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Brand-Driven Content Strategy: Creating a Message Architecture Workshop at Confab Central 2017

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Brand-driven content strategy complements user-centered design, and this workshop will help you get up to speed on why and how to implement it. We’ll conduct a hands-on exercise to prioritize communication goals and develop a message architecture—ideal whether you maintain content for the Web, mobile apps, social media, or offline experiences.

From there, you’ll learn how to use a message architecture as the metric against which to measure content in a qualitative content audit. Then carry it into governance: We’ll explore the impact of a message architecture on editorial style guidelines and an editorial calendar—and see how that foundation can improve efficiency and client satisfaction throughout your projects. Discover how a brand-attributes card sort can help you identify potential pitfalls and points of disagreement while you improve organizational alignment through entire engagements.

Trying to manage scope creep? What about seagulling stakeholders? And what content matters most, anyhow? These questions and other challenges drive content strategy, and the business issues beyond it. What if you need to empower a team, wrangle a client, and rally everyone around a common vocabulary for your primary navigation? No matter your title, it’s time to embrace content strategy, starting with the message architecture.

Learn how to establish a hierarchy of communication goals with a hands-on exercise and the right questions to ask along the way to minimize distracting, off-brand features, like the blog no one has time to update.

Discover how to bring brand-driven thinking through subsequent activities, like the content audit and content model.
Explore the impact of the message architecture on “rubber meets the road” details in style, tone, and diction.

Gain additional tools to keep your projects on track, on time, and on budget.

Presented as a workshop at Confab Central, #ConfabCentral, in Minneapolis, June 7, 2017.

Published in: Design
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Brand-Driven Content Strategy: Creating a Message Architecture Workshop at Confab Central 2017

  1. 1 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein BRAND-DRIVEN CONTENT STRATEGY: CREATING A MESSAGE ARCHITECTURE Margot Bloomstein @mbloomstein Confab Central June 7, 2017
  2. 2 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein BRAND-DRIVEN CONTENT STRATEGY: CREATING A MESSAGE ARCHITECTURE, DEPLOYING IT IN THE CONTENT AUDIT AND CONTENT MODEL, AND APPLYING IT IN THE EDITORIAL STYLE GUIDE AND CALENDAR, LIKE YOU DO
  3. 3 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Volume and variety are the enemies of focus and consistency. 3 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  4. If we want progress, we need boundaries, expectations, and guidelines.
  5. “What do we need to say?”
  6. 11 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein To say more, start by saying no. 11 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  7. 12 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Content demands attention
  8. 13 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Because we all want the same thing, but content keeps getting in the way. (CC) http://www.flickr.com/photos/slworking Content requires time
  9. 14 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Content dredges up politics ©Margot Bloomstein
  10. 15 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Good communication is the product of tradeoffs and opportunity costs. 15 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  11. 16 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Tradeoffs pay off. ©Margot Bloomstein
  12. 17 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Content strategy lives in the tradeoffs.
  13. 18 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein What is content strategy? Planning for the creation, aggregation, and governance of content that’s useful, usable, and appropriate to an experience.
  14. 19 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture Content audit Content types Content model Editorial style guidelines and calendar
  15. “But isn’t strategy expensive?”
  16. “More like Apple”
  17. 23 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein More like Apple’s message architecture Confident but approachable; accessible Simple • Minimal detail • Streamlined and anticipatory Inviting, friendly • Supportive but not fawning
  18. 24 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture Cheeky • Witty and fun • Young without being childish Customer oriented and responsive • Approachable, friendly, and empowering Helpful • Accessible
  19. 25 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  20. 26 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  21. 27 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein From: Little MOO | Print Robot <noreply@moo.com> Subject: MOO | Order 0629312615 | Confirmed Hello I'm Little MOO - the bit of software that will be managing your order with moo.com. It will shortly be sent to Big MOO, our print machine who will print it for you in the next few days. I'll let you know when it's done and on its way to you. Remember, I'm just a bit of software. So, if you have any questions regarding your order please first read our Frequently Asked Questions or contact customer services (who are real people!) Thanks, Little MOO, Print Robot
  22. 28 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Cheeky • Witty and fun • Young without being childish Customer-oriented, responsive • Approachable and friendly • Empowering Helpful • Accessible Message architecture vs. brand values Design Innovation Community Excellence
  23. 29 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary
  24. 30 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary— versus brand values, which are the ethics a company espouses
  25. 31 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein First things first. Why add video testimonials, develop help content, continue blogging, conduct a content audit, or email customers… if you don’t know what’s most important to communicate?
  26. If you don’t know what to communicate, how will you know if you succeed?
  27. what to communicate when where
  28. 34 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Serious, technical, and rigorous? • Annual reports • Articles on your site • Articles on other sites • Blogs • Books • Branded tools • Case studies • Digital magazines • eBooks • Email newsletters • Facebook posts • Games • In-person events • Infographics • Licensed/syndicated content • LinkedIn posts • Microsites • Mobile apps • Online presentations • Podcasts • Print magazines • Print newsletters • Research reports • Twitter • Videos • Virtual conferences • Webinars/webcasts • Whitepapers Excerpted from Content Marketing Institute & MarketingProfs Content Marketing Survey Not all channels fit all goals.
  29. 35 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Engaged, fun, and relevant? • Annual reports • Articles on your site • Articles on other sites • Blogs • Books • Branded tools • Case studies • Digital magazines • eBooks • Email newsletters • Facebook posts • Games • In-person events • Infographics • Licensed/syndicated content • LinkedIn posts • Microsites • Mobile apps • Online presentations • Podcasts • Print magazines • Print newsletters • Research reports • Twitter • Videos • Virtual conferences • Webinars/webcasts • Whitepapers Excerpted from Content Marketing Institute & MarketingProfs Content Marketing Survey Not all channels fit all goals.
  30. What are your company’s primary communication goals? What channels do you use now? Why? What channels could better meet your goals?
  31. 37 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein ©The Lettered Lane
  32. 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.”
  33. 39 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein A little thing with big impact.
  34. 40 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture Premium technology • Assertive; ready to perform as a driver’s car • Proactive and supportive of spontaneity Classic design • Experienced and savvy Cheekiness • Smart, “punny,” hip • Fun, gleeful
  35. 41 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  36. 42 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  37. 43 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  38. 44 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein If these emails are boring you and you don’t mind missing out on all the lip-smackin’ stuff we’ll be sending in the future, simply send a message to owner- unsubscribe@insiders.miniusa.com and include “Unsubscribe” and your favorite fruit in the subject field.
  39. 45 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture drives content Nomenclature Calls to action Content types Sentence structure Diction
  40. 46 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture drives design Photographic angles Background colors Headline typography Density of information
  41. Content strategy can create harmony from cross-channel cacophony.
  42. 48 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary
  43. 49 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary— concrete, shared terminology, not abstract concepts
  44. “welcoming but elite”
  45. “traditional but cool”
  46. 52 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein ©Warby Parker
  47. Words are valuable, but meaningless without context and priority.
  48. Your turn: Encourage tradeoffs that pay off
  49. • Engage in a tangible way • Encourage conversation “What do you mean? “Are these concepts synonymous?” • Identify pain points and debate: “How can we be strategic and tactical?” • Force prioritization • Encourage ownership • Prevent seagulling
  50. 56 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein • Who we are • Who we’re not • Who we’d like to be Go with your gut! Step 1: categorize
  51. 57 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Who we are  Who we’d like to be Be aspirational. What needs to change? Step 2: filter
  52. 58 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein • Form groups: what goes together? • Prioritize the goals or groups • Tell the story of those aspirations Step 3: group and prioritize
  53. 59 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein • Follow up on hesitation and grimaces • Let participants resolve their own questions • Expose nuances in meaning & connotation “So ‘traditional’ but not ‘conservative’—why?” “You hesitated adding ‘modern.’ How come?” “Are ‘strategic’ and ‘tactical’ opposites?” Dig in to ensure clarity
  54. ©The Lettered Lane
  55. • Choose content types to manifest the message architecture • Gain standards for a qualitative audit • Prioritize CMS changes and metadata to support content types • Reallocate budget and resources across channels
  56. 62 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  57. 63 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Welcoming people, accessible place • Approachable, casual vibe; not standing on ceremony • Witty, warm, and engaging Gracious • Polished and elegant • Anticipatory and helpful Sincere and distinct • Maintaining authenticity Easy and efficient • Modern and innovative in technology • Facilitating and efficient Message architecture
  58. 64 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein • Welcoming people, accessible place • Gracious • Sincere and distinct • Easy and efficient Does it uphold the message architecture? If not, what do you recommend? Message architecture  audit
  59. 65 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein ©The Lettered Lane
  60. 66 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein
  61. 67 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Premium • Lindt embodies quality, in product, marketing, & company interactions • Approachable: Quality indulgences are more accessible • Trusted in brand and quality Empowering • Entrepreneurial: Innovating, championing individuals and successes • Market driving: strategic and proactive • Professional and consistent through experience and being responsive Community-minded • Engaged with the Lindt family • Customer-oriented • Socially conscious Message architecture
  62. 68 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Elegant layout and typography • Spread-to-spread sightlines and flow • Wider borders • Layered background images • Italic titles with initial drop caps
  63. 69 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Imagery of individual impact • People engaged with product and service— not just product or just results of service • Diversity of role, gender, ethnicity, and age
  64. 70 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Accessible, informative copy • First-person plural • Frequent rhetorical asides • Shorter sentences • Clear, concrete explanations
  65. 71 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Editorial calendar “schedules” the message architecture
  66. 72 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Message architecture Content audit Content types Content model Editorial style guidelines and calendar
  67. 73 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein But first things first: Understand what you need to communicate—and why.
  68. 74 | #ConfabCentral | @mbloomstein Thank you! Margot Bloomstein | @mbloomstein margot@appropriateinc.com Content Strategy at Work: http://amzn.to/CSatWork BrandSort: http://cards.appropriateinc.com Talks: http://slideshare.net/mbloomstein All photography © Margot Bloomstein unless noted. Screen grabs property of their respective owners.

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