Skip to main content
December 24, 2013

The temperature check

This anonymous guest post is part of the Blog Secret Santa project. There’s a list of all Secret Santa posts, including one written by Sarah O’Keefe, on Santa’s list of 2013 gift posts.

I recently took a trip to the emergency room, and there it was: The How Are You Feeling chart. Ten yellow faces, ranging from terrified shriek to cheerful giggle. In case you’re wondering, I picked #7, but that’s neither here nor there.

People don’t always have words for what they’re feeling, but the feelings are still there. And just like they matter when you’re huddled on a plastic chair in the ER, they matter when you’re working on content, too.

We have so much to keep track of in our content strategy projects. Things like: *Who do we want to reach?* and *What kinds of content do we need to reach them?* and *Which resources do we have at our disposal?*

We want our content to be relevant, up to date, aligned with business objectives, and so much more. ALL of those things are important. So how can we integrate feelings? I’d like to suggest something I call the Temperature Check. It’s not quite the same as the How Are You Feeling chart, but it’s close.

I started using the Temperature Check during a recent client workshop, when I noticed people’s expressions changing as we talked through our content plan. Sometimes they smiled and nodded. Sometimes they looked irritated. Sometimes their eyes glazed over.

In a brief burst of inspiration, I pulled up our draft plan and asked them to describe how they felt about each part of it: Love it, Hate it, or Meh.

Hello, feelings. It was like a key that unlocked important new insights into to what we were doing. Though we had already put our plan through several other filters, this exercise helped us to see nuances we had missed before. We took a closer look at the things marked “Hate it” and asked why. Some of them we hated because we’d failed at them before, or our process for getting them done was painful. We talked about how we could change that. Some of them were things we had convinced ourselves we “should” do, which led to an excellent discussion about whether we were being lazy–or if there was a good to reason to eliminate them from our plan. Negative emotions have a whole lot of wisdom in them, if only we’ll listen.

Next, we explored how we could make the Meh stuff better. Here again, we discovered some things we thought we should do, but when we were honest, didn’t want to. We wondered out loud why this was such a pervasive issue. Were we trying too hard to imitate strategies others had found successful, but that didn’t seem quite right for our culture? What were we trying to prove, anyway?

Content ownership issues came up as well. Not everyone had the same feelings about the same things. For instance, someone who felt ambivalent about a particular part of the plan found that someone else was feeling the love. Bingo, new owner.

Finally, we used the things tagged “Love it” to understand what the team was truly jazzed about. It wasn’t just the sparkly stuff – some of us loved the nerdy bits, data and spreadsheets and the like, while others gravitated to the more social elements. And surprise, surprise – that led us back to the beginning, talking about what it would take to move more of the “Hate it” stuff to the “Love it” category.

Did the Temperature Check change our strategy? Well, duh.

People are the ones who make content, and manage it, and share it – and those people have feelings. Feelings that impact the quality of the content they make and maintain, and the effectiveness of all of our strategizing and plotting and planning.What’s happening on your teams? Do you see frowny faces or excited ones? The difference matters.

Give the Temperature Check a try and see what happens.