When it comes to customer facing content, much is written about creative techniques, tools and infrastructure. But there is little thinking or discussion about content process change.
By changing your content process for strategy and operations you can leverage resources and assets, accelerate production time to real-time, and scale outputs without compromise.
My thinking is influenced by the re-engineering experience in the 1990’s.
The refrain we hear today about return-on-investment for content marketing is very similar to complaints in the 90’s about lack of evidentiary ROI on investments in personal computing technologies — hardware and software.
I was influenced by the writing of British cybernetician Stafford Beer who wrote:
“The question that asks, ‘given my my business, how should I use the microprocessor?’ is fundamentally the wrong question. A better question would be, ‘given the microprocessor, how should I design my business?'”
Companies re-engineered their accounting, manufacturing and product design processes. This produced the explosive results we’ve experienced over the last twenty years.
Hallmarks of these changes include exponential and simultaneous improvements to product quality, development times, design, functionality, customization, experience and often lower cost (among many others).
Today, content operations still labors under the perceived constraint, “you can have it good, fast or cheap — pick any two!” This is indicated by content challenges reflected in survey results: lack of time, resources and the inability to scale.
How would your content process change if …
A standard practice in our 20 year custom content business was to develop a detailed “Content Requirements Document” for each client project.
This helped clients clarify exactly what they wanted. It provided our content designers and creators clear inputs to guide their work. It also informed content users of the purpose and intent for each content asset.
I invite you to consider how your content process would have to change if every content asset class, or significant work product, required a Content Requirements Document that defined:
- Who are the primary “content constituents,” or users, of the content asset, and who are their intended audiences and personas
- What is the business topic or issue the asset should address
- Where and how will the asset be used, we refer to this as the business use case requirement
- What is the specific purpose of the asset, for both the business user and the intended audience
- What outcome should the asset produce
- What primary quality criteria should the asset meet
- What criteria defines relevance and indicates versions required to meet those relevance criteria (perhaps the most important point)
- What forms and formats are required (micro, short, long – text, document, graphic, audio/video, interactive)
- What delivery methods and channels will be used to distribute the asset
- What investment or cost level is appropriate
- What is the intended useful life of the asset, and how might it need to be maintained over time
- What content elements would be suitable for re-use and how would they need to be prepared and packaged to be easily found and used?
Undoubtedly you are doing some of this now. The checkpoints you are missing, if addressed, will take your content, and the process that creates it, to more productive levels.
What We Discovered
This approach produced many useful outcomes.
We developed a deep appreciation for the value of creating content “on purpose.”
The thinking, and often collaborative inquiry, needed to complete this document uncovered numerous unconsidered requirements and inputs.
Content quality, time-to-market, cost, relevance, use case coverage, forms and format requirements where met — at orders of magnitude higher than clients typically experienced.
We developed an appreciation for defining business use case requirements, content purpose and outcomes, and quality criteria.
Our clients realized content assets could be used for multiple audiences, purposes and situations, if they were designed and developed in different versions and formats as part of the process.
We developed a rigorous content quality checklist, and used it to identify the primary quality criteria for each asset.
Clients often realized the best business decision was to invest more to produce the additional assets to meet newly identified requirements, because the marginal cost was so insignificant.
The need for changes to business, marketing and especially content strategy, planning and preparation was often identified.
We re-framed Stafford Beer’s question into:
“Given the new requirements of digital era content, how should we design and manage our content operation?”
We re-engineered our traditional production process into our documented content supply chain process. This informs our current work with clients, to design leveraged and efficient, internal content operations and management processes.