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May 11, 2020

Content lifecycle challenges

“When you share content across the company in ways you haven’t before, everyone has to shift to a culture of collaboration.”

Customers need the right content at their fingertips so they can use your product or service successfully. To make that happen, your company needs to understand the content lifecycle. Who is responsible for creating, updating, and approving it? How is it shared and repurposed across departments for a consistent, streamlined message across the enterprise? How do your customers search for and use information, and how does that influence the way you should deliver content?

Your company may need to change how you’re creating and using content so that you can better serve your customer base. These changes can be challenging for content creators. Here are some common situations that require companies to change their content lifecycle, and how to address the resulting challenges that often arise.

Shifting to structure

If you move from an unstructured to a structured content environment, you won’t just be undergoing a change in technology, but a change in mindset. 

Content now exists separately from its formatting and shifts from full documents to short, repurposable chunks. Writers no longer “own” or manage their documents individuallytopics may be referenced across multiple documents, and documents may include content from multiple contributors. Writers need to understand how their content is used in each scenario.

Structured content also requires different review processes. Editors need an efficient way to review and approve changes to topic-based, reusable content, so look for tools or systems that make this possible. For example:

  • If a document needs approval for publication, change bars or markers can point out which topics were updated. This allows an editor to see the revised topics as part of the complete document without having to read the entire thing..
  • If a topic that appears in multiple documents needs to be updated, reports about where that topic appears can be helpful. They help the reviewer ensure the changes make sense in every instance where the content appears.

This new way of thinking about your content chunks is especially important if one of the major drivers behind moving to structure was reuse. A chunk of content reused in multiple places requires a totally different approach that the old-style copying and pasting.

Governing content sharing

Moving to a structured environment with reuse can enable more widespread reuse of contentnot just within one department, but across the entire organization. This may have a lot of benefits for your company if you’ve been creating content in departmental silos, or if you’ve recently acquired or merged with another company. Enterprise-level content sharing helps improve the consistency of your brand messaging.

To make this possible, you need technology that ensures different groups across the enterprise can share content with proper reuse rather than multiple uncontrolled copies. Some options include:

  • Getting all relevant groups working in a single repository
  • Keeping groups in their own repositories, but establishing connectivity across them 

But what’s just as important as the technology (if not more so) is the way you manage the human aspect of this change. When you share content across the company in ways you haven’t before, everyone has to shift to a culture of collaboration. Writers and reviewers need to understand how content is used across different departments and what dependencies exist. This change can be difficult for content teams who have never interacted before and already have their own ways of working. 

Broad-scale content sharing won’t succeed without dedicated resources. You need standards and guidelines for your style, terminology, and branding. You need a plan for content governance across the enterprise, and a person or team responsible for maintaining it and communicating changes. Often, you need an executive champion who understands the big picture, spearheads the initiative, and ensures that the necessary resources are available.

Improving delivery

If you change how you deliver content to your customers, you need to think about content not just from a content creator perspective, but also from an end user perspective.

To improve the way you deliver content to your customers, you’ll need to know how they expect to find information. What terms or questions are they using to search your content, how are they sorting the results, and are they getting the answers they’re looking for? Based on these kinds of metrics, you can set up metadata to support your customers’ search needs. 

Are your customers demanding a more personalized content experience? If so, you’ll also need to consider how your content will be automatically sorted, filtered, and customized before it’s presented to customers.

Delivery methods are another important consideration. Should the content be print-based or digital? Available online or offline? Should digital content be delivered alongside the product (for example, as part of software interface), as a separate help system, or both? Does the content need to be gated behind a login? Are there different delivery requirements for different locations? The answers to these questions have major implications for the context of how you might structure and use your content.

Overcoming challenges

“The biggest challenge you’ll face is managing change.”

In all of these situations, the biggest challenge you’ll face is managing change. When people have to work with their content in a new model, they may be overwhelmed by the learning curve. This can lead to resistance and ultimately slow down your efforts to improve content development.

Some ways that you can help mitigate this issue include:

  • Training. Provide thorough training on the new content structures and systems that addresses content creators’ questions. To make the training more effective, consider the methods that will work best for the teams involved (for example, ongoing vs. all at once, one-on-one vs. group, etc.).
  • Communication. Explaining the benefits of your new content workflow may help offset some of the resentment content creators feel in having to change their methods. Keeping the lines of communication open will also help address ongoing concerns.
  • Resources. Imposing changes on content creators without giving them the resources they need can overload them. If you require them to work with their content in a different context, provide the resources (technological, human, or otherwise) they need to make that happen.

A change in how you create or deliver your content means a change in mindset and company culture. New tools and technologies can help facilitate those changes, but won’t solve the problems that arise from adjusting to the new workflow. It’s ultimately up to the people involved to make your company’s content strategy a success. 

Are you looking for ways to improve your content lifecycle? Contact us to start talking about the best strategy for your organization.