So you’re looking to improve your content. How do you make sure that your plan is successful? Preparation, preparation and more preparation.
When beginning a content strategy journey, the preparation before the project begins will make your life a lot easier. In the text, “The Content Strategy Toolkit”, author Meghan Casey emphasizes the planning stages of this process. The first step is identify your problem. Take a look at what you’re trying to fix. You can do this through a content audit, analytic reviews and user testing. From here, you want to create opportunities. How can we solve this problem? By doing this, you set a purpose and can clearly communicate this to stakeholders. In Erin Kissane’s book, “The Elements of Content Strategy” she emphasizes this project definition phase that can sometimes last months. During this phase, you’re going to want to go ahead and figure out your goals and then move on to your stakeholders, which Casey also notes as a very prominent step.
Casey states that “for content strategy projects, I’ve learned that the No. 1 indicator of success is getting the right stakeholders involved” (Casey, 25). Assembling a superstar team for your project will allow you to be able to rely on trusted sources. First, you must identify who those stakeholder are and what role they will play in the project. Casey suggests using a stakeholder matrix, which is a chart that states that person’s role, type, topics you want to cover with them, concerns about the project and the project pitch. You want a good mix of roles (project owner, decision makers, champions (your biggest fans), influencers and derailers) and types (strategic, expert, implementer and user proxy). By making sure that you have a variety of people on your project, you will have all the viewpoints, skills and expertise that you need to craft your strategy.
You, as the project manager, should always keep your stakeholders updated and informed. Before the project begins, you should have a communication plan in place so that while you are in the heat of the moment, you won’t leave anyone or anything out.
After you have your team, you need to begin planning for your project. The first tool you will need is a project prep checklist, which will include details that need to be included all the tasks that need to be completed before beginning the project. This will help you get your thoughts organized and make sure that nothing is overlooked. From there you can have a project management plan that will serve as a reference for all team members throughout the duration of the project. By having this, you can track your progress and have a “single source of truth” for everyone to refer to. This should include a project understanding, timeline and budget. In chapter 3 of “The Elements of Content Strategy”, Kissane credits another book, “Content Strategy for the Web” for an organization method that was created in collaboration with Brain Traffic’s Melissa Rach. “Once you’ve scooped up all the information you can from RFPs, proposals, kickoff meetings, and stakeholder interviews, it’s time to distill it into something you can use… This method divides the information you receive from clients or managers into business goals, tactics, requirements, and project objectives, with big circles and stars drawn around the project objectives” (Kissane, Chapter 3). This shows just how important this pre-planning and information gathering phase is for the success of your project.
Another important aspect of pre-project planning is budgeting. How will you determine the budget? It depends on if you are hiring an outside consulting company. All of these things should be determined before you begin. Although budgeting may be tedious, it must be done in order to continue in your project process. Once all your stakeholders are able to agree on all aspects of the pre-planning, you will be good to proceed with your timeline!
Casey, Meghan. The Content Strategy Toolkit. New Riders, 2015.
Kissane, Erin. Elements of Content Strategy. 2011.