they also really hate change. If you’re pitching for a better CMS, reminding people of the pain it currently causes is useful tool to encourage change. This is basic carrot-and-stick theory, but I certainly didn’t know at the beginning that it’s not enough to just apply one or the other ’ you need both. (SLIDE) 5th tool: use what you've learned to tell a compelling story You are storytellers so do what you're good at. If you've used tools 1-4, you now know what the language of your company is, what the pain points are, and what is important. Find a simple narrative that ties together all the bits of work you think will succeed. Then tell that story to everyone. I worked in a company where the marketing dept produced newsletters, blogs and a wiki, just about their own dept and while I may sneer a bit, everyone knew exactly what their ambitions were and could explain it in a single sentence. This is how you recruit in-the-field advocates for what you’re doing.
  3. 3. Some minor points on storytelling: (SLIDE) Don't use words to tell a story. Once you have your narrative, don’t bother with words to explain it. People don't read, particularly if the subject is hard. If you really want to influence change, show them a picture. Work harder at explaining what we do. If you struggle to translate from words to pictures,(SLIDE) Dan Roam's book The Back of The Napkin is great and really helped me on this. Hasn't taught me to draw, as you can see, but it did teach me how to think visually so I could scratch out some diagrams and the like. Know the numbers of your audience Prioritising content strategy is a business decision, and business decisions are swayed by numbers, not just words and pictures. The trick with numbers is to find the ones that are meaningful to your company or client ’ it could be share of market, revenue, conversion rate. But find that number, and do some business maths with it that ties your work to that number. If you’re a bit business maths backwards on this, get cosy with your nearest finance person and learn. (SLIDE) If you haven’t got a finance person to learn from, this book helped me. (SLIDE) You don't have to know it all, you just have to understand how your work can affect those numbers. It's fine if they're estimates - just show what it could look like if the project was half and twice as successful. This should be enough to get you up the list of priorities in your company, but if you want to stop people repeating mistakes they're already making, you need to do more to change their behaviour.(SLIDE) 6th tool: spark imagination. It is really hard to imagine doing things differently from how you've always done them. Use all your storytelling resources to spark the possibility in people, show them how. Don't tell, show. I was taught this trick by a wily CTO I once worked with. This particular CTO I’m thinking of was working to get major legacy platforms rearchitected into the Cloud. Massive project. Huge investment. Difficult to quantify the business benefit. But essential to the development of the company in the next few years. What he did was SHOW THEM THE FUTURE (SLIDE) by bringing in the MD of a similar company to talk about themselves, how they worked, why going into the Cloud had really worked for them, why they were successful, what business changes they’d put in place to make it all work. Everyone asked questions, and after that, no one ever asked why he was spending some much of the company money on fixing something that wasn’t even really broken yet’ So if you're proposing a different way of doing things, let your colleagues meet someone else who has already done what you’re proposing and who will explain it to them. Expect to do this more than once too; content strategy is a continous state of doing and redoing. (SLIDE) 7th tool: be ready to max the hell out of your success. If you get a hit, go with it. If you had a piece of content go viral, what would you do? You'd package it up, resell it again, and use it to get you some more money to produce similar work, right? So do that. (SLIDE) If you get even the smallest piece of work away, start packing up that success into a business-wide success story and start demanding money. For every project you want to do, have ball park figures and a plan ready to go. Even if they are just estimates. (SLIDE) 8th tool: Keep listening As I said, content strategy is a continuous state of doing and redoing, so keep your ears open for change both internally and externally. (SLIDE) People leave, customers change, and the dynamics of power change. Keep listening to both your
  4. 4. internal and external customers. Adapt your stories as you need to, and tell them more stories about things still to be done. (SLIDE) 9th tool: play a long game. No-one builds a name for themselves as a good content producer without writing a lot of articles, many of which sink without trace, and so it is with content strategy. Don't get frustrated - you are changing years of 'doing things the way we've always done it'. It can take a while: when I worked at Expedia, I finally got a proposal for that structured content project in front of the CEO. He approved it, but as I was doing my victory dance in my head, he said, 'but it's got to wait it's turn' He showed me a list like this (SLIDE) of all the other major important projects the company needed to do, and mine slotted in about eighth on the list. And I couldn't disagree: content strategy is important but it's not a panacea for all a company's problems. I heard from an old colleague last week that project has just gone live now - two years after I'd proprosed it. I'm rapidly running out of time here, so I just want to finish with a final tool which I suspect none of us have enough of: faith in our abilities (SLIDE) A lot of CS people find what I'm saying uncomfortable and unappetising - at first it doesn't seem like it's anything to do with content and technical skills, and it involves some icky things like politics, people and persuasion. Hopefully I've shown that actually you do already have the technical skills to do this, and more experience than you might have thought in making your proposals really meaningful to your company or client. But it does take more than that. A venture capitalist once told me that 70% of an investment decision is in the person, not their powerpoint presentation. He said, we need to share in their belief in their own ability to deliver what they're proposing. And if there's one thing we need to do more often, it's that - see ourselves as being the ones bringing about this change. Not just planning it - doing it. You have the skills, you have the stories to tell, you care about the content in your organisations, and if not you, then who else is going to make it happen? We are by far the best, most suitable, most qualified people in our companies to bring about these changes. (SLIDE)