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Politics affect what content strategists do, in a big way -- and they also play a big role in the success or failure of UX contributions. If a site is built based on aspirations rather than reality, then while user needs might be satisfied, the organization's internal roilings may prevent the site from making a positive difference for the business. If the cloaks of accountabiliity remain unspoken, then it's incredibly challenging to tie digital efforts to metrics that are meaningful to the organization (and that ensure ongoing staffing and budget). And if the internal clients don’t have organizational buy-in, they may go down with that ship too.
Politics often dictate what goes on the home page, what can or can be cross-linked, and even what content is exempt from usability guidelines. We – content strategists, UX practitioners, and designers alike – need to have a shared understanding and speak with a common voice about the need to get past politics in order for the work we do to achieve its intended goals. This session will serve as a call to action and will forge a common path for our profession.
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 08:12) ----- understand how organizational politics and content collide
develop a little empathy for people living in their own silo
lots of ideas for addressing political challenges in a scaleable, sustainable way
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 08:12) ----- creating and managing a website -- how hard can it be?
just put recent articles on the home page
too hard to find information? just delete everything that's older than a year
if all else fails, we'll just create an index
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 08:12) ----- Jamie, social media manager -- one month on the job
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 08:12) ----- Terrence, director of a program -- already talked to IT and had it put on the home page, now wants it in the newsletter
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 09:47) ----- Jeremy, assistant meeting director -- wants to use the newest innovative techniques to cut through the clutter
----- Meeting Notes (4/25/15 09:47) ----- Martha, senior deputy to the president -- wants to make sure the president's speech is put online as soon as possible.
We have a common, although usually unspoken, motto at many of our organizations. This is the title of a great little book about associations.
When I started working with Realtor.org, our publishing model was completely decentralized, and each of the organization’s 23 departments considered themselves practically independent entities.
I spent my first several months creating our content strategy. We answered lots of questions: What should we do about PDFs? Who should be able to add a blog to our website, and why or why not? Should we have online polls? What does it mean to be 508 compliant with our content?
If you’ve ever created a content strategy, you know that its primary job is to answer the questions that are in the air now, and to try and anticipate the next set of questions that will be coming down the pike, and answer those too.
Anyway, once the content strategy was done, we realized we needed to create other strategies too. We spent a ton of time thinking about our overall strategy, design and technology too.
At the end of this effort, we printed them up and put them in large binders. We set up appointments with each departments, where we walked through the strategy documents and pointed out the important things they needed to know.
What happened next? I’m sure that everyone we talked to listened carefully at the meetings, but then put the binder on a shelf, where it stayed from then on.
And who do you think the real audience for the document was? Yes, the audience was us.
Over the next year or so, my team and I continued to update the document as we had time. Things happened, including social media. And we hired new people with new ideas, so that changed things too.
One of the new people, who now has the job that I had, recommended that we transform the strategy guidelines from printed documents to a wiki that anyone in the organization could get to, and that has helped a lot. The wiki is a living, breathing document – easier to keep up to date. That makes it easier to enforce the rules and policies that are covered in the content strategy.
I can’t mandate everything. Instead, our content strategy has to support what each department wants to do. I identify certain projects as “footholds” – opportunities to do good work on a small project to set an example: show the value of collaboration
“I conducted a series of workshops with all 50 writers to get their input. My first priority was to ASK people, not tell them.”
Large computer manufacturer – wanted to increase customer satisfaction and reduce calls with better support content. Tech communications and marketing created content in siloes. Issues with duplicate content and people. They were legitimately worried that centralized authorship may make some writers or PMs obsolete.
Created a unified editorial team with an editor in chief who is agnostic of buiness units. “Defined lines of business are good for the bottom line, but not good for content or efficiencies.”
Distributed content model – run by fiefdom. When we set up the system, we conducted trainings, added content responsibilities to people’s job descriptions and created a work plan. We envisioned that we would empower skilled people, and as a central area, we would set policy and do the governance.
In reality, people can do what they want – and they do. When we point out problems, sometimes they take our advice and sometimes not.
To fix things, we are raising the organization’s digital maturity. While executives are accountable for content quality, they don’t know what that looks like. We are establishing ROI metrics. In addition, we’re trying to change the reporting lines so that everyone creating content will have a hard reporting line to the central group so we can dictate the standards.
Sustained quality is a huge challenge
We are focusing on getting the community to work together.
At NAR, we went through a process to create empathy personas. We enlisted the help of staff members to brainstorm about their challenges, fears, and motivations. These staff members had worked for NAR for many years and represented many programs and services. They’d been exposed to lots of different members, both the volunteer leaders who serve on the committees, and the general membership at large – which, as we all know, are completely different populations.
This was my secret way of overcoming the objections to the fact that the web team was in charge of the website and of getting buy-in from my peers there. Rather than handing them a binder full of rules, we were all doing the work together.
The consultant we worked with, Esteban Gonzalez, has a company called Brand Therapy that specializes in creating these kinds of personas. Esteban led us through the whole process. He had everyone check their individual experience at the door, which was so important We had to agree on the four most important audiences that the organization needed to serve online. The very last step of all the brainstorming sessions was to give each of our personas a name and a face.
This was such an effective way to create a shared understanding of our audiences.
When we were ready to reveal them to the larger community of staff members who published information on the site, we created life-size cutouts of them and actually had people introduce them. I kept those cutouts right outside my office, where they were always in view for me and my team, as well as anyone who came to talk with us.
Now it’s time to test out the waters with your content strategy. You’ll probably want to do this in a less-than-official way, as a pilot project, possibly under everyone’s radar if you have the kind of culture that may be reluctant to change. And you may want to do more than one pilot. The object here is to have a good story to tell when you finally present the whole package to management.
Find out who your content strategy champions are, and approach them with your ideas. They’re the ones who’ve been asking to try new things, who have wanted to be the organization’s early adopters.
Together, you can try out your answers to the key questions: What happens if we….?
It may not always work, and that’s okay.
Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, you may have to take this on in layers. At NAR, this would have meant meeting with my boss, who was VP of communications, and then she might have had to run it by her boss, who was the senior VP. But ultimately, you will want and need to meet with the chief honcho in your organization. You need to be in that meeting and not just create the talking points that others share.
You’ll want to do whatever it takes to make your superiors comfortable about having you there, such as rehearsing the meeting in advance.
Extensive subject-matter expertise is as important as ever. You’ll have to win their trust so they see it as an “and” and not an “or”
“Bite, snack and meal” --
You’ll need to be patient. This is a Tibetan monk creating a sand mandala. He’s taking great care to get every detail right. The old way didn’t emerge overnight, and neither will new ways. But with patience, you will lead the way to creating much better digital experiences for your audiences
Meet regularly – in person, video conference Create tutorials Report on successes Include a lesson Re-introduce the personas and the vision Remind them about the buy-in – it’s not optional
One of my clients is a very large state university system. Audiences are very interested in information about the impact that the system has on the state, and the organization wants to share that too. The data to tell that story comes from several departments, and right now each chunk of data resides on each department’s pages. Going forward, they want to pull the people together. The web team will serve as internal consultants to bring the right people together to tell those stories.
Intranet At your regular digital group meetings In your report to management
Incorporate into their job description
Sell the vision – get executive buy-in, and ask them to share with top management. It then becomes the organization’s shared vision
Respect the depth (have empathy for the experts) – Content strategists need to be internal champions. Internal curation, tip of the iceberg.
Foster collaboration – editorial calendar, leverage the executive buy-in, use a carrot and not a stick to achieve “our” vision
Motivate and recognize – formal and informal
Newsletters Quarterly in-person meetings Open Q&A User groups
Success stories Lessons learned Goals set and adjusted Test results
Can your systems support you? Expiration dates in the CMS Standards validation in governance software
Set up office hours Offer to review Test and measure on demand
Can your systems support you? Expiration dates in the CMS Standards validation in governance software “Content toolbox” that lets content owners be creative within limits – win-win
Have follow-up conversations Answer questions Understand habits and objections Help them educate others – committees, volunteers, etc.
Point to the policy Present alternatives Escalate if absolutely necessary Get involved earlier Ask the right people the right questions – legal example
Point to the policy Present alternatives Support Escalate if absolutely necessary Get involved earlier
Not you alone, but the people who you helped succeed
Managing the politics of content - ia summit 2015
Managing the Politics of Content
IA Summit 2015
• Narrow interest
• Not actionable
Get your governance in order
1. Show what’s broken and why
2. Show solutions and potential, and what it will take to get
3. Talk about the pilot efforts and the lessons learned
4. Anticipate roadblocks – raise “what if” scenarios, talk
them through in advance
5. Determine follow-up frequency
Show them how
• Form a cross-departmental editorial board
to review major requests together
• Most impactful stories require information
from multiple sources
• Facilitate, then gradually pass on
Look, if it were up to
me, I would leave that
content on the site, but
the decision is out of