The following Guest Blog was written by Melissa Rach, Co-Founder, Dialog Studios.
Pssst. Here’s a trade secret. At Brain Traffic, we can usually predict how successful a content strategy will be after the first few weeks with a client. No, we’re not clairvoyant. We don’t even have a fancy algorithm or success scorecard.
Here’s the trick:
We simply look at how receptive the project sponsors are to collaborating with others within their organization. It’s our experience that people who are open to input and opinions succeed far more often than those who try to keep their projects under wraps.
Why? Because content strategy requires outreach and alignment.
Content touches just about every area of the organization. When you introduce a new content strategy, you’re asking all of those people to change their habits, opinions, and accountabilities. As a result, your strategy is only going to work if people get on board. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone has to agree on everything—that can be impossible. Alignment isn’t necessarily about creating consensus. It’s about creating a common understanding.
Getting alignment isn’t as hard as you might think. You can start by ensuring your project stakeholders:
Know the basics about your project
Your first alignment priority is to make sure everyone has access to the same information—so they can participate in conversations and make educated decisions. You need to make sure they know (at a high level):
- What content strategy is, how it could benefit the organization, and how it could benefit them
- What content exists today
- What internal and external factors impact your content—highlighting user research, competitive research, and an overview of the content workflow process
Know each other
You also need to help stakeholders learn about each other. In large organizations, it’s not uncommon for people to meet each other for the first time on a content project. Even in small companies, people see each other in a new light during the content strategy process. Helping people understand and engage with each other is critical. So take time to explain:
- How everyone fits into the content strategy puzzle
- What role each person is playing on the project
- How needs and perspectives differ, and why
Know what’s next
Lastly, you need to set the stage for the rest of the project. People always want to know:
- What are the immediate next steps?
- What is their role in the process?
- How much and how often can they/will they need to participate?
The more stakeholders know, the more they’ll feel some ownership in your content projects from day one. Remember, stakeholders are your allies—or, if they’re not initially, it’s your job to find that common ground. The success of your content strategy depends on it.
Melissa Rach (@melissarach) is co-author of Content Strategy for the Web, 2nd edition and co-founder of Dialog Studios (www.dialogstudios.com), a consultancy that helps organizations use content to connect to people who are important to them. Formerly vice president of content strategy at Brain Traffic, Melissa originally published this post on the Brain Traffic blog on February 16th, 2012.