The Inside Scoop on the Best Content Strategy, Part 1

I am a small business. I do not have hundreds of writers or multitudes of reviewers that large companies have. I use Microsoft Word; I email versions of documents for my colleagues to review – one after the other; and I store my finished documents on a file system or Dropbox, or sometimes even on my local machine! This is my content strategy and it works for my business albeit sometimes it is hard to find things.

If, however, you are an enterprise and you do have many writers and reviewers, and you are using a content strategy like mine, you have a problem. A BIG Problem! And this problem will manifest itself as huge inefficiencies, wasted time and inconsistent content.

But don’t fret, you’re not alone – the whole world has a content problem! This is because many enterprises use a strategy like mine, instead of a unified enterprise content strategy. I decided to research this topic more fully and here is what I have learned about what a content strategy is, and more specifically, what a component content strategy is.

 

What is a component content strategy

According to Rahel Ann Bailie of Language of Content Strategy, a content strategy is “The analysis and planning to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire content lifecycle”. In other words, it’s what allows your company to create content assets in an efficient and sustainable way that is true to your brand. A data sheet? No problem.  A complimentary information bulletin? A breeze! A highly regulated, mission critical, no-excuses-for-mistakes submission? Not even a drop of sweat! And this is because of the component part of your strategy.

A component is a piece, or chunk, of information. Think of it as the text between two headings. Components can also be images, graphics or hyperlinks and they are designed to be reused. Think of components as parts in a car assembly plant. The car manufacturer is able to reuse the same parts in multiple vehicles, which saves time and enhances efficiency. Or think of your company’s address as a component. That single piece of information is used in almost every document. So instead of typing it over and over again, why not reuse it?

Now you may be thinking, “I already reuse content, I just copy and paste”. This is not the same. In fact, it highlights the very problem that components solve. When you copy and paste content, you are creating multiple versions of the same content. These versions can be changed independently of each other, thereby creating inconsistencies. This dramatically increases the risk of information being incomplete, out of date, or simply wrong.

Now that we understand components, we can create an equation for our strategy: If components (A) are included in a content strategy (B) then the result is a component content strategy (C) that becomes a solid foundation to execute on all content activities (A+B=C).

In fact, according to Content Strategy Expert, Tom Erber, implementing a component content strategy can result in reuse statistics in excess of 80%! This level of reuse drives large efficiency improvements, reduces costs and can drive top line revenue through faster time to market.

 

Best Practices

Definitions and statistics are great, but what we really want to know is HOW do you start to develop your content strategy?

What I have learned is everyone has their opinion of what should go into a strategy. But the items I have seen repeatedly are:

  1. Content Reuse
  2. Taxonomy
  3. Delivery
  4. (and of course, Feedback)

Content Reuse

In order to successfully reuse your content, you must first understand the content you create, how you use it, and who is reading it. This also forces the question: Where can you reuse your content? With components, content is much easier to reuse. Simply search in the component database and insert the component you want to use. This makes creating content much easier and faster. But now you are asking, “How do I search for it?”

Taxonomy

Organization of your content is not only convenient but crucial to the findability of components. And crucial to the organization of your content is its taxonomy.

Tom Eber explains that taxonomy is like a grocery store, in which the products are your components. The products are first categorized by context and then sub-categorized by application and type. For example, if you walk into the grocery store looking for brown sugar you will first walk to the baking aisle, then find the sugar section, and then select the brown sugar. But if the sugar was organized by the toilet paper, you would never find it! Let’s say the grocer couldn’t find it either. They would reorder the sugar every time someone needed it. Think of how many bags of sugar they would end up with just because it was poorly located.

With content, this process wastes resources because writers recreate existing content, over and over, reinventing the wheel so to speak.

So, make sure the organization of your components is logical to your organization and is adopted by everyone involved in your content development process.

Delivery

The most important aspect of content delivery is your audience. Content needs to be delivered, when they want it and how they want to consume it. Often we are required to produce content that has the same messaging but needs to be altered for the different audiences. So what do you do?

You become an expert on the delivery requirements of your audience or customer. Each audience has their own requirements on presentation, language, style, etc. If you know the requirements well enough, you will be able to see overlaps. Once you find commonalities, you can create consistent formats and outputs that ensure scalability.

Feedback

Having a feedback system is not only a best practice, but it is common sense. Any strategy, be it content or general business, must include a feedback process to ensure that it is on track.

For a content strategy, this will be managed by three groups.

  • First, the executive sponsors that assesses the business value add, the costs, and the value propositions of the strategy. Their input and feedback is vital to support your project and the content strategy.
  • Second, the core team that determines where the value is. This will be in areas including component architecture, workflow, process, and localization. Eventually, this group will become the “content police”, ensuring your content strategy is followed after implementation.
  • And third but most importantly, is your audience or customer. Their feedback helps you to understand if your content and strategy is delivering on its goals. It also provides a continuous feedback loop to improve your content and its delivery.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, I may only be a small business, but I can certainly understand that if A+B does not equal C; if the sugar is with the toilet paper; and if the feedback is not in place, then I’d definitely need a better content strategy.