Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on September 1st, 2010

The Content Strategy Process - Phases III - V

Thank you for joining me for Part Two of my Content Strategy Process blog post. Last week I discussed The Content Strategy Process - Phases I-II, where we reviewed a few definitions of “content strategy” and walked through an overview of the first two phases of a typical content strategy project. The first phase, Research, walks you through the beginning of the project and discusses some of the mandatory and optional deliverables for a client or company. In Phase II: Analysis, you start mentally digesting all the research and align your thoughts and ideas with business goals, tactics, requirements and restrictions, project objectives, assumptions, identified risks, and the overall communication ecosystem. At the end of Phase II, you will submit an existing Content Analysis Report, accompanied by some additional reports, an editorial calendar, and a readiness analysis. If you’ve been following along with last week’s post, you have reached the point in your project where you can turn research and analysis into strategy with Phase III. Phase III: Strategy and Design At this point in the project, you have delivered quite a bit of analysis for your client or company to digest. To begin this phase, both ends of the table will have agreed upon an approach moving forward. During Phase III, you will need to get everyone who is working on the project busy figuring out how the project will be built around the strategy. In short, this is where the strategy is finalized and applied to content creation. As a content strategist, you will need to determine what existing content should still be used, what needs to be created, who is responsible for each piece of content, and what the editorial processes and guidelines are. Deliverables While there are only two deliverables during this phase, they are extremely important documents: Deliverable #1: The Content Matrix is the most important document in the entire project, and is your guide and tracking tool as the project moves into Phase IV. The more updated and complete your content matrix is, the easier the content creation will be for your entire team. The content matrix is a spreadsheet that records all the attributes and milestones for every single piece of content needs for the project. I could write an entire blog post on this deliverable alone – in fact I will next week – so I will just give you a list of matrix columns you should create for your spreadsheet: • Page or module • Asset ID/file name and location • Page/module description, content/page type • Website area/category • URL (pages only) • Existing URL • Affected by the project • Information providers • Source content reviewers • Description of change • Word count • Author/editor • Stage of creation • Submitted for review • Reviewer comments • Changes made/submitted again • Legal approvals • Creation date • Testing date • Publication date, etc. I could add about 10 more column headings to this list, depending upon the overall scope of the project, whether it involved multiple languages and translating, etc. I will go into more detail with the Content Matrix in next week’s blog post. Deliverable #2: The Editorial Style Guide is used to guide the folks with content creation and editing responsibilities. This is a great starting point for the creation of an official editorial style guide to be used and maintained by the client or company upon the end of the project. It provides consistency with technology usage and terminology, sets standards for grammatical usage, specify formatting rules, clarify identification and usage of branded terms, and acts as a forum for the discussion, evaluation, and adaptation of a company’s changing conventions. Companies and clients may or may not have an existing editorial style guide, so you may want to ask about it at the very beginning of this phase. As for the content matrix, very few clients or companies will have even heard of this document, and even fewer will actually have an existing one. These deliverables, up til now, pack the biggest punch so it is worth the time, effort, and headache medication it takes to create these deliverables. Phase IV: Content Creation and Testing Now that you have researched, analyzed, and strategized, its time to create! If you are a writer at heart, it’s high time to lick your chops because this entire phase is a “deliverable”. In this phase, the content strategist will not only be managing the creation of content, but also will be creating some themselves. If you are the only member of your content strategy team, you’ll be doing it all yourself! By following your content matrix, you will create, edit, and approve content - all with the complete communication with the client - while maintaining constant updates, estimated budgets, and timelines. Once you have all your content created (see, wasn’t that easy!?!), it needs to be tested and approved on the development site. The content strategist is responsible for providing the “test team” (which could the content strategist as well) with guidance on what content is new, repurposed, and a list of specific changes that verify work has been completed. If defects, errors, or catastrophes are detected, the strategist will also have a plan for dealing with them. Once all content has been created, approved, and tested, you are ready to go live! Phase V: Maintenance Many experts say that as soon as a website is launched, it is outdated. A content strategist should have this mentality entering Phase V: Maintenance. Develop a plan moving forward from launch that maps out the creation of new content. This will be a new editorial calendar that spells out exactly what needs to be created, when it needs to be published, and when old content should be removed and archived on an ongoing basis. In most content strategy project, there will most certainly be a few things that slip through the cracks, a hanging participle, a run-on adverb, so you will need to continue to maintain the content you created in order to provide the best possible outcome for your client. Because you are not finished with content until it has been unpublished and deleted from the Web completely. Hopefully you now understand the process of a content strategy project and how it can benefit your online business presence. If you are still confused with the content strategy process, please leave me a comment below with your questions and I will answer them to the best of my knowledge, as quickly as I can. Thank You For Reading! No one likes people who don’t share, especially giant flying cats. So if you liked what you read, please share my post with any of our socially-labeled buttons, or we’ll sick Fluffy after you! Please subscribe to our RSS feed as well so you can receive daily fodder from our blog.