We’ve learned that the hard part of doing content strategy well is not content or strategy, but managing relationships. In case you missed it, here’s that post, The Hard Part of Web Content Strategy is Not What You Think.
While it’s the hard part, it can also be rewarding and fun. It gives you an excuse to get out of your comfort zone and meet people.
However, it can also be very difficult and time consuming for those of us introverts who like to just create content. Plus, I get it. Building relationships probably wasn’t or isn’t in your job description.
But it’s necessary in many jobs, so let’s just move on from that and not be concerned with whose job it is. It will definitely help you do your job, so since there’s no other way to say this, just go ahead and do it.
It will make things smoother down the road when you want to ask for time and resources to work on content versus, “let’s hurry up and move this stuff to a new site like it is. We can fix it later.”
(I’m speaking to most of you when I write this. I get that there are going to be exceptions. For whatever reason, sometimes you might do your best to promote content as a priority, and people just won’t get it. If you’re really tried everything, you probably know it already. It’s time to move on and find an organization that does get it).
People have to continuously see that content is a priority; there are many competing interests for time that you might not be aware of. Your best chance of success is to keep showing how content is a priority and why it’s important. Even if the “why” is obvious to you, explicitly point it out over and over again. Not because people you work with are stupid, but because everyone has a lot going on, and it takes awhile for anything to sink in.
Once you’ve built relationships with key people, you also have a better chance of decision makers listening to you when you have to make a point, such as:
- People don’t come to our website to read press releases so they probably shouldn’t dominate the home page.
- Simplified, clear language is better than internal jargon when it comes to the “about us” page.
- Too many not-great head-shots of donors is actually not a good thing on the main website.
- Fifteen items in a carousel on the homepage, rotating at 90 mph, is too much, too fast.
I’m laughing a bit about these, but seriously, it’s not usually that funny when you have to deal with it.
You should already know who the key people are you need to build relationships with. We talked about that in, The Most Important Questions About Your Website Strategy.
How Do You Convince People Content is Important?
I’m going to offer some tips here, but only you can see what you think will work, given your background knowledge of the culture of your organization. Use and adapt what you can. If you have other tips, send me a tweet @hratcliff, and I’ll post them here.
1. Share your content and why it’s important in a weekly or monthly internal email. It doesn’t have to be long; in fact, as we know, many times the shorter the better.
As always, keep your audience in mind. You’re writing to colleagues. Your goal is to sell how important content is, whether it’s revising a page, creating new pages, or even reworking some of the site architecture (but make sure you show the content side of this, and give credit to the developers or designers).
Again, remember, things that we see as obvious are not obvious to everyone because they’re not “struggling” (oops, I mean working) with content all day.
Here are some examples:
- We had three media organizations ask us for an interview with Mollie after we wrote about her work in the field. You can explicitly state: Mollie is being interviewed next week and will be in The Washington Post!
- We redid our web page on our assistance program in Syria based on our web statistics and the attention the issue is getting in the news. You can explicitly state: It’s important to get that information updated for when journalists browse our site.
- We’ve updated the broken links in the education section this week. You can explicitly state: We wanted to get this updated for teachers this fall. Now we can email our teachers and promote this.
- We’ve analyzed our website statistics, and our country section on Egypt is getting attention right now. We’re going to work with our country specialist there to post new content. You can explicitly state: You’ve probably heard that Egypt has been in the news a ton recently with the uprising anniversary coming up. We’re hoping this updated content will be useful when our communications team reaches out to reporters.
You can also include graphics or screenshots when it’s appropriate.
2. By sharing content, you’ll hopefully find colleagues who are already supporters of content. They may even help you promote it internally or externally.
Make a point of asking them for ideas and stories. They might have some useful advice since they know the culture of the organization already. Also, by allowing them to contribute you’re keeping them engaged and motivated.
Make it clear that you respect their opinions. At the same time, set clear criteria for what and how something goes up on the site.
3. What about a short content guide for new employees? It would have to be updated, but you could use your email updates to do that. It also says, welcome aboard. We value content!
4. If you want to suggest a change that you know might cause some backlash, have some data to back it up (either from your analytics, or hopefully you have colleagues in another organization that would consider giving some anonymous data). Say you’d like to try it and will monitor it and if it doesn’t work, say you are ok with switching it back (and really hope this doesn’t happen!)
5. Photos are content too — what they show and sometimes what they don’t show, where you place them, what captions you write. It depends on how your organization is structured, but it’s probably best when the photographer sends the content folk several selections to choose from.
The image should fit with the content on the page and it should speak to your entire audience, not just one or two donors (unless they’re super, super donors, but even there be careful. Remember you are speaking to your whole audience if it’s on your main website).
6. Always give as much credit as possible to your team and the teams you work with.
7. Never spend too long on email updates that colleagues don’t read. So be sure to ask for feedback. Talk to people to find out if they’re paying attention and adapt from there. Figure out what works for your organization.
I was inspired to write this extra post in the series when I saw Hilary Marsh’s slides, Managing the Politics of Content. I came up with some of my thoughts here based on ideas in these slides.
But now, really stay tuned in my next post for details about how to do the fun part of your content strategy. It’s the part that deals with content and strategy.