Learning about content strategy

ByMichele Ide-Smith

Learning about content strategy

Although I’ve been involved in the design, development and evaluation of websites for many years, one area that is relatively new to me is content strategy and management. A few months ago I took over a team that supports a fairly large team of content authors (up to 300, with around 80 or so regular authors) who publish content on our corporate website and intranet.

I’ve spent a little while finding out more about our existing governance models and the support, training and guidance we provide to our content authors. It’s becoming clear to me that content is a really important asset in the organisation, that takes up quite a bit of resource. Using a guesstimated timescale of 20 minutes to create and publish an average web page (probably a woefully inadequate estimate) I did a quick calculation based on the average number of pages that are published per week by our CMS authors. E.g.

[No. pages published per week] x 20 minutes = a shocking amount of time

My noddy calculation indicated that, as an organisation, we may well spend a considerable number of hours a month writing and publishing web content. And when I converted it into a monetary figure it was even more startling.

Needless to say I was delighted to stumble across Content Strategy Week on the Johnny Holland blog. A series of excellent posts with lots of juicy tips and practical ideas.

Johnny Holland Content Strategy Week

Within the organisation I work for we have a comprehensive set of content guidelines for content authors on the intranet. But pages of guidelines can be daunting to authors who are newly trained in writing for the web and using the CMS. As the web team have more and more demands placed on us, we need to find way to reduce the amount of support calls we deal with daily.

We recently made various improvements to our CMS, which is based on a Microsoft product but has been customised in-house. We’ve also discussed ideas like using Cantasia to create small ‘how to’ videos and the possibility of setting up a content author community online to supplement existing offline groups. These are ideas we’ve toyed with but not turned into a reality yet.

So it was reassuring to see Sally Bagshaw’s post about producing quality content with multiple authors, recommending pretty much everything we’ve thought of, but laying it out very clearly into three main concepts:

  • Create a usable style guide
  • Encourage learning and collaboration
  • Use an author-friendly CMS

“With a little planning, it is possible to have great content on a site with many contributors. Dust off your style guide, keep everyone connected, and make sure your CMS is working for you and not against you.”

Read Sally’s post on creating quality content with multiple authors in full.

I also found Rahel Bailie’s post on the content lifecycle really useful for thinking about how the development of content works in the context of a web project and in relation to other UX processes.

“The notion of a content lifecycle is comforting to anyone involved in content. It creates order from chaos, predictability for content production and maintenance, and a mental model to explain content to others.

Not only is it comforting, it’s exciting for design, development, and business stakeholders. Business runs on predictable, repeatable processes, and content lifecycle adds content to the roster of replicable models. For designers and developers, content lifecycle is a tool and an extension of the user-centered design process. For businesses, a content lifecycle is a model in which content can be quantified and ROI measured—exciting stuff, indeed.

Most exciting of all, the content lifecycle helps users get the content they need, when and how they need it—the holy grail of their content search.”

Read Rahel’s post on closing the loop in content strategy in full.

I am also starting to read Kristina Halvorson’s book on Content Strategy. So hopefully after all that I’ll be much more clued up!

This content is published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

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6 Comments so far

Tweets that mention   Learning about content strategy by Michele Ide-Smith — Topsy.comPosted on12:23 am - Nov 8, 2010

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Harry Harrold, micheleidesmith. micheleidesmith said: Just blogged: Learning about content strategy http://bit.ly/8Z6HPE […]

Vicky SargentPosted on9:04 am - Nov 8, 2010

Michele – this is really useful stuff. We have found council web teams oscillating back and forth over centralised vs devolved content arrangements. Maybe you could post something similar in the Web Improvement and Usage Community? I will sign up for the community to get your RSS feed but these aren’t so visible in the CoP and I for one often forget we’ve got them!

Michele Ide-SmithPosted on10:13 am - Nov 8, 2010

Sure Vicky, no problem. I will cross post in the Communities of Practise.

All the Pieces Matter…[Developing a Digital Strategy] « Matt JukesPosted on10:31 pm - Dec 4, 2010

[…] seems to be gathering steam at the moment and I am finding alot of great stuff out there about it (http://www.ide-smith.co.uk/?p=619 and http://contentini.com/ spring to mind) and this is giving structure to all manner of thoughts […]

Bookmarks for October 30th through December 10th | DavePressPosted on10:03 pm - Dec 10, 2010

[…] Learning about content strategy by Michele Ide-Smith – Great stuff on organising your website contributors and getting processes and systems right from Michele. […]

links for 2010-12-12 « riverrun by meaghn | betaPosted on4:15 am - Dec 13, 2010

[…]   Learning about content strategy by Michele Ide-Smith Within the organisation I work for we have a comprehensive set of content guidelines for content authors on the intranet. But pages of guidelines can be daunting to authors who are newly trained in writing for the web and using the CMS. As the web team have more and more demands placed on us, we need to find way to reduce the amount of support calls we deal with daily. […]

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