Making the content theory reality

February 4, 2022

Listen instead

Are you enjoying learning about the brain exploding, nerdy side of content strategy? Or does it all feel a bit too, well, big?

It's time to stop talking theme parks and start talking real life content projects done with small and growing businesses.

If you've been with me for this season so far, you have already,

  • Got a crash course in content roles, and how we can't assume we're all on the same page when we say 'content'.
  • Considered how content design is also service design, customer experience design, back-end process design and so much more.
  • Thought about the impact of working fast, but without strategy and structure to guide us.

Remember, our goal is always to build Disneyland, not Disney California Adventure.

But, that analogy can seem a bit scary.

Sometimes you don't want to build Disneyland.

Sometimes your content needs are as simple as creating a new sales page, or getting the next best thing done to a usable point.

Let's take a quick sift through 2 of my client's journeys with content, as we start to ground the theory in practice.

The new course launch

One of my online biz peers bought into a very very cool business, rebranded, and - alongside their business partner - was beginning to make it their own.

Their big launch date was set, and they going out with a new 90 day program. They're a UX professional by trade, so they had all the things set. The back-end processes were schmick, the program had been tried and tested, they had a new website ready to launch, and a sales page all mapped out.

But they weren't 100% sure it was going to fly. And they needed it to.

So, we had a little chat and made a plan.

Over 2 days we knuckled down and collaborated on some rapid strategy, content design, and writing work.

On day 1 we defined the key messages for the program, and refined their existing brand voice to make it more clear and usable. Our challenge was answering 'how much hot sauce do we add to the copy' and the answer was 'A LOT'.

With that brand piece in place, we could move into structure. We thought about the questions the audience needed answered to make a decision to sign up, plotted them out in order, and created a sales page structure that matched. Then I got to writing. One day, one sales page done.

On day 2, we considered the program in the context of the rest of the business. With the message and voice for the signature offer locked in, I went ahead and applied this across the site. A second day, one full site updated.

You'll notice the process went something like brand, strategy, structure, then write and publish. The timeline was short, but the process was thorough.

The 'just for now' website project

For a few years now, I've worked with a mid-sized franchise who is a bit 'traditional'. That's what happens when your story goes back to the 1940's, you're regionally based, and you sell to farmers, tradies, and the like.

I first met them when they had rebranded visually, but hadn't brought much of the written collateral up to the new standard. They needed a new website to reflect the new (very fun, very profesh) new brand. But it wasn't going to be easy.

A lot of their sales and marketing happens through catalogues, they have a complex marketing calendar of supplier specials and deals, legacy systems across different stores, and many, many products.

You see, when you're an older store with lots of suppliers who wants to sell online, your content (which is mostly product names, colours, numbers, dimensions, weights, and other specifications) mostly comes from those suppliers.

Ideally, you want your systems to talk to each other, and play nice, so your life isn't spent creating, loading and cross referencing product spreadsheets. Add inventory management and you're looking at a very large investment of time, effort, money and potentially customer frustration as things get sorted out.

Obviously, their big picture needs were complex. We just needed to take a baby step toward that end goal.

So what do you do to get a business like this on a path toward a big fancy system?

We started with a 'just for now' website. We spend a fair while thinking about their audience, who they were, and the jobs they'd need to do on the site.

We had the ability to put a limited amount of products on there, and used some content design led activities to decide what those products would be. We thought hard about the best information structure and pages, so we could one day pick those pages up and scale up with a bigger site, without a huge amount of content rework.

We decided on a 'done for now' point and sent it live. Later, we came back together to realign all the different content plans that existed in the business, and create a Verbal Brand Toolkit. This Toolkit has a comprehensive styleguide so it can be used by all parts of the business, not just marketing.

The new Verbal Branding Toolkit gave us the ability to go back to the site, and very quickly edit the existing content and add some pages we'd left out of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product).

Since then, we've touched base on strategy and planning a few times, to make sure the web strategy and other pieces of content are aligned. But we know that when they are ready to do the next big thing, the brand, structures, and copy they have will be able to move and scale up with them.

Notice a pattern? This work was done over a longer time, the site was quantifiably bigger, but the pattern was the same. Brand, strategy, structure, then write and publish...rinse and repeat.

One of the key reasons I started Novelise was understanding that this strategy-led approach could help businesses, and save them cash and heartache in the long run. It also makes the internet a nicer, more usable, readable and useful place for us, the audience.

But, no matter how fast content roles evolve (Content Designer is currently one of the fastest growing job titles on LinkedIn), hiring a content professional remains out of reach for the majority of smaller, fast growing businesses who have a big impact.

I wanted to bridge that gap, and I hope this helps you see why.

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