So you’ve decided to redesign your website (or launch a blog, or create an app). You’re probably pretty excited about how it’s going to look. Have you thought about what you’re going to say?
People visit websites because they want information. If the information—or, as we like to call it, the content—is an afterthought in the web design and development process, your visitors may be disappointed by what they find.
Including a content strategist on your team can help you answer critical questions early in the process, thereby improving your website and the experience of everyone who visits it.
“There are two holy questions of any type of design: who is it for? And what are you putting in it? Content strategists are a godsend in figuring out the latter question. And that answer needs to inform what you’re designing. You can’t shove a silverback into a cat carrier.” – Mike Monteiro, Design is a Job
Thanks in part to Google—and its search algorithms that increasingly favor quality content—more businesses are making content strategy a priority. In fact, “content marketing” has become a common buzzword phrase in the social media and SEO worlds. But the art and science of content strategy is nothing new.
You (or someone at your company) may already be involved in content development, and you may be able to provide some important insights and key content elements at the beginning of your project. What should you be considering? Here are a few ideas:
Know your brand
Does your company have a distinctive personality? What “tone” and “voice” do you want to use on your website? Does it match up with all of your other communication and outreach?
If you’re practicing integrated marketing, a website will be one of several key pieces in your promotional puzzle. A distinct and consistent identity is vital, and a content strategist will want to understand the nuances of your brand and what makes your business unique.
Know your audience
Who are your customers? Who are your prospects? Understanding your target audience is critical not only to content development, but to your entire marketing and communication strategy.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that most failed marketing campaigns can be traced back to a fundamental misunderstanding (or an unwillingness to pinpoint) the target audience. Many organizations are afraid to exclude any potential customers, so they claim that their product or service is for everyone. The truth is, the brands that focus on a small but specific audience are often the most successful … And end up attracting a larger number of fans and customers.
You really can’t be too specific when it comes to describing your audience. A content strategist will want to know basic demographic information (age, location, ethnicity, income, gender) as well as more subtle insights: Where do they shop? Where do they get their news? What television shows do they watch? Where do they get their coffee every morning? What magazines and blogs do they read?
Know your assets
Many companies are sitting on a gold mine of existing content, just waiting to be cataloged and repurposed. A content strategist will want access to everything: printed brochures, email newsletters, radio ads, event photos, white papers, and more.
Be sure to provide multimedia files (photos, videos, and audio) in the highest fidelity available, even if it will just be a small web image. That way, you’ll be prepared for future projects and redesigns with a flexible and robust library of quality content elements.
Know your strengths
How will you contribute to the content development process? Some businesses choose to write copy and gather photos and videos to submit for editing and organizing. Others prefer to have a content strategist provide recommendations for refreshing existing materials and creating new content based on templates.
Even if your content developer is creating everything from scratch, you’ll still need to help her connect with information resources and subject matter experts. Your business and industry insight is essential, and you can transfer that knowledge even if you don’t write everything yourself.
Know your process
Does it take more than a week to get logos and photos from your corporate media relations department? Will all the text need to be approved by your company’s attorney? Are there special regulatory guidelines for marketing materials in your industry?
All of these factors will impact the content development process, and will also affect your organization’s workflow for maintaining existing content and adding new content after the initial project is completed.
Know your goals
More thoughtful, specific goals lead to more thoughtful, specific content. Saying “we want people to come to this event” is much different than saying “we want to show Maryland business owners how this conference will help them hire better employees.” Be clear about your overall strategy, as well as the role you want content to play in meeting those expectations.
A proactive and well-rounded content strategist can help you figure out answers to questions in all the categories above. But the more you’ve considered in advance, and the more information you can provide up-front, the easier it will be to develop effective content on a tight timeline or limited budget.