To be truly effective, a full content strategy includes a risk assessment. The fastest way to do this is using a Content Strategy Canvas specific for Risk Assessment. At the bottom of this article is a free download we have made available for you to use.
Why does risk exist?
In a content ecosystem there are a lot of dynamics at play. Those dynamics are like shifting sands: They may appear to be fixed, but they evolve. The evolution of content, like with sand dunes, happens because of the environment in which it sits.
In what areas of content strategy does risk exist?
We can say with certainty that in the ecosystem for which your content strategy is crafted, some level of risk exists in each of the following areas:
- Stakeholders, because priorities shift as overall strategy shifts
- Systems, because content types and technologies are a big part of your strategy
- Value propositions or topics
- Relationships between you and your customers
- Customers, because demographics may change as your priorities change
- Resources, because people and roles change
- Channels or distribution, as your customers find new ways of accessing information (and drop others off)
- Cost to produce
- Income it generates.
There might be other areas, but these are the primary drivers of risk. If you are astute, you will note that the critical elements of business success (people, time, finance, product, customers) are here. And so is that other important thing we all know well: Marketing.
About the Content Strategy Risk Canvas
We developed the Content Strategy Risk Canvas for two reasons. The first is that it is a fast and simple way of gaining visibility over the risks inherent in your content strategy. The second is because there are no simple tools out there that (a) give you a sense of the whole scope of risk, and (b) allow you to build your risk management capability from the very foundations.
The Content Strategy Risk Canvas has taken a leaf out of the Strategyzer Business Model Canvas, for good reason. And that is: It’s an outstanding framework, one that adapts well, and one with which many people are familiar.
The Canvas is itself an extremely light and lean way of gaining an understanding of the risks inherent in your existing (and future) strategy. It has the added benefit of being useful in a variety of contents, with any number of people. And of being a starting point for a more significant analysis.
The 9 segments
There are nine segments in the Content Strategy Canvas, one part for each type of risk. Each one is described below.
Risk 1: People (Stakeholders)
Stakeholders are a risk to your content strategy analysis or development, because without their buy-in, the entire thing might fall over. When you consider your stakeholders, think of every way in which they may present a risk to you. Think about their input (or lack of interest), their movement, how they change, and whether or not they have a say. Think, too, about their capacity for influencing strategy in your organisation.
Risk 2: People (Resources)
Content Strategy, like any strategy, is driven by people. And people are a risk to you. They can be unengaged or disengaged; they can be ignorant of how the strategy is set up; they can present challenges to organisational change. They can also resign, be replaced, be promoted, be made redundant, or otherwise exit from their current roles – and that alone can be risk enough.
Risk 3: Value (Topic or proposition)
The value risk asks you to consider what risks are inherent in your existing (or future) value propositions, and how those propositions are represented. At a very tactical, brand-messaging level, what risks are present? An example might be that you have an active publishing strategy, and that the business strategy takes a dynamic shift. That can be a risk to your content-specific strategy, because it may involve significant review, audits, changes, and even slash-and-burn of existing material.
Risk 4: Relationship (Relevance)
This particular risk builds on Risk 3, because it asks you to consider the risks to your content in terms of its relevance to its readers – and thus to their relationship with you. What are all of the possible risks in this area? The most obvious is that the material ceases to be relevant because customer feedback stops coming through. But there may be others, including impact to the relationship by each of the parts of the customer journey that don’t fit customer needs.
Risk 5: Customers (Demographic/profile)
Section five of the Content Strategy Risk Canvas asks you to look at the risk that is in your customer segments (or lack thereof). What are the risks of not understanding your customers, or of changing customer profiles? And, similarly, what are the risks of under-segmenting, or even over-segmenting? What impact could those risks have?
Risk 6: Systems (Types & technology)
The systems you create, employ, or deploy in the service of your content strategy each come with their own risks. Capture in this section of the canvas as many of the risks in this area of your ecosystem as possible.
Risk 7: Channel (Distribution)
The changing nature of content distribution or channel is one very obvious risk. But there are others: That content is created and not distributed; that bottlenecks may exist in the distribution process; that assumptions about distribution may not be correct. Add everything you can think of that could possibly pose a risk to your content strategy.
Risk 8: Expense ($ cost)
The cost of content creation, maintenance, and management – and its underlying strategy maintenance and management – can be significant. What risk does this pose to your organisation? And how do you keep track of it all (if you do… this is also a risk). Think here, too, about all of the ways in which the cost of content may cause problems.
Risk 9: Revenue ($ income)
The revenue risk is related to the return on your investment, which is why both the cost and the revenue are side by side. For every income risk that relates to your content (from the wrong message, to poor commentary, to incorrect or misleading information that you publish), consider every possible revenue risk.
Use the Content Strategy Risk Canvas to identify, not assess
You can’t assess risks to your organisation without knowing what criteria you assess those risks against. So, while the Content Strategy Risk Canvas is valuable in helping you to identify risk, it will not help you to assess them.
Your risk criteria will be unique to your organisation and to your strategy. So that you aren’t left floundering and wondering what to do next, here is a bit of a guide:
- Create a triage scale, so you can spend your time in the most important areas. There is no point working on risks that are rated as the lowest risks, when you could spend that time working on the risks with the highest impact.
- Work backwards from success criteria, or success metrics. If you were to turn those success metrics around and make them detractor metrics, what would they be, and what would it look like.
- Consider the tools you have and the tools you need when you write your risk assessment criteria. If, for example, you identify a brand messaging risk, perhaps part of your criteria is access to and understanding of guidelines (or similar). If your guidelines are built into your content management system, then your assessment of the risk will be different to having a giant PDF that nobody reads.
There may be generic criteria that you can use across your canvas, with which to assess your risks more effectively, such as:
- access to the right tools
- defined approval pathways
- regular strategy review or audit points
… and so on.
We would love your feedback. Leave a comment at the bottom of the page and tell us what you think of the canvas.
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