Before you begin a content project

Kaitlyn Heath / Content strategy1 Comment

Undertaking a project to improve your organization’s content creation process is overwhelming. It is not easy to move into structured content, create a new taxonomy, or develop a new content delivery platform, for example. Here is a list of things to do before you start any content project.

Find an executive champion

Projects frequently fizzle out because of a lack of support from those who allocate funding. Find the people in your company who can approve the budget for a transition, and make sure that you have someone who understands the project’s necessity and has the authority to move it forward.

Those individuals will want to see that a project will ultimately save money and time and meet your content needs, so be sure that you can explain the benefit of the project in those terms. Work with them to create realistic expectations for the effort, timeline, and results of the project.

Even if your project involves small process changes for a small team and relatively low costs, you should still receive the support from people who will be doing the work. Check that your team understands the project goals and has the time to enact the changes.

Identify all stakeholders

The writers of the content team are key to any content project, as they will inevitably have to change their process and their content, but there are other groups you should include that have a stake in the project.

Subject matter experts are a good place to start. Usually there is a team of developers, engineers, etc. who are not on the content team, but still contribute to the content. Those people will have requirements for the end result of the project.

Another important group you may consider is customer service. They frequently use the documentation and hear direct feedback from customers. They often have opinions about the state of the content.

These are examples, but you should evaluate other departments as well. Ask yourself not only “Who writes the content?” but also “Who is affected by the content or the content creation process?”. Consider the IT department, the legal department, the marketing department, and any content reviewers.

Identify the issues

After you have identified your stakeholders, identify the issues that you need to solve. Likely your project is motivated by an issue, like high translation costs, a company merger, or inconsistent content. Explore that issue thoroughly with the stakeholders, and take the time to consider all of the possible solutions. The best solution might not be the one you had in mind initially.

This is also a good time to explore any other issues in the content creation process. Maybe ongoing annoyances that waste time: having trouble tracking down the latest version of a document or inefficient collaboration with colleagues. Some of those may fall out of scope of your project, but some you may be able to solve in the process.

Do not buy a tool first

It can be tempting to start with a tool. It feels like a concrete action item that you can check off your list. You might be motivated to test out the proof of concept. You might be pressured to decide on a tool so that you can decide on the project budget.

Yes, considering your tool options early is helpful, but if you pick your tool before you develop a content model or requirements, you might not have all of the features you need. Conversely, you might be paying a lot more for ones you don’t need.

So, while this is an important step in the project, it is something you should do as late as possible.

 

Content projects are difficult to get started, and it may seem that taking these steps will delay the project start. But if you don’t do them before you begin, they will come back as problems that stall the project or make it ultimately unsuccessful. In the end, these steps will help ensure the success of the project.

If you need help getting started with your content project, contact us.

About the Author

Kaitlyn Heath

Content strategist with a background in technical writing, literature, and environmental engineering. Virginia Tech 2018.

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