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Excuses

“Content Strategy is great and all, but I am a writer. I sit in a cube and I fight to keep up with the pace of projects heaped on me.”

“My company will never hire a content strategist”

“I don’t know what a content strategist is, let alone how sell it to my manager.”

“My company does not value writing.”

I hear chatter like this daily. Often, it is fair, accurate and for better or worse, realistic statements. The harsh reality is we rarely have the perfect project workflow and budget to accommodate a kick-ass experience designer, information architect and content strategist.

However, rather than throw up your hands and reach for the flask, do something about it.

Solution

Here’s a tidy little secret that A) needs to NOT be a secret and B) should mitigate the mountain of red tape and pushback when advocating for content strategy:

Speak up!

What Do I Mean?

Matthew (as much as I would have loved the credit) didn’t write the entire Bible. Pharaoh Joe didn’t stack all the fancy rocks for the pyramids. Bucky $#&!ng Dent was not solely responsible for the Red Sox losing the 1978 pennant (still bitter).

For better or worse, it was a team effort and so should your content strategy.

How?

If you’re reading this you’re a writer, project manager, experience designer or you googled grass fed beef and now you’re horribly confused. Either way, even you grass fed hippie, you care about content.

The key is to keep talking about content throughout the project lifecycle. Getting your team to understand the importance of quality content and how to govern it, will get you that much closer to a content strategy that works for your environment. Here’s how:

  1. Content Inventory – As you sit in your weekly meeting, rather than stab yourself in the eye with your favorite Bic, while Phil from accounting (sorry Phil) wheezes and sweats incessantly, ask if a content inventory exists. If not, ask for one to be created (it will give the project manager, intern or Phil something to do). If no one steps up, then it’s all you.
  2. Style guide anyone? – Often this can be the elephant in the room question, but ask. Ask Marketing, ask Development, ask Phil! (poor Phil). Even if one doesn’t exist and you initially have to go with Yahoo’s, AP’s or (gulp) Microsoft’s you look like a smarty pants for bringing it up. You’re also laying conduit for a continued content strategy objective.
  3. Write, damn it – Well, someone has to. Somehow, the content is being created and along with that sexy content inventory and delicious style guide it can now be tracked. The writing will always happen, it will always change, but #1 and #2 are now giving your content credence.
  4. Name names – Who is writing what? Why are we writing it and MOST IMPORTANTLY who will maintain it? Departmental ownership doesn’t work. If you do not place a name next to a piece of content created, your content strategy will fail. Here’s a successful example.
  5. Waterless urinal marketing description – source located here – published here – owner Phil (poor Phil) – sub owner Phil’s boss – reason for content: x

    Say tomorrow Phil, and his wheezing sweats gets canned. By naming an owner and sub owner, you have safeguarded the content from getting lost in the muck. With Phil gone, you locate Phil’s boss, who either now owns it or knows who does.  If Phil and Phil’s boss both get canned, you probably want to start looking for another job.

  6. Buy your project manager flowers. Or beer – Whatever it takes, get on your project manager’s good side. Oftentimes, they can be the linchpin for holding the content discussion  together. If you are a PM, sweet, here are some flowers, keep reading.
  7. Since PMs are often tasked with documenting the product lifecycle, they too can start documenting where the content will live and breathe. As a writer, with no content strategy time or budget, I’ve convinced the PM to keep a record of what the content deliverables are, who owns them and where they’re located. It’s not sexy, but you’re  paving the way for a more comprehensive content gameplan moving forward.

  8. Keep talking – As we know, the hardest part of when any project goes live is what happens the day after the release. Jeffrey MacIntyre refers to this as the Day 2 Problem. Days 2, 3 – 10 are critical because you’ll need to track the content chatter. A good indicator is how well the content is received internally. If there is confusion, disdain riots in the streets, time to call Houston (and send a 6-pack to the PM). The point is, to keep the content dialog going. Even if you don’t cure the content ailment for this project, you have certainly raised awareness moving forward.
  9. Log, log, log – If you care about content, but you are buried in bureaucratic whooee and mountains of work, you can still contribute by speaking up. Draft an email or start writing on a cocktail napkin. Jot down the successes and failures of the content lifecycle. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it can be a powerful tool when it’s time to talk to the fancy pants bosses.
  10. Visit Mahogany Row – At companies where I’ve worked, this is where the real decision makers sit. Armed with my cocktail napkin, I meet with stakeholders and show them the pain points and offer concrete, realistic content solutions. *cue heavenly bells*

Result

Congratulations, you’re a blabber mouth! I’m kidding. However, your interest in content, your ability to ask, talk and monitor its effects on the project lifecycle has brought about an awareness within your company. By highlighting successes and most importantly, failures you are one step closer toward an effective content strategy.

Now, if you could be a dove and find a handkerchief, Phil’s sweating again.

Twitter Updates

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