Start the content strategy conversation: Prepare your organization for change

Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash
  • By Team CSI
  • |
  • Oct 10 2017
Categories: |Toolbox

It’s hard work getting people to do what you want, whether you’re the leader of a content team or a parent of a teenager. The challenge almost always boils down to the same thing, for changes from unloading the dishwasher to creating content in a new way.

Without the right motivation to change, people would rather stick to what they know, even if the status quo is more painful, ineffective, and unsatisfying.

Without motivation to change, people stick to what they know, even if it's painful, ineffective, & unsatisfying. Click To Tweet

You are not alone

Leading organizational change isn’t easy. Based on a review of 100 companies in Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: On Change Management, John Kotter writes:

“A few of these corporate change efforts have been very successful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale.”

That doesn’t sound promising. So how do you get content done in a way that makes content teams, stakeholders, and customers happy?

We’ve got a few ideas.

Step 1: Ask the right questions

The first step is to understand whether the decision-makers actually see the same problems that you do in your content. If they do, you have a good starting point. If they don’t, it may be difficult for your proposed changes to find traction.

These questions can help:

  • Do you have an issue with content?
  • Is it a real issue or a symptom?
  • Is your group willing to fix it?
  • Do they want help fixing it?
  • Do they have the budget to fix it?

If you answered “no” to any of the above, then you probably don’t have a content project on your hands and should walk away. If you get to the last question and the answer is “yes”, then congrats. A content strategy pilot project may be in your future.

Step 2: Understand your current content culture

Culture can be a hard thing to nail down, but understanding the current values, the beliefs, and assumptions people have around content will give you tremendous insight into how people feel about what you’re trying to do.

These questions can help:

  • How do you track and manage the people involved in content?
  • Where is the support from the leadership team? Would you rate it high or low?
  • Do job titles represent the actual roles involved with content?
  • What stories are shared internally about content?

We recently worked with a large company that supported a very entrepreneurial approach to decision-making and content creation. We learned that their culture resulted in people feeling responsible for all stages of content. Instead of handing off content, they would hold on to it for its entire life cycle. We discovered the company had a fundamental disconnect between what people were saying, and what they were doing.

Step 3: Understand your current structure and practices

Once you understand your culture (the good and the not so good), start looking at how you track and manage content.

These questions can help:

  • What systems or structures do you use?
  • Do you know how content is created managed and maintained?
  • Have you defined roles, standards, and guidelines for team members?

Sound like a big job? It is, but we’ve got a shortcut for this too.

We call it the content maturity model. The model describes five levels of content efficiency and consistency, from Ad hoc to Optimized. Use it as a starting point for conversations with different departments and teams. As a group, look at each stage and agree on where you fit, then talk about what you need to do to move up a level.

For example, many teams we work with find themselves somewhere between Ad hoc and Rudimentary. They have writers to create content but no structure to ensure quality or consistency. Managers know they need to put systems in place but never get around to it. Or worse, initiatives fizzle out because there’s always a more important deadline.

Step 4: Review communication and group dynamics

Another important part of the mix is how your content team communicates with each other and with other groups.

These questions can help:

  • Are there clearly defined communication channels?
  • Are people empowered and mentored it to make the right decisions?
  • Are people exposed to new ideas and new ways of working?
  • Is there a plan to introduce new people to the team?
  • Are people motivated to do good work?
  • How do decisions get made?

We’ve found that mentoring is fantastic for bringing teams together. Mentoring helps people learn new skills quickly and lets the team support each other. Pair a senior person with a junior person to share insights and ideas. Or, put team members with different roles together so that everyone can grow their skills in new areas.

Step 5: Determine outcomes

The last part of preparing for change when it comes to content, is to think about how you’ll measure success. Have a look at your overall business goals, determine which key performance indicators (KPIs) you need, then shape success criteria into specific, prioritized performance goals.

For example, if new content needs to be published 20% faster than before, turn the KPIs into numeric, measurable metrics. Like this:

  • By year end, 80% of our content team will be using the new processes.
  • In 2016, there will be a 5% increase in employee satisfaction scores from content employees.

Lead the charge as a change agent

As a consultancy specializing in content strategy, we’ve worked on governance projects of all shapes and sizes. And even though every project is different, we always start with a deep understanding of the people and current state of content in the organization.

We never skip this step, and recommend you don’t either.

Start with a deep understanding of the people and current state of content in the organization. Click To Tweet

Getting people to change their ways will always be challenging (that dishwasher doesn’t unload itself, after all). But once you’ve assessed where you are with your content, start talking with people who are already passionate about delivering great customer experiences. You’ll be surprised at how much impact you can create just by facilitating the conversation.

Further reading

Understanding the content maturity model

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