TL; DR (also known as takeaways): Your culture may be standing in the way of…
I recently asked my online networks a question: What is your biggest content strategy challenge: Goals, findability, consistent voice, ownership, outdated content, or something else?
Almost immediately, the answers started pouring in — and they weren’t exactly what I had expected. While a few folks mentioned challenges with goals, platforms, and consistent voice, the overwhelming responses were about people.
Here are the top people challenges, and the solutions — both mine and those of some other content strategists:
1. Management buy-in
An organization’s top leaders need to see that content is the way its work is manifested in the world — that ultimately, content is an essential business asset. As such, the organization needs the resources to ensure that its content is effective.
All too often, “content” is considered only marketing information about products or services. Actually, content is everything the organization produces, including:
- products, services, programs, resources, and tools
- sales pitches to prospective customers
- print publications
- conference sessions, apps, and materials
- legislative advocacy
- educational courses
- support information delivered online or over the phone
It also includes all information the organization creates for internal and business-to-business audiences.
Once the organization’s leaders begin to grasp the vital role that content plays in the success of its work, they’ll see the connection between bad content and less-than-optimal results. They may, in fact, urge fast adoption of better content practices, so be ready!
2. Roles/responsibilities, processes, and resources
Content cannot be the responsibility only of people in marketing or communications. Everyone involved in conceiving, designing, executing, or supporting a company’s products or services needs to understand that content is part of their jobs. And they need to have the training, time, and support to produce that content well.
There also needs to be a central group vetting all content. This group ensures that the organization speaks with a common voice, stays focused on the audience. They also make sure content is prioritized and shared effectively on all channels.
Suzanne Cunningham remarked, “It’s hard to focus on the actual strategy for content if the underlying process is poorly defined.” She also raised another point that I see regularly: “Because so many people touch content, they’re all content strategists in their own minds. That can blur the line between strategy and opinion.” This is an especially sticky challenge!
3. Audience focus and corporate culture
A focus on audiences’ needs must imbue everything about an organization’s work, from strategy through execution. This means taking the time to develop a deep understanding of the organization’s top-priority audience members and create every product, service, and program with those needs in mind.
Otherwise, as John Richardson expressed, “It’s usually too much ‘we’ and ‘me’ and not enough ‘you.'”
4. Change management
With buy-in from the top, reinforcement from the middle, and the time and resources to achieve success, everyone in the organization will have both the motivation to work differently and the mandate to do so.
Marli Mesibov observed that “it’s hard to convince people to change the way they work.” But it IS possible, as Kathy Wagner knows: “One of the most important things I’ve learned is to meet people where they are, show them what could be, and then get them started on the right path. People just can’t go from having virtually no content strategy knowledge, skills, or commitment to being masters in a matter of months. Executing content strategy in a big organization is a constant, continual process.”
One way to create enthusiasm for change is to show that the new way is better than the old one. I recommend finding a way to do a pilot project using a content strategy approach and report on the success to content creators as well as to management. That way, it’s not about your evangelism but about the results — and you’re likely to find more acceptance.