Why Content Strategy Documentation is Sexy: Part 1

content strategy documentation
October 30, 2017

Sexy — not a word you hear often at networking events and workshops. But when we’re talking about content strategy, it’s a necessary adjective.  Here’s why a content strategy manager from Capital One says content strategy documentation is sexy.

In this day and age when there’s a meetup for every interest group under the sun, I’m thrilled that my city, Richmond, VA,  hosts one that caters to my specialty. Almost every month, local content marketers, UX strategists, and copywriters gather to talk about what jazzes them: CONTENT.  

Several weeks ago, I attended an RVA Content Strategy meeting focused on content strategy documentation. Sara Zailskas Walsh, content strategy manager at Capital One and guest speaker of the event, declared that content documentation is sexy. The audience chuckled, but I would have to agree! Not everyone enjoys the luxury of having a content strategy group in their city, so for those of you who weren’t able to participate in the workshop, this is my summary of part one of Sara’s presentation and list of key takeaways.

Sara kicked off the workshop with a vocabulary check. What is content strategy?

  • Determining the best way to present information to your audience so that it’s valuable and makes them want to come back for more.
  • Understanding a way for content to meet business and user needs.
  • Choosing the right content for the right time for the right person — and what it will mean to maintain and govern it too.

Then she filled us in on the basic guidelines. How are we supposed to apply it?

  • You conduct research to understand your audience and what they need to know, then deliver the message in a way that’s accurate and makes sense to your average Jane, while staying true to your company’s “voice.”
  • You think holistically and make sure cross-disciplinary stakeholders have a seat at the table. Don’t just rally the marketing team. Include at least one representative from each department that feeds into or is affected by your business’s content strategy.
  • You think through content and what it takes to maintain it so what you put in front of customers is great on day 1 and day 375.

Next, we split up into small groups to work on a case scenario. We were in charge of overhauling a high-end spa resort’s website content. Being mostly content marketers, our initial reaction was to start wordsmithing. Sara instead guided us to engage in a mock conversation between a potential customer and a resort customer service representative, making note of words, phrases, and concepts we liked that could be incorporated into the website’s content.

Between all the different groups, we unearthed some valuable nuggets that could largely shape the resort’s content strategy. Awesome!

But what if this was in real life, and not everyone in the room interpreted what they heard the same way? What if the resort added new people to the team next week who weren’t part of this brainstorming session? What if the resort decided to outsource their content development to an agency?

In each case, concerns could arise such as making sure everyone is on the same page, that all new additions to the team can be quickly brought up to speed, and that none of our work is lost.

Enter content strategy documentation.

Write something down; it doesn’t have to be perfectly organized or beautifully formatted. Just get it on paper (or in a Google Doc) so that there is a record of what the team discussed and decided.

After Sara covered the importance of content strategy documentation, she moved on to the second part of her presentation: what needs to be captured in your content strategy documentation and ways to capture it. I’ll dig into the details of those topics in Why Content Strategy Documentation is Sexy: Part 2.

As promised, here is my list of key takeaways from part one of Sara’s presentation:

  1. Capture your content strategy in some form. Don’t let your perfectionism get in the way here. A rough outline of your content strategy is immensely better than a room full of people exchanging deer-in-headlights looks because no one remembers what happened last meeting.
  2. As tempting as it may be, avoid the urge to start wordsmithing right away. Listen first, and the eloquently phrased content will follow.
  3. Your content strategy documentation should constantly evolve so that everyone is on the same page as people seamlessly transition on and off the team.

Have I convinced you that content strategy documentation is sexy yet? Stay tuned for Part 2.

Olivia Deputy is the Director of Content Marketing at Xponent21. Our company engineers digital experiences that delight, drive revenue, and increase operational efficiency. If you want a knowledgeable and reliable partner to help with planning, developing, executing, and documenting(!) your content strategy, reach out to us.

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