Content ops stakeholders: Content authors (podcast, part 1)
In episode 122 of The Content Strategy Experts podcast, Alan Pringle and Gretyl Kinsey talk about content authors as content ops stakeholders.
“I think it’s really important to note here, a lot of these resources are not human people. They are systems or databases that provide information. You pull information from these multiple sources and put it together to provide a really dynamic and personalized user experience for the people who are reading your content.”
– Alan Pringle
- Content ops stakeholders: Localization (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: Tech stack managers (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: Executives (podcast, part 2)
- Content ops stakeholders: Executives (podcast, part 1)
- Content ops stakeholders: IT (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: Tech support (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: risk management (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: Content consumers (podcast)
- Content ops stakeholders: Content authors (podcast, part 2)
Gretyl Kinsey: Welcome to The Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize, and distribute content in an efficient way. In this episode, we continue our series on content stakeholders, this time focusing on content creators. This is part one of a two-part podcast. Hello, and welcome everyone. I’m Gretyl Kinsey.
Alan Pringle: And I am Alan Pringle.
GK: And we’re going to be wrapping up our series on content stakeholders by talking about the people who actually create the content. So to start out, what types of content creators might you have at an organization and what are some of their roles and responsibilities?
AP: Well, we’re going to start with the most obvious, and that would be your full-time professional content producer, writer, information developer, whatever you want to call. There are many, many titles over the years for that. But that group in general will create the bulk of the content that a company puts out, and we’re talking about all kinds of content. We’re talking about your technical/user/product content. We’re talking about training and learning materials. We are talking about marketing information, legal risk management type content. So it really crosses the spectrum. And a lot of those people are employed full-time to crank out that content.
GK: Yes. And then there’s another category, which is part-time contributors, or sometimes that will be called subject matter experts. And these are people who also create some content, but that’s not their full-time job. So maybe they are just writing some small pieces of content here and there that are specific to the areas where they have a lot of knowledge or expertise or experience around the company’s products. Maybe they are reviewing the content that’s being produced by the full-time writers and making sure everything is accurate, everything is consistent. And these are people who typically do have another primary role in the organization. They contribute the content as needed, but their primary responsibility is going to be focused on something else. And sometimes they may even be volunteers in the industry. And in the case where we have something like Content as a Service, sometimes these contributors or subject matter expert type sources are not even actual people.
GK: It might be getting information out of an inventory database, that type of thing. So there are a lot of different ways that that really nitty gritty information that’s needed for the content can be contributed to what the full-time writers are developing.
AP: Yeah. And I think it’s really important to note here, as you talked about the database and inventory information, a lot of these resources are not human people. They are systems or databases that provide information, and you pull information from these multiple sources, put it together to provide a really dynamic and personalized user experience for the people who are reading your content.
GK: Absolutely. And I think that’s a great evolution of the industry because it takes pressure off of some of these people who have lots of other responsibilities. So if they have put information somewhere once in a database, it can be used over and over again and not have to keep going back and bothering some of those people as a subject matter expert going forward.
AP: Yeah, it’s a situation where a lot of these people who have “other real jobs,” they are brought in to review a very small slice of content or offer their expertise because they might be a product designer for something that’s being written about. It’s always good to keep in mind, they have other primary job responsibilities, and anything you can do to narrow that focus and get their contributions in as quickly and painlessly as possible is really a benefit to everybody.
GK: Absolutely. There are a couple other responsibilities that I want to talk about, and these may be something that a full-time writer or content creator would do, or it could also be something that falls on more of a part-time contributor. But one of them is reviewing and editing, and that’s usually the last holdout part of the writing process. You need someone to take a look at that content before it goes out the door, before it gets published and distributed to the end users, and make sure that everything is accurate and everything is correct. And that’s usually some type of a role in whatever content ecosystem you have, that someone will be assigned to that particular responsibility. And it’s that person’s job to do that final review and make sure that everything is ready to go.
GK: And then the other responsibility is depending on what types of content you produce, there may be some assets, things like images, things like video, audio, other things aside from just text that would be a part of your content. So at some organizations, if that is a large portion of your content, if it is something that’s very graphics heavy, if there is a lot of audiovisual stuff in your content, then there may also be a person or a team that is in charge of creating that information. And sometimes that’s outsourced as well.
AP: It is. And I think this is a very good place to really drive home the fact that to content creators to remember that people have different ways they like to absorb and take in information. So don’t always assume someone wants to read something. They may want to hear it. They may want to see it. You’ve got to give people those choices, and content creators can’t … I think it’s a really, really bad idea to take this narrow view, “You’re going to take what I give you and like it.”
AP: There was a time years ago, “I’m going to put a PDF up on a website and that should do it.” In the 21st century, it does not do it. It does not cut it anymore, and we still see that today. So remember that the people who are your consumers really may not want it in the content and the format where you think it is the primary format. So you need to think carefully about how you’re providing that information to the people and not make assumptions that because you crank it out in this format, that people are automatically happy about it.
GK: Yeah. I definitely agree with that. And I also think that there’s an accessibility angle here, because if you are just providing your content in one way, that may not be accessible for your entire audience. So the more ways that you can provide that information and the more that you can make that information able for your audience to personalize and get just the pieces that they need, that’s really going to help your customers respond better to it, use your information, and be more loyal customers, be more likely to buy more of your products going forward.
AP: Yeah. I even mentioned this in a previous episode when we were talking about the content consumers as stakeholders. It’s important to remember that not everybody takes in information like you do. Everyone is not the same in that regard, and content creators need to keep that in their heads when they’re talking about delivery formats.
GK: Absolutely. So speaking of things that are not always the same and that vary greatly across the spectrum of the industry, I also want to talk about content creator team sizes, because this is an area where we see a lot of variety in our work as consultants.
AP: A lot. And it’s a situation where you can have a very large team, but you would also be amazed at the amount of content that a small team or even a one-person shop can create and crank out. So it really depends on the size of the organization. And also, how diversified are those content types? Because in general, and like I said, this is in general. It is a broad generalization. The more different types of content an organization’s pointing out, you usually have different departments. So you’ll have a team of instructional designers creating training material. You’ll have a team of people creating your user enablement, user experience, user guide content. And then you’ll have a team creating marketing content, for example. So you may have different people creating those different types of content, and each one of them is their own department with one to ever how many people. So it really depends on the size of the company. And also, I think it’s also a nod to how serious or how well invested that company is in their content and how much time and money they spend on it.
GK: Yeah. And I think it’s really interesting that you mentioned the departments, because we do see a lot of variety there as well. We might have some lack of balance. So for example, if one department gets a whole lot of the organization’s resources and budget, then that department might have a lot more people involved in creating content. And then you might have another department that also has to create content, but maybe they’re not valued as much by the organization, so they don’t really have as large of a team or as much of a budget to work with.
GK: We also see a lot of issues with content silos across departments. I’ve been in this industry for over 10 years and I’ve seen it the entire time I’ve been in the industry. And Alan, you’ve probably also seen it for that long, if not longer, that there is just this issue where even though we’re in an increasingly collaborative and digital world, we still have a lot of departments that work very separately, even when there is a need to collaborate across departments.
GK: And so we do see a huge variety where at one company there may be more of a spirit of collaboration and all of the different content producing teams might work together and they might share their content across departments. And then we’ll see other companies where they are all very much sequestered off from each other. They never communicate, and there is a lot of opportunity for content sharing and reuse that goes completely unaddressed.
AP: The good news is I think we are seeing more and more the blurring of some of these departmental lines, and companies are starting to realize that there’s a lot of overlap in this content, and they do make an effort to find ways to reuse content. Because at the end of the day, when you’re reusing content as a content creator, you are offering your readers, your end users, content consumers a uniform, consistent message, and that is a huge, huge win. And it is a necessity to really make it in this super competitive global world.
AP: You need to be telling your customers the same thing and be very consistent in how you communicate specifications, anything in regard to marketing messages. You need to be consistent in how you communicate, because that’s the key to success with your content, from my point of view.
AP: And the good news is, like I said, some places are already addressing it by having people collaborate more, but as we move more toward this Content as a Service model, even if you’ve got these silos and they’re super embedded and you’re going to have a hard time breaking them down, you can find systems that will pull information from all of these different sources and combine them together to create that personalized delivery to your reader, your content consumers.
GK: Yeah. And I think it’s worth noting that as this world becomes more digital, more global, and you’ve got more options for how to create and consume content, that if your organization is not doing everything that you can, there will come a point where your audience will notice. And we’re seeing that exact thing happen a lot of times, which is why there’s so much more of a demand for that personalized content.
AP: Yeah. And the whole globalization angle, too. Think about how many clients we’ve worked with and how many companies out there are multinational and have presences in multiple countries. And they are having these challenges about creating this unified message, unified content. And we’re seeing that, like I said, with our own clients. We have clients who have presences in multiple countries. And we often talk to these people in different countries about helping them. For example, if we’ve helped them with an implementation, we help them with support, and we are hearing from people in multiple places.
AP: So again, it’s this idea of what happens in one place can have a broader effect with people who may be working from you a thousand miles away. And I think also with the pandemic, we’ve really seen this shift to remote teams. So what you do “locally” is really maybe not so local anymore.
GK: Yeah, absolutely. And if you just think of things locally instead of globally, you’re going to be limiting yourself. And I think this also plays into localization, because the more that you can share content, the fewer times you would have to translate something. Because it’s not just the companies that are more globally connected, it’s also your audience. And so I think there is more and more need for localized content to be produced and delivered, and especially when you do have a multinational company. I know there are a few examples that I can think of among our clients who have gone through mergers that ended up with not only the company having different collaborators across the world, but then the same is true with their customers. And so they have to think about the localization angle all the time.
AP: Exactly. And the merger point is a really, really good one. We should probably talk about that for just a moment. That’s one place that really has a huge impact on content creators. Because a lot of times when you’ve got a merger, you have got basically then two or more sets of tools that are pretty much doing the same thing. You’ve got some processes that are the end game may be the same, but the way that they get there is different. So you have got to combine tool sets, workflows, and cultures, company cultures, to create this, again, this unified message to send out to the world. And it is hard to understate how difficult that can be, because basically people have a tendency to want to protect their own. And I totally get that, but sometimes you’ve got to lower that defensive posturing a bit and come together to create, again, that unified message that you really need to be sending out to be successful.
GK: Yeah, it’s a big challenge for sure, and I see it as falling under the umbrella of change management, which is something that we see with any type of content process change. And a merger is a perfect example of that. You have to bring all of these different content creators and the people who manage them, the people who have other types of a stake in the content, you have to bring all of them together under one unified vision. And a lot of times you have to do that very quickly so that you don’t have a major disruption in the production of your products and your content. So it really is a big deal and a big challenge for content creators to face.
AP: It is. And what’s interesting is when you start looking at the kinds of problems content creators have, for example, inefficient workflows and processes. You’ve got a workflow that has a lot of manual work, and you’re doing a lot of copying and pasting. Or to do a revision, you basically make a duplicate of your document and then slap some changes on top of it. That very manual process. Think about that manual process being multiplied many times if you’ve got two companies coming together who really don’t have super efficient content operations, and it happens.
GK: Yeah. If you’ve not only got two or more companies coming together, but then translating into two or more, sometimes 20 languages as a result of that merger, it really just multiplies some of those inefficiencies that might have been present in each one coming in. And even if you’ve only got one company dealing with that, that’s still a huge issue. We see this all the time that there is some part of the workflow that’s just not doing what it should for the content life cycle. And then we have to come in, take a look and see what exactly is going wrong. But I think a lot of it does lie on what we just said. Some of these manual things, like copying and pasting, things that have to be done and then redone and redone again and checked again every time there’s an update to the information, those are the types of things that are really going to slow down production and therefore slow down localization and everything else.
AP: Yep. And again, this is stuff that so many content creators face, and a lot of times it feels like you’re trying to dig yourself out of this bottomless black pit, because you’re stuck doing these constant manual changes and revisions. But it is possible, slowly but surely, to put in better content operations to make that a whole lot less painful.
GK: I think that’s a good place to wrap up, but we will be continuing this discussion in the next podcast episode. So Alan, thank you.
AP: Thank you.
GK: And thank you for listening to The Content Strategy Experts podcast, brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit scriptorium.com or check the show notes for relevant links.