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Five Content Strategy Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

Part 1 — The Content Creator

3½ minute read

Content strategy is an important component of the design process and vital to the overall user experience. It ensures that the organization’s content aligns with its goals and values. With that in mind, here are ten key challenges that content creators and management face with content strategy, and some proposed solutions.

Challenges for Content Creators

Content creators and strategists have it rough. Slogging it out in the trenches, we often see first-hand some of the impediments that constantly threaten our productivity, the quality of our work, and our sanity; often without the political clout or influence to effect a change. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Here are the top issues you’ve likely to encountered, and some practical solutions.

1. No management buy-in

This is probably the single largest obstacle for content strategy in organizations. Management doesn’t see the need for it, doesn’t have a sense of urgency for it, or just plain doesn’t understand it.

Solution: Find an influential ally in management who can help champion your cause and educate them on the high points of content strategy. Also, starting with a small “stealth” project and establishing a pattern of success will help sell content strategy. Little victories will eventually lead to larger buy-in from management.

2. Nebulous governance and editorial policies

Unclear editorial policies lead to inconsistent content across the organization’s delivery channels. Different content creators often do their own thing and the result is a lack of cohesiveness. Even worse, the content created may not promote the organization’s values or help achieve its goals. Without clear governance guidelines for when and how content is deployed and how it is managed, the organization’s content landscape can quickly become cluttered, disorganized, or seemingly abandoned.

Solution: Work with management and content creators to develop a clear editorial style guide; stick to it and keep it up-to-date. Define the organization’s oversight policies. Document the review and approval process for all content and maintain an active and thorough publication schedule.

3. Unclear roles and responsibilities

Who is the content owner? Who is responsible for publishing content to the various channels we want to target? Who approves content, and how do we know when it is ready to publish? Questions like these arise when the roles and responsibilities of the content team(s) are not clearly identified. Add to this the fact that content is being created on different teams throughout the organization and communication silos arise; consistency in quality and pacing becomes difficult to maintain.

Solution: Acknowledging that this is a problem and facilitating communication within and between teams is critical. Content strategist Margot Bloomstein describes the solution as creating a culture of sharing, education and maintenance. Sitting down with the key players initially to clearly identify roles and responsibilities and establish open lines of communication breaks down organizational silos and gives content creators a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

4. Poor (or non-existent) tools

In some cases, organizations do not have tools to facilitate the content workflow. More common, however, is the scenario where tools exist but only serve to hinder productivity. IT, developers and management are often more impressed with a content management system (CMS) feature-set than they are in how the tool actually fits with the organization’s content deliverables and information structure.

Solution: Organizations without a CMS should definitely invest in one, but even before that Bloomstein recommends developing a content model that defines relationships between content types and among their constituent attributes. This activity is still valuable if you already have a CMS that isn’t working for you as well as it should. Once you’ve identified the structure of your content-environment, you can adjust your tools to work toward it, instead of the other way around.

5. Content refactoring

Gone are the days when content was created for a single purpose or audience. Content creators today are faced with the reality that content needs to be malleable enough to work in many different contexts. Or, as future-focused designer Brad Frost puts it, “Get your content ready to go anywhere. Because it’s going to go everywhere.” This challenge of content refactoring includes tailoring and repackaging content for different audiences; force-fitting content into specific modules, templates and content types, not to mention localization of content and the myriad headaches that this creates.

Solution: This is a tough reality to deal with and there is no simple solution. In my experience, the best approach is to clearly identify the channels that you are targeting up front. A scope meeting with stakeholders and the team is an ideal place to do this. Address these targets early and give them full consideration while creating the message. Ideally, your content model will allow you to link different versions of the message together in your CMS. Finally, establish style guides for the different message contexts (how are tweets laid out and voiced, versus LinkedIn posts, versus website features, versus press releases?) and stick to them. As with all style guides, revisit often and revise as needed.

Next Up: Challenges for Management

Be sure to check in next time, when I continue the conversation by focusing on content strategy issues for organizational leadership.

What are your thoughts? Join me in the conversation over on Twitter .

Originally published November 10, 2015
File under: content-strategy  ux  techniques