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The Secrets of Brand-Driven Content Strategy (Workshop)

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Facing feature creep and disagreements among stakeholders? Does your CMO prize modernity and innovation, while the CEO insists on passive voice… but can’t wait to start blogging? Sounds like you need to get a grip on content, the people who make it—and the brand they want to establish.


Brand-driven content strategy can complement your user-centered design techniques, and this workshop will help you get up to speed on the philosophy, questions, tools, and exercises to implement it. You’ll gain practical, hands-on experience by taking sample organisations through a website redesign engagement. First, we’ll conduct a hands-on exercise to prioritise communication goals and develop a message architecture—ideal whether you’re designing for the web, a mobile app, social media, or an offline experience. Discover how a brand attributes cardsort can help you identify potential pitfalls in the engagement and points of disagreement—and then improve organisational alignment around the brand and content.


Next you’ll use this foundation to conduct a qualitative and quantitative content audit. We’ll discuss the content opportunities a gap analysis reveals when we use the message architecture as a metric of quality content. You’ll leave with confidence, savvy, and experience to bring brand-driven content strategy techniques and thinking back to your own organisation.


- Learn how—and why—to establish a hierarchy of communication goals in a message architecture with a hands-on exercise.
- Discuss the right questions to ask—and how to ask them—to minimise distracting, off-brand features, like the blog no one has time to update.
- Use a content audit to evaluate content against the message architecture.
- Gain additional tools to keep your projects on track, on time, and on budget.
- Inform your work with an air-tight approach to better user experiences.


Presented as a workshop at CS Forum 2012, Cape Town South Africa; #CSForum12, October 24, 2012.

Published in: Design
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The Secrets of Brand-Driven Content Strategy (Workshop)

  1. @mbloomstein 1 © 2012© 2011 The secrets of brand-driven CONTENT STRATEGY Margot Bloomstein CS Forum October 2012 @mbloomstein
  2. @mbloomstein 2 © 2012 Unless you understand what people are trying to do with your content you cannot know if it’s working or not.” Gerry McGovern “
  3. @mbloomstein 3 © 2012 Your serve. And who are you again? 
  4. @mbloomstein 4 © 2012 What is content strategy? Planning for the creation, aggregation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable, and appropriate content in an experience.
  5. @mbloomstein 5 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines
  6. @mbloomstein 6 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines
  7. @mbloomstein 7 © 2012 Deliverables are merely punctuation in the conversation. Don’t let them replace the conversation.
  8. @mbloomstein 8 © 2012 Why content strategy?
  9. @mbloomstein 9 © 2012 Why content strategy? Because we all want the same thing, but content keeps getting in the way.
  10. @mbloomstein 10 © 2012 First things first. What do you need to communicate?
  11. @mbloomstein 11 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…
  12. @mbloomstein 12 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website,
  13. @mbloomstein 13 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging,
  14. @mbloomstein 14 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content,
  15. @mbloomstein 15 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter,
  16. @mbloomstein 16 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter, consolidate the current site architecture,
  17. @mbloomstein 17 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter, consolidate the current site architecture, add video testimonials,
  18. @mbloomstein 18 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter, consolidate the current site architecture, add video testimonials, incorporate user reviews,
  19. @mbloomstein 19 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter, consolidate the current site architecture, add video testimonials, incorporate user reviews, develop new brand guidelines…
  20. @mbloomstein 20 © 2012 First things first. Why even do this…redesign this website, let the CEO start blogging, audit the content, start engaging on Twitter, consolidate the current site architecture, add video testimonials, incorporate user reviews, develop new brand guidelines… if you don’t know what you need to communicate?
  21. @mbloomstein 21 © 2012 If you don’t know what you need to communicate, how will you know if you succeed?
  22. @mbloomstein 22 © 2012 What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary.
  23. @mbloomstein 23 © 2012 A little thing with big impact.
  24. @mbloomstein 24 © 2012 A little thing with big impact. 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.” “
  25. @mbloomstein 25 © 2012 A little thing with big impact.
  26. @mbloomstein 26 © 2012 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
  27. @mbloomstein 27 © 2012
  28. @mbloomstein 28 © 2012
  29. @mbloomstein 29 © 2012
  30. @mbloomstein 30 © 2012
  31. @mbloomstein 31 © 2012 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.
  32. @mbloomstein 32 © 2012 Message architecture drives the user experience
  33. @mbloomstein 33 © 2012 Nomenclature Calls to action Instructional content Sentence structure Diction …in content
  34. @mbloomstein 34 © 2012 Photographic angles Dark backgrounds Bold headlines Thick stroke weights …and in design
  35. @mbloomstein 35 © 2012 …and in the choice of features and content types
  36. @mbloomstein 36 © 2012 What’s a message architecture? A hierarchy of communication goals that reflects a common vocabulary.
  37. @mbloomstein 37 © 2012 What’s a message architecture? Concrete, shared terminology, not abstract concepts.
  38. @mbloomstein 38 © 2012 Welcoming, but elite. Selective?
  39. @mbloomstein 39 © 2012 Accessible, open, and premiere.
  40. @mbloomstein 40 © 2012 Words are valuable, but meaningless without context and priority. (In a few minutes, we’ll give them context.)
  41. @mbloomstein 41 © 2012 Why do this? Words are cheaper than comps.
  42. @mbloomstein 42 © 2012 Why do this? Let creative colleagues refine the concept, rather than confirm the purpose.
  43. @mbloomstein 43 © 2012 How? • Engage in a tangible, hands-on way • Encourage debate and conversation • Identify points of disagreement • Prevent seagulling • Force prioritization • Encourage ownership & investment
  44. @mbloomstein 44 © 2012 Cardsorting • Groups of 7 • Pick 2 people to represent the brand • Everyone else: put on your content strategy hats!
  45. @mbloomstein 45 © 2012
  46. @mbloomstein 46 © 2012 Cardsorting Step one: • Who we are • Who we’re not • Who we’d like to be Go with your gut for about 20 minutes.
  47. @mbloomstein 47 © 2012
  48. @mbloomstein 48 © 2012 Cardsorting Step two: • Who we are  Who we’d like to be Think aspirational. What needs to change? ~10 minutes
  49. @mbloomstein 49 © 2012 Cardsorting Step three: • Form groups: what goes together? • Prioritize the goals or groups • Tell the story of those aspirations ~10 minutes
  50. @mbloomstein 50 © 2012 Why do this? Gain standards by which to conduct a qualitative audit. (What is “good” anyway?)
  51. @mbloomstein 51 © 2012 Why do this? Sell new content types to manifest the message architecture—not just because they’re trendy.
  52. @mbloomstein 52 © 2012 So where to from here? Content audit: measure quality against the aspirational attributes in the message architecture.
  53. @mbloomstein 53 © 2012 So where to from here? New content types: prioritize features against the new communication goals. Experience? Portfolio. Trust and responsiveness? Testimonials.
  54. @mbloomstein 54 © 2012 Audit time!
  55. @mbloomstein 55 © 2012 The organization Established and premiere • Founded in 1896 • International reputation for depth in several areas • Not really a “destination” for tourists—but definitely for academics and researchers Trusted • Known for research among competitors, but not local audience • Target audience is loyal, but places greater appreciation in its tradition and history than modern updates Kid-friendly • Seen as ideal for family visits, school field trips, but relatively unknown for adult applicability within the local target audience
  56. @mbloomstein 56 © 2012 Message architecture Engaged and curious • Creating knowledge by supporting rigorous scientific research and disseminating information • Driving the public discussion to promote stewardship • Comprehensive in questions, open-minded in answers Welcoming • Accessible“for ages 5 – 95” • Relevant, tailored Applicable and relevant • Practical; engaged & empathizing with the community • Immediate, cutting-edge, and “in touch” Innovative • Ends > means in research, development, and engagement
  57. @mbloomstein 57 © 2012
  58. @mbloomstein 58 © 2012Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative?
  59. @mbloomstein 59 © 2012Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative?
  60. @mbloomstein 60 © 2012
  61. @mbloomstein 61 © 2012
  62. @mbloomstein 62 © 2012Engaged & curious? Welcoming? Applicable & relevant? Innovative?
  63. @mbloomstein 63 © 2012 Audit to understand what you have and what you need. Don’t just do it for fun. Before you can start, you need to know why. What are you trying to learn?
  64. @mbloomstein 64 © 2012
  65. @mbloomstein 65 © 2012 Each section* gets its own tab.
  66. @mbloomstein 66 © 2012 Every tab tracks the same data Quantitative: • Head count: what do we have? • Is it consistent? • Are similar content types consistent in size and structure? • Is there parity of length, level of detail, and tone?
  67. @mbloomstein 67 © 2012
  68. @mbloomstein 68 © 2012 Every tab tracks the same data Qualitative: is it any good? • ROT analysis: redundant, outdated, trivial • Current, relevant, and appropriate to the message architecture • Does it serve the communication goals? • Does it speak to the target audience?
  69. @mbloomstein 69 © 2012
  70. @mbloomstein 70 © 2012 Each piece of content gets a row Set up dropdowns to constrain data • Data  Data validation  List  Sources
  71. @mbloomstein 71 © 2012
  72. @mbloomstein 72 © 2012 What will you learn? • What do we have? • Is it any good? • Do people even like it? (Check analytics!) • What do we need to update? • What do we need to translate? • Where do we need more?
  73. @mbloomstein 73 © 2012 What will you learn? • What do we have? • Is it any good? • Do people even like it? (Check analytics!) • What do we need to update? • What do we need to translate? • Where do we need more?
  74. @mbloomstein 74 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines
  75. @mbloomstein 75 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines Gap analysis
  76. @mbloomstein 76 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines Gap analysis How
  77. @mbloomstein 77 © 2012 Steps along the way… Message architecture Content audit/inventory Prescriptive content matrix Content model Editorial style guidelines Metadata guidelines Governance guidelines Gap analysis How By whom & when
  78. @mbloomstein 78 © 2012 But first things first: What are you trying to communicate? What content do you have and what do you need to do that?
  79. @mbloomstein 79 © 2012 Thank you! Margot Bloomstein @mbloomstein margot@appropriateinc.com slideshare.net/mbloomstein amzn.to/CSatWork Title image: http://flickr.com/KandyJaxx All other images property of their respective owners or public domain.

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