Wise Content Strategists Ask “Who” 10 Times

Wise Content Strategists Ask “Who” 10 Times

Content is a team sport. One that requires commitment, cooperation and collaboration — not only within your core content team but across organizational silos. You can’t do it all alone (and you wouldn’t want to!), so it’s important to know who will own each key element of your program. And to know who, you need to ask who — not just once but 10 times over.

So if you’re at the start of a new content project, you’d be wise to ask “who” for 10 key content roles.

Content Strategists Know Who Owns Content

1. Who are we creating content for?

To create content that will be useful and used, you must start with your audience in mind. Of course, you know this already so it almost goes without saying that answering this who is not only vital; it’s also just the first in a series of questions you need to answer to ensure your content connects — What do they need? Where will they find it? How will they use it? Why should they care?

2. Who are we as a business? 

Yes, your content must serve your customers. But it must also serve your company. For content to be authentic, meaningful, credible and effective, it must also be true to the essence of your business, consistent with your purpose, and relevant to your brand. It must speak to your strategy and be pursued with your priorities and objectives in mind. Failure to ask this who often lies at the heart of heinous content misfires that not only don’t benefit the business, but often don’t benefit anybody at all.

3. Who will create it?

Whether you choose to create content in-house, through an agency, in collaboration with influencers or by tapping outside experts, you can’t move beyond planning without working out production. Success requires that you line up the talent, get your content on their calendar, and manage them through to completion.

4. Who will inform it?

If your CEO or head of product development is blogging this one may not apply to you (at least not in every instance.) But in most larger organizations or when an organization of any size works with a content agency or consultancy, the person creating the content won’t necessarily be the person with the most subject matter expertise. If you’ve been involved in a web build, blog series or white paper production and — at some point midway through the project — found yourself staring at big blocks of lorem ipsum, odds are you forgot to ask this question. Great content requires great source material — source material that is complete, accurate and up to date — and great source material comes when you ask, “Who are the experts in my organization?”

5. Who must approve it?

Oh, you thought that if you made it and your marketing director OK’d it, you were ready to go? And then hours before your piece was meant to go live, you discovered that a host of decision makers all across your organization — from legal to corporate communications to investor relations to the head of sales — needed to bless every last word on your page and pixel in your photo? Failure to know and account for what can often be a complex, lengthy path from “draft it” to “do it” can result in lengthy delays or outright obstacles in any content project. Ask this question early and, if you don’t like the answers you receive, ask it often.

6. Who could derail it?

The same people who must approve your content may also be the people who can derail your content process — but they may not be the only ones. Every org chart hides hidden influencers who may not have authority but certainly have decision makers’ ears and often have not-so-subtle sway over when, where and how certain things get done. A sales manager at odds with your in-house content marketers? A comptroller who sees content as a waste of money? An overworked IT guy on a crusade to whittle down his own workload (“needless” site refreshes top his list)? An HR director who harbors a secret desire to be your company’s blogger-in-chief? To avoid setbacks as deadlines loom near, identify, engage, involve and befriend (or in worst case scenarios, defuse) these people early in the process.

7. Who will publish it?

Maybe you’ve got a lean, mean content operation, and the person (you) writing the copy is the same person (also, you) publishing it to your site. Odds are, though, someone else hold the keys to your content kingdom. A webmaster, someone in the IT department, a web marketing manager, a producer at an outside agency. We’ve seen more than a few pieces of content get caught in a queue (sometimes well past their due date) when the project sponsor has forgotten to plan for publication, and failed to engage the publisher early enough to get into their workflow. Know who takes the hand-off, how much notice they need, and what’s likely to hold them up — long before your zero moment of truth.

8. Who will promote it?

This one is the close cousin to “who will publish it,” and should be obvious to anyone who knows that content can’t market itself. Identify your social media managers, your email marketers, your public relations people, and even the right folks inside your marketing agencies — anyone who can help make sure the right content gets to the right people through the right channels, right when they need it.

9. Who is responsible for maintaining it?

Ah, the big gotcha in many content projects — the assumption that once your content is live, you’re done. Any content strategist can tell you this is far from true. Without ongoing maintenance, today’s best-in-class content becomes stale, increasingly inaccurate, obviously outdated, and otherwise unhelpful to consumers and the company. Slapdash efforts to make up for this could cause well meaning people to compensate by adding more, more, different, different, more — until you’re the proud owner of an unmanageable mess of duplicate content, dormant destinations, broken links and confused constituents. At the start of a project, it might seem like you have plenty of time to think about who will maintain what you create. At that moment, early on, do yourself a favor: Answer this who and put a plan in place before you need one.

10. Who should see the results?

Let’s face it. Content is hard work, and you probably wouldn’t do it if you didn’t believe it would benefit your business. So it’s only natural that, when it works, you’ll want to make sure the right people know about it. There’s no hidden gotcha here — this is your chance to shine, an opportunity to show-off performance, to celebrate successes, and to make sure that anyone who needs to know your content is doing its job as a strategic asset of the business– from your content project sponsor to your budget approver to your internal content users to your CEO — knows. Needless to say, even a small win helps make the case for your next content project (and the ones after that.)

If you’re midway through a content project and realize you haven’t answered some of these important questions, or you’re about to start and you’re feeling stumped, you know who you can turn to for answers about content strategy, workflow and governance. And if you think we missed an eleventh or twelfth (or one-hundred-and-twelfth) “who” in your content process, drop us a line to let us know.

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