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Who Cares About Content?


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Who Cares About Content?

  1. 1. @steph_hay WHO CARES ABOUT CONTENT? steph hay {BT} nov 22, 2011Hey! Thanks for being interested in content. I love you.
  2. 2. WHO DATI’m here because I care about content. A lot. Also I’m here because Marc asked me to come. Which is great. And plus Stefan told him I shouldspeak. Which is uber great. Thanks dudes!
  3. 3. THANKS MARCI didn’t ask Stefan permission for this. Thanks Stefan.
  4. 4. ABOUT CONTENT I CAREI care about compelling content -- the kind of content that makes you want to DO something.
  5. 5. YOU ARE AWESOME YOU WANT TO CONVEY TO USERS THATAt some point, you and possibly a team of folks already made the decision that you want to compel someONE to do someTHING, like actuallyREAD your website, buy your app, vote for your congressperson, whatever. But really, above all else, you want the user to know that what you’repromoting (be it a product or an experience) is quite kick-ass.What you’re creating -- whether you’re designing a more topical, marketing website for consumers targeting some fairly high-level categoricalaudience (you know, like “women”) or maybe a more niche, user-centric ipad, mobile, or web application -- will determine how your process likelyunfolds from there.But let’s just say for purposes of this discussion that we’re designing a brochure-ware sort of marketing-focused website for our company, which isa “full-service web consulting agency.”So we might follow a process that looks similar to this:
  6. 6. CREATIVE BRIEF INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE WIREFRAMES DESIGN MOCKS BUILD! SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION CONTENT QA + UNNECESSARY TWEAKS LAUNCH!In this sort of a common process, you might start from a common document like a creative brief, which captures the goals of the project andoutlines audiences, then move sufficiently through IA, wireframes, and comp iterations before getting approval to build it. Near the end, you mightpull in a Twitter feed, populate blank pages with content, do final QA and some maddening tweaks, then launch it.
  7. 7. CREATIVE BRIEF INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE WIREFRAMES DESIGN MOCKS BUILD! SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION CONTENT QA + UNNECESSARY TWEAKS LAUNCH!So we think about content at the start -- when we’re creating the IA (which should be driven by content priorities) -- and at the end. But ignoring(for now) the obvious vacuum of content in this process, we might arrive at a final website that has this formulaic-type of content:
  8. 8. WE BUILD SITES DESIGN MOBILE CREATIVE TALENTED TEAM DEVELOPERS SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL TWITTER THANK YOU.Here are some words about WHAT we do, WHO we are, and HOW a user can get ahold of us.Pretty straightforward.
  9. 9. WE BUILD SITES DESIGN MOBILE CREATIVE TALENTED TEAM DEVELOPERS SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL TWITTER THANK YOU. ?But this is what our competition does! And in almost the exact same way! In fact, this is what the great majority of sites out there does -- they talkabout who they are and what they offer, but they miss the mark when it comes to bear hugging the user. Content needs to compel the user to *do*something ... to feel confident in believing that you’re what they’ve been searching for. To rise above the many other people who seemingly dowhat you do, to degrees of subjective quality that the user can determine.And I think that’s accomplished by writing content that has three elements:
  10. 10. 3 ELEMENTS OF COMPELLING CONTENT Focus Credibility ConsistencyCompelling writing that conveys importance has 3 primary elements: focus, credibility, and consistency. THESE THREE ELEMENTS extendbeyond your typical website or application content creation process and into all your writing -- from email to Twitter, SMS messages, bios orFacebook pages.So I encourage you to consider these three elements from a rather global perspective and incorporate them increasingly into everything you write.
  11. 11. MAKE NO MISTAKE... This is HardSo the one caveat to everything I’ll discuss related to focus, credibility, and consistency is that achieving them every time is HARD. And not justbecause it takes a strategic mind to consider how content can bridge business, marketing, and user experience goals. But also because it maychallenge that process I mentioned earlier -- it likely will require some re-thinking to integrate content into the wireframing and comp process. Andinto the build, where content is equally essential. But it’s certainly possible, and just prioritizing the written word and taking one step and a time isthe best way to start moving forward toward more compelling content.BUT BEFORE YOU TYPE A SINGLE THING....
  12. 12. FOCUS IN WHICH AREAS CAN BE DEMONSTRATED?Consider this: Why are we writing in the first place?
  13. 13. FOCUSED CONTENT CONSIDERS... Audience Medium NetworkAs with all things, you need to understand a few key pieces: Audience, Medium, and Network. Understanding the potential of these three areasBEFORE you start writing will actually shape HOW you write.
  14. 14. Copyright © Lemuhr AUDIENCETo whom are you PRIMARILY sending a message. Instead of thinking of broad, generic demographics, consider ONE person. Sitting across thetable from you.What does that person look like? What kind of day is he having? How do you want the user to FEEL when she discovers you? And what do youwant the reader to *DO* when she reads your content? Is she a government person, hipster, baby boomer, or teenager? How web savvy is she?What questions does she have that you can answer BEFORE she asks them?
  15. 15. AUDIENCE Don’t: Consider everyone. Do: Focus on *one* ideal person, then speak directly to him or her.Writing for one person makes writing easier. You can imagine the conversation. You can write for that ideal conversation.And after you’ve got some basic content that successfully speaks to this particular, primary audience, you can always go back to find the ways inwhich additional or different content can be layered in to reach secondary or tertiary audiences. But if you start there -- trying to speak to everyaudience at once -- you will have a much tougher time writing targeted, focused content right out of the gate.
  16. 16. Copyright © Lemuhr MEDIUMNow that you know specifically to whom you’ll be communicating with your writing, consider which ways you can send that message.Content will vary from web and mobile to email to LinkedIn profiles, Twitter updates, blog posts, business cards. Your method of delivering thatcontent is, arguably, a part of the message itself, so consider how you can best leverage the characteristics of each. For example, maybe youCAN get away with creating a 2-3 page website with links to additional information that lives elsewhere, such as in a blog, on GetSatisfaction, oron Twitter. As long as these additional media have been considered as part of a holistic approach to your content strategy, then you can feelconfident that your writing is going to complement itself across several channels and, hopefully, thereby paint a more vibrant picture of whateveryou’re offering.
  17. 17. MEDIUM Don’t: Think in isolation. Do: Capitalize on other communication channels to tell your story.The flip side of course is that by taking stock of additional media, you’ll have to make sure they don’t undermine the work you’re putting intowriting specific content to begin with. There’s always a (pretty good) chance that people will Google your name or the product’s name before theytake action, so be sure that the various media promoting your work are aligned. And consider how you can better align them to provide acomprehensive view of your awesomeness.
  18. 18. Copyright © Lemuhr NETWORKNow that you’ve thought about your audience and the various media you can use to communicate with that audience, consider your network:which people or influencers around you are going to facilitate those messages or serve as a reference to your product or service? Which peopledo you owe a major responsibility to INDEED, BE AWESOME, well AFTER they refer you as being awesome?
  19. 19. NETWORK Don’t: Forget others’ reach. Do: Consider how your network will describe you -- and influence your target audience.The most active people who could be willing to help you might actually help you shape the content BECAUSE OF the people they’ll connect youwith. For example, if you know the editor of a major tech magazine, and that editor wants to write a glowing review of your app, you may in factdecide to tailor some of the content you’re writing to appeal to the reader of that magazine. In doing so, you’ll be positioning the app to better alignwith the readership, and hopefully increasing its likelihood of traction for that audience.Or, you’ll at least call in a copy editor to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb to ensure nothing trivial like typos exist. After all, becausethat editor is willing to offer such support, you have an a responsibility to NOT make the editor look like an asshole. Your network of peopleSHOULD INSPIRE YOU TO WORK HARDER at making sure your writing doesn’t undermine your credibility or theirs.SO, now that you’ve focused on your target audience, media for delivering messages, and network who help with connecting you with potentialadopters, it’s time to write credible content.
  20. 20. CREDIBILITY IN WHICH WAYS CAN BE CONVEYED?In many ways, your content *is* your credibility. It’s what you’re saying, or it’s what others are saying about you. It’s separate from design,features, and social media channels. It’s the thought behind each purposeful word.
  21. 21. CREDIBLE CONTENT IS... Meaningful Helpful Results-Oriented ConfidentCredible content seems to universally have four qualities. It (1) substantively says something to convey meaning (2) Explicitly tells users whatthey should do (3) Describes to users what outcome will be bestowed upon them should they choose to engage, and (4) Is confident -- withoutbeing conceited -- which inherently makes users feel more confident about their decision to engage. And I’ll illustrate each of these qualities withexamples found in websites and applications online today.
  22. 22. Copyright © Lemuhr MEANINGFUL ONLY WRITE CONTENT THAT’SCompelling content serves a purpose. It’s substantive. It’s written for the reader. It’s written to illustrate what can’t be gleaned fully from visuals.But, above all else, it’s written to communicate a message.
  23. 23. As an example of a site that starts describing the results of their efforts -- then interjects ambiguity that questions their credibility -- is here.If you have nothing substantive to say, don’t add some meaningless crap to fill space. No one on Earth likes to read meaningless crap whenthey’re trying to LEARN something.
  24. 24. ONLY WRITE CONTENT THAT’S MEANINGFUL Don’t: Fill space. Do: Take the time to ensure your writing *says something.*If you’re going to make a page or a product, it should without a doubt add value to the user’s experience. And you should take the time to ensurethat value is obvious in every word choice. You can’t afford to leave your users hanging. And if you don’t have something meaningful to saybeyond a few bullet points, then don’t! Just really knock it out of the park with the meat of the message you DO have.
  25. 25. Designer David Desandro actually describes HOW he got a result -- in plain English -- that, in its honesty and knowledge sharing, is bothendearing and interesting. This is meaningful stuff to a front-end developer and reinforces his credibility AS a front-end developer.
  26. 26. The National Breast Cancer Foundation here is intentionally trying to push empowerment as a primary message. All of the content has meaning totheir target audiences, and credibility is crucial to their efforts in being the resource for finding meaningful information related to breast cancer.
  27. 27. LifeLock’s content is meaningful to anyone concerned with identity theft (which maybe is all of us). But in this case, they have content cateredtoward HOW identity theft happens as told by someone who experienced it herself. This first-person storytelling of something meaningful (which inthis case is also the problem statement), reinforces LifeLock’s credibility as a provider of services catered toward preventing identity theft.
  28. 28. Copyright © Lemuhr HELPFUL BECredibility is also reinforced when you’re obviously trying to help your user DO something on the site.
  29. 29. This is an example of a missed opportunity. For me, 2 questions come up immediately: What is this, and what am I supposed to do with it?Layout aside (though content is very much intimately related with layout, design, and functionality), engaging your audience with obviouslanguage is absolutely essential to encourage adoption. There’s nothing helping me to my destination, and as a result, I’m finding myselfquestioning the credibility of this site.
  30. 30. BE HELPFUL Don’t: Assume users know what to do. Do: Tell users what you want them to do.It’s really the minority of people, companies, and products out there who can rely entirely on assumptions about the user -- namely, that the userALREADY KNOWS EVERYTHING S/HE IS SUPPOSED TO KNOW when s/he arrives at your site or application. And even when you do rely onassumptions or minimize the amount of content you include, it can’t be at the expense of usability.So, if you’re the vast majority of folks out there in today’s competitive marketplace, don’t assume. Have fun enthusiastically explaining yourself,but be sure to blatantly tell (or show) your users what you want them to do. Be helpful!
  31. 31. DEMONSTRATE ENGAGEMENTFreelancer Portfolio of Len Damico: Here’s what I do in plain English, here’s my face, here’s a bit about how I help your brand, check out some ofmy work, and then contact me. Simple, frank, approachable. And definitely helpful in a way that reinforces his credibility.
  32. 32. The TribalDDB site is helpful even if you didn’t mean to land on their site.
  33. 33. Admittedly, I am a huge fan. And I appreciate that they’ve taken some time to try and explain what they’re all about in a way thatdescribes how the product can benefit the user. It’s especially crucial to Mint that they be helpful and credible, because they’re asking users toinput bank account information! But on the homepage alone, they start very strategically with content that helps me to know what I’m supposed todo here (both in written content and in the video content alongside it), which reinforces their credibility.
  34. 34. Copyright © Lemuhr RESULTS-ORIENTED KEEP CONTENTSo now you’ve created meaningful content, you’ve told the user what to do, and now you have to describe the benefits they’ll get ONCE they takeadvantage of your product or services. The result is so important.
  35. 35. In this case, it’s just a choose-your-adventure style listing of packages and features. But if I’m looking at you versus the rest of the competition(who does this), then maybe I’ll be choosing a vendor based on price, or design, or something that has nothing to do with how you provide serviceto me as the client.
  36. 36. KEEP CONTENT RESULTS-ORIENTED Don’t: Just list what you DO. Do: Explain what awesome things users will GET from you.There’s always an opportunity to describe WHAT your users will get by choosing YOU, so don’t blow it! Tell users what they get from you that’sdifferent from what they get from others who offer the same thing as you.
  37. 37. The website, which I’ll get into in more detail later, is a great example of writing compelling content that’s results oriented.What you DON’T see here in the heading is a product-specific angle of content; that is to say, it would have been MUCH easier to write “PRIVATECONTACTS,” which is what the app *does.* Instead, they made it about the user’s benefit -- protect your friends -- which is a result that goesBEYOND the feature set itself and reaches into the daily life and challenges of the user.
  38. 38. Kenny Meyers talks about beating the crap out of projects and how his clients will learn the fine tradition of a weekend. If you’re someone with aproject and you aren’t sure how it’s going to get done, this, at the very least, is the kind of result you’re looking for. And the work included on thispage (beneath the screenshot) continues to reinforce the credibility he’s rather colorfully demonstrating here.
  39. 39. Nike Better World -- Here’s an example of a big brand that’s taking a humorous approach to its results. Of course, they don’t really mean that theirproducts themselves are rubbish, but literally they are -- at least, in terms of their production process, which includes using recycled materialsfrom landfills. This is a perfect example of writing results-oriented content that aligns with the greater mission of this particular microsite, which isabout Nike’s commitment to communities and the world around us, which certainly is reinforcing of its credibility. Brilliant.
  40. 40. Copyright © Lemuhr CONFIDENT BE , NOT CONCEITEDNow that you’ve been promoting all the great results users can expect to receive if they engage, be careful to sidestep arrogance or conceit. Thiscan be tricky, especially with the conversational nature of web, email, and social media.We’ve all come across content that assumes its parent is so NATURALLY BADASS that words are unnecessary. In a small number of cases, thisis true. But even your fans may be turned off if you just get cocky or think you’re above reproach -- take Groupon and their SuperBowl ads, forexample. Someone wrote -- and a lot of people approved -- what many considered to be poor-taste humor that came across as arrogant andimpacted (negatively) their credibility.
  41. 41. Truthfully, this established agency has good reason to promote its accomplishments -- because they’re so many in number and because itsworked hard to earn them.
  42. 42. You may have significant rights to be confident if you’ve got 870 things people can read-through, but you want to be careful to sidestep conceit. Imean, why even suggest to the user that s/he might have the time to read through 870 more praises of your company -- instead of just selectingwhat’s most important and portraying confidence through quality (rather than quantity)?
  43. 43. BE CONFIDENT, NOT CONCEITED Don’t: Over promote. Do: Showcase confidence while being humble.Be selective. Talk about what makes your product or service EXTRAORDINARY. Sometimes being humble actually promotes your confidence andtherefore serves well to reinforce your credibility, like in this next example.
  44. 44. Sometimes you can say a lot in just a few words -- like Action Marketing Group. They’re confident they can give you a great experience in 2seconds or 2 minutes -- and they’re giving YOU the choice -- which I think reinforces their credibility.
  45. 45. Peerless makes these hilarious instruction manuals with hand-drawn illustrations, and they work really hard to convey their personality online, too.On their homepage is “Shameless Faucet Showoffery” where they actually promote their fixtures in homes, and that’s more confident than atypical faucet factory shop that might just talk about specs and show a picture. Peerless is obviously proud of what they do and that confidencereinforces their credibility.
  46. 46. Southwest is the king (or queen) of puns. And that somewhat corny approach to their language is a huge differentiator in the airline industry -- theyopenly and confidently talk about the fine print in a ton of their communications. Rather than keeping it corporate and purposefully ambiguous,they surface hot-button issues, describe their stance on it, and then give an easy link to learn about the fine print. The language on Southwest’ssite consistently is confident without conceit, and it’s always worked to reinforce their credibility across a wide expanse of branding opportunities.And that consistency brings me to the last point of this talk.
  47. 47. CONSISTENCY IN WHICH AREAS CAN BEST BE ACHIEVED?Last but DEFINITELY not least, the third element, consistency, is the easiest to achieve -- and the most often overlooked. It takes TIME and aninformed set of eyes. GLARING grammatical or spelling errors are obvious credibility killers, but beyond those, compelling content that achievesconsistency is truly detail-oriented writing.
  48. 48. CONTENT IS CONSISTENT IN ITS... Structure Voice StyleThe three areas of real opportunity for consistency to be realized is in structure, voice, and style.
  49. 49. Copyright © Lemuhr
  50. 50. STRUCTURE+ Lead with the meat+ Include what’s relevant+ Use keywords throughout
  51. 51. Copyright © Lemuhr
  52. 52. VOICE+ Write in a genuine tone+ Avoid bloated statements+ Rewrite anything that sounds ridiculous when read out loud
  53. 53. Copyright © Lemuhr
  54. 54. STYLE+ To end (or not) lists with full-stops+ Capitalization, punctuation in headings+ Website/web site, log in, sign up
  55. 55. Woot continues to be a leader in intentional writing. The product descriptions are perfectly balanced between hilarious, entertaining storytellingand true, technical product descriptions. The author(s) of these pieces even go as far as helping you to understand WHY this would be beneficialin your life, taking time to paint the scene of why and how you’ll use the Woot of the day -- they are intentionally trying to help you visualize itsvalue to your life in an ultimate effort to facilitate your purchase.Marvelous.
  56. 56. 3 ELEMENTS OF COMPELLING CONTENT Focus Credibility ConsistencySo, just to recap, whenever you’re facing a blank document that you have to write compelling content for, take it one step at a time: Focus yourenergy, write with credibility in mind, and go back through to ensure consistency is achieved.
  57. 57. OK, BUT HOW DO I START?Ok, so to wrap up, perhaps you are asking yourself, “Yes, this is all well and good, but how do I incorporate this into my current process -- the onethat has all of the other elements like UX, design, and development already baked into it?” Well, I’m glad you asked!
  58. 58. BALLS TO THE WALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1. Write 2. Choose 3. Rewrite 4. PrioritizeSo I’m just going to spend a few minutes talking about something you can do today, or tomorrow, when you’re sitting back in front of yourcomputer staring at some lorem ipsum or -- worse -- a completely blank piece of paper and thinking to yourself, “Ok, how do I actually get startedin writing some compelling content that Steph told me about at Beyond Tellerrand?”Be fearless. Go balls to the wall in the following steps.
  59. 59. 0. DON’T PANIC. SERIOUSLY.Really, before you start writing, there’s a zero step -- don’t panic. It’s going to be all right, man.
  60. 60. 0. DON’T PANIC. SERIOUSLY. ZOMG WTF?!Seriously, I just said don’t panic. This is actually going to be liberating. Really.
  61. 61. 1. WRITE YOUR PITCH WITH ABANDON We’re  an  app  for  your  iPhone  or  Android  device. We  provide  security  for  your  contacts  and  photos. Ben  is  a  beautiful  frenchman.  You  will  love  him. You  don’t  have  to  worry  about  losing  your  phone  anymore. We  will  protect  your  passwords,  too.  We’re  pretty  much  awesome.   Don’t  wait  until  you  misplace  your  phone  to  start  caring  about  privacy. What’s  your  data  say  about  you?First, brain dump 1-liners with reckless abandon. Edit NOTHING. Pretend you are having a conversation with that one person I mentioned earlierwhile talking about audience. Imagine you only have 5 seconds to tell her something important about your service or app. Write down thoseimportant things.
  62. 62. 2. HIGHLIGHT THE MEATIEST STUFF We’re  an  app  for  your  iPhone  and  iPod  Touch  device. We  provide  security  for  your  contacts  and  photos. Ben  is  a  beautiful  frenchman.  You  will  love  him. You  don’t  have  to  worry  about  losing  your  phone  anymore. We  will  protect  your  passwords,  too.  We’re  pretty  much  awesome.   Don’t  wait  until  you  misplace  your  phone  to  start  caring  about  privacy. What’s  your  sensitive  data  say  about  you?Next, go through all of those one-line sentences and highlight the words you think are the most important. Maybe they’re representative of yourbrand. Maybe they’re features that differentiate you from competitors. Maybe they’re values of your audience. Maybe they’re priorities of yourclient or boss. Maybe you just like them. Whatever the reason, highlight the things you think are most important in your messages RATHER THANTHE MESSAGES THEMSELVES.
  63. 63. 3. REWRITE USING THE MEAT ONLY A  frenchman  protecting  your  secrets.  Yes,  seriously. Protecting  your  passwords,  photos,  contacts,  and  other  sensitive  stuff  on   your  iPhone®  or  iPod®  Touch.Next, write a new round of messages using ONLY those highlighted words you chose from the first round. This will ensure that the vast majority ofyour new sentences are full of really good meaty qualities, features, and user-oriented values.
  64. 64. 4. PRIORITIZE Message Motivation Goal A  frenchman   Pique  interest  that   User  wants  to  solve   protecting  your   the  app  is  all  about   that  problem  and   secrets.  Yes,  seriously. data  privacy. downloads  the  app. Protecting  your   Describe  the   User  wants  those   passwords,  photos,   beneEits  of  the  app   features  on  her   contacts,  and  other   and  list  the   iPhone  or  iPod   sensitive  stuff  on  your   supported   Touch  and   iPhone®  or  iPod®   platforms. downloads  the  app. Touch.And, if you want to go the extra mile, here’s an example of a message hierarchy. You’ll see that in the left column are our finalists -- these includethe messages we think are the most powerful.In the middle column, list the business motivation for having these messages. What’s the real value, from a business perspective, for includingthis message in our site?Finally, note what we hope the user will do once s/he reads that message. In the best-case scenario, what we does just reinforces the businessgoal itself.
  65. 65. YOU CAN DO IT.Regardless if you ultimately choose to become a writer (hey, I can dream, can’t I?) and join the throes of us under-represented word nerds, youCAN write compelling content that engages users effectively. You really can. I promise.
  66. 66. Thanks a bunch for listening! YOU ARE AWESOME. @steph_hayThank you!