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Five Content Strategy Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

Part 2 — Challenges for Management

3½ minute read

Last week I discussed the five most common content strategy challenges for content creators and strategists. Organizational leadership faces a similar predicament. With so much emphasis put on productivity, efficiency and the bottom line, it’s hard to embrace a concept that doesn’t show a clear benefit for the organization, introduces too much risk or just doesn’t fit in with their vision of the company and its values. If you’re a manager, or you’re trying to convince executives to embrace content strategy, these challenges are probably all-too-familiar.

1. No visible ROI

The most common content strategy challenge with management is the issue of return on investment. Executives often fail to see the value in content strategy, viewing it as an unnecessary investment or — worse — a waste of valuable resources and time.

Solution: Content strategy advocates must find ways to demonstrate value, through measurement and monitoring of key performance indicators that map directly to the organization’s values (a good analytics package helps). Without demonstrated value, management will not invest in content strategy. Kate Kenyon astutely observes that focusing on the solution — instead of the process — and putting that solution in management’s terms is an effective means of adopting buy-in.

2. No tolerance for failure

Management — and business in general — is hard-wired to avoid failure at all costs. Failure, however, is an important part of change and process improvement: Often it’s just as useful to discover what does not work as what does. This is especially true in a complex process like developing and implementing a content strategy.

Solution: Failure is a part of change and, as Dan and Chip Heath state, “You need to create the expectation of failure — not the failure of the mission itself, but failure en route.” Create this expectation by explaining your process and making it clear that small setbacks in the interim will only help ensure a successful end result. Finally — and this may seem obvious — don’t over-promote failures. Be forthright and honest, but focus on wins; not losses.

3. Lack of empathy for the user

Management often looks at the problem exclusively from the business perspective (generate sales, leads, etc.) and fails to consider the needs of the customer, or — more likely — is framing their understanding of customer needs and goals based on marketing data or their own personal perspective.

Solution: In my experience, creating personas is an effective means of introducing management to their users in some cases, although not all managers buy into them. Recording user research and presenting it to management is also effective. It lets them see and hear for themselves what their users’ issues and goals are. The most effective method (and, admittedly, the most difficult to facilitate) is to have management hear it directly from the users themselves. In all cases, being able to tell management “We talked to the people who will be using this content and these are the issues they pointed out” is very effective in building empathy. For all of these to work, you’ll need access to users, either directly or indirectly.

4. Unclear understanding of the playing field

Many executives lack understanding of emerging content platforms like social media. Website? Sure. SEO? Sure. Instagram? Notsomuch. The new stuff evades them and they cannot grasp the value nor the tactics necessary to fully harness these new channels.

Solution: Look at your competitors. Are they effectively using these new media? Listen to your users. Are they engaged? Do they express value in seeing your content in these channels? Look at emerging trends. Find articles and studies that illuminate the value of these new channels or detail effective strategies for using them. Take this information to the decision-makers and present it in a clear, concise, results-oriented manner. Get them in a room; present slides; encourage questions.

5. Politics over priorities

It exists in every organization: The political pitfall. Management is often more concerned with political issues surrounding their day-to-day office reality than long term priorities like a cohesive content strategy. Even executives who buy into content strategy can fall victim to the traps of corporate politics. The symptoms are varied and include:

Solution: We’ve all seen it, and there is no sure-fire solution as content strategists often lack the political leverage to counteract these issues. As with the buy-in and ROI issues, gather allies (especially management in the sales and support trenches whose teams deal with users every day). They can help you make your case. Work with what you have, start small, and let successful pilot projects highlight the value of content strategy. Evangelize and focus your efforts on changing the organization’s culture. And above all else: Be tenacious. Don’t give up!

Challenge Accepted

Implementation of any significant organizational strategy is bound to be riddled with challenges. With determination, transparency and a little selling, a solid content strategy is within reach.

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

Originally published November 19, 2015
File under: content-strategy  ux  techniques