When new projects are pitched, or planned, the “content” is usually slotted in as a sub-set, or piece, among other things. The reality is that “content” — regardless of format — is a project in and of itself. You can also successfully argue that any digital project is at its heart a content project.
This is part of the reason why content strategists like me do so much hard work in trying to re-orient people’s thinking. When content is just a piece, it becomes just another thing to deliver. Planning and delivery needs to happen alongside other elements, not towards the end or as puzzle pieces plugged in at some point down the line.
What happens when “content” is elevated to project level?
There are some key things that happen when “content” is given a status as a project in its own right. Some of these are:
- Due diligence and validation (do we need it, is it necessary, what evidence do we have for its requirement, etc)
- Value-add assessments (what value will the project add in the long-term, how will we assess it)
- Governance (responsibilities, decision-makers, appropriate resourcing, reporting)
- Planning (when, who, where, how, etc).
Businesses tend to dive in without assessing potential impact
When an appropriate project framework is missing, people tend to dive nose-first into things because of a gut feeling. That gut feeling often falls out as, it isn’t working so let’s do something new/change it/go in another direction. They very rarely sit down and ask why something isn’t working, and then consider all possible impacts (positive and negative) of what they see as options for change.
I often talk about the website renewal project as a stellar example. Brands, colours, images, functions are changed. But people very rarely assess their messaging or map whether what goes into the frame (and guides user experience) needs to change. If the existing website isn’t working, you need to find out why. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit for you any more, work out the exact reasons for that and make the change deep and meaningful.
Content strategy helps you to do that due diligence
It’s true that content strategists ask you tough questions and expect specific answers. If they don’t get specific answers, they will work with you to find them.
Here’s an example:
Brutal Pixie has had clients state that they need their website fixed because they need “more clients”. What is missing from this statement is a whole lot of other material:
- What IS ‘more’ to you?
- In what timeframe?
- How many do you have now?
- Do you know where your existing customers come from?
- What channels work for you?
- If you don’t know the answer to any of the above, how do you know that your website isn’t working?
- And what is “not working”, anyway? Can you not find it? Or does it not convert?
Do the due diligence and ask all the significant questions before you put your hands on any tools, new or existing. Your worries about not enough traffic might actually be worries about conversion. Your concern about staff taking too long to add value to your customers might actually be because finding information is hard work for them. If you aren’t sure what is going on but just feel that something isn’t right, find out what it is.
Get a strategist to help you unearth the problems and work with you to find a long-term solution. Sometimes you will be surprised by how little actually needs to change. Sometimes change to digital assets isn’t the answer; sometimes, it’s because your off-line workflow is failing.
And in still other cases, you might be expecting your digital assets to the heavy lifting of other, more significant thinking, like who do we serve, why do we serve them, and where do we want to be in five years’ time? Those questions are not fluffy, annoyances: They are what will drive all of your communications.
Have you had an experience like this?
Leave a comment below and tell us about when you started to think project instead of content.