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August 22, 2016

Going for the gold with your content strategy

Now that the 2016 Olympic Games have come to a close, countries are tallying up their final medal counts. Athletes are assessing their performances, celebrating their victories or mourning their losses. After you’ve implemented a content strategy, you should also assess the project to determine how successful it was.

Your number one metric for success should be your goals and how well your implementation achieved them. Olympic athletes do this, too—some are aiming for a gold medal (or more), while others are just trying to make the podium, improve their best times, or qualify for their event finals.

Similarly, your content strategy should outline the goals you plan to accomplish. Once you’ve implemented that strategy, you can see how well your new content development processes line up with those goals. Here are some ways you can figure out whether your content strategy was a success.

Have you solved your content problems?

Flickr: Paul Hudson

Flickr: Paul Hudson

If you implemented a strategy to make your content more localization-ready, have you seen any improvements in the localization process? Maybe now you’re spending less on localization than you were before, or you’ve cut your time to market in half. Maybe the customers who consume your content in another language are having a better experience using your products, and that’s showing in sales increases in global markets. Analyzing how much better localization is now than it was before can help you measure your strategy’s success.

The same logic applies to whatever content problems you set out to resolve. If you were missing lots of reuse opportunities before, are you maximizing your reuse potential now? If you were concerned about wasted time and resources in your content development process, have you made that process more efficient?

Has your strategy uncovered any other problems?

Sometimes implementing a content strategy can reveal problems you didn’t initially realize you had. Perhaps your implementation is already equipped to solve these new problems along with the original ones. If not, you’ll need to make some adjustments or additions to your content strategy to ensure that as many of these issues will be resolved as possible.

In some cases, implementing a content strategy might resolve your original problems but introduce new ones that you didn’t expect. For example, the content management system you chose might help improve workflow efficiency, but it might also make it more difficult to share your content with other groups, therefore exposing a problem with silos.

In cases like these, you will need to start thinking about other strategies to solve your new issues. With careful planning and time spent exploring the possibilities of unforeseen problems before you implement, you can reduce your chances of finding yourself in such a situation.

Has your implementation gone according to plan?

The answer to this one is almost certainly no—even the most thoroughly researched, well-planned implementations usually end up veering into unexpected territory. But unless a few bumps in the road derailed your project completely, you can still use your original project plan to help determine how successful your strategy was.

Did you solve your content problems and improve your content development processes in the end, even if getting to that point took much longer than you anticipated? If your plans for change management didn’t go quite as smoothly as you’d hoped, was the overall implementation still successful in spite of issues with change resistance? Even if you still achieved the desired outcome with your strategy, assessing where your implementation veered from its original course can help you do a better job planning for future changes.

How has your strategy helped the business?

The main purpose of a content strategy is to use your content to support your company’s business goals. This means that a good strategy should reduce costs and improve the bottom line.

Now that you’ve put your strategy into practice, you can calculate the total costs you spent on implementation. Are you earning the kind of revenue you need to offset those costs? Have you improved your content processes enough that your total profits will increase over time? The more cost your strategy saves, the more successful it is.

How have your business goals changed?

Because implementing a content strategy takes time—usually several months or even a couple of years—it’s possible, even likely, that your business goals could change during the implementation process. If the original business goals that drove your strategy shift before your implementation is finished, how adaptable is your strategy to those changes? A good content strategy addresses both short-term solutions and long-term possibilities so that you will be ready for changing business goals.

A successful implementation will put you in a position to scale up with new business requirements. You can build on the strategy you already put in place to keep achieving business goals as they grow and change. If your content strategy only focused on solving one or two short-term problems and didn’t account for future goals, your strategy probably won’t have lasting success, and you might need a new one sooner than you’d planned.

Now that you’ve done a post-implementation assessment of your content strategy, how did it measure up to your goals? Did it get the gold, silver, or bronze? Maybe it failed to make it onto the podium, so you need a different strategy if your goal was to win a medal. Either way, analyzing the results of your content strategy implementation is the best way to determine how to keep using content to achieve your business goals going forward.