Overcoming Content Deficiency Disorder

I keep reading that companies are drowning in content. But I often run across ones that don’t have enough of the stuff. We’ve all stumbled across these online ghost towns. Everything is stale, static and out of date.

Seen from the inside, these organizations often share similar traits.

  • Lots of managers, no in-house content creators
  • Organizational silos
  • Understaffed communications department
  • Thinks in terms of printed collateral first
  • Unfriendly or nonexistent CMS
  • No governance model for the web

It doesn’t have to be chronic

I’ve labeled this condition Content Deficiency Disorder, and it is one area where content strategy can generate results fast. Here’s a quick and dirty guide to how I do it. Your mileage may vary.

1. Pulse

I try to get a handle on how often the organization wants their website updated (daily, weekly, monthly). I also try to understand how much of the site’s total content needs refreshing over the course of a year. Oh, and figure out who is/will be responsible for the updates.

2. Temperature

Then I audit what I call “communication opportunities”. These are regular or occasional moments in the life of the organization that generate a need to communicate. Think product launches, new customers, opening new offices, upgrades, updates, events, press coverage, new hires, whatever. Make sure to ask the right kinds of questions.

3. Blood pressure

Next, I inventory what the organization already produces for its most common communication opportunities. A good example is a product launch. Maybe a company typically produces a new web page, a PowerPoint prez for the sales team, a press release and a brochure. All these elements must be ready on the day of the launch.

4. Lab work

I look at the processes required to generate these elements and hunt for lightweight, incremental ways to create new content. For example, if the person writing the press release is going to interview the CEO or the Product Manager, why not record the entire interview? The press release will use a couple quotes, but the full interview can be transformed into a written interview or even a podcast. Or maybe the charts and graphs in the PowerPoint can be turned into a slide show. Or the product photos in the brochure could be used to create a virtual tour of the product. You get the idea. The goal is to generate new content with minimal effort by capitalizing on existing content creation processes.

5. Prescription

Finally, together we create a content calendar for each communication opportunity. The trick here is to stagger the release of the content. Using the product launch example again, content is drip fed into the website.

We start by determining the critical mass of online content required on the day of the launch. Say the press release and the product page. Then the interview with the CEO is made available two days later. The slide show a week after that. A first review or article two weeks on. A first case study a month after that. And so on.

We then compile the content events for all the communication opportunities in a master calendar. The goal is to avoid periods with too much or not enough content.

Another rule is that no new content is added to the site without announcing or featuring it.

What about web design?

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned it up until now. That’s because it shouldn’t be started before completed at least the first four steps. By then you should have a pretty good idea of what needs to go where on the home page and in other sections/pages of the web site. Ditto for the CMS.

This is a challenge all by itself, because organizations are brainwashed into thinking that all communications projects start with pretty pictures, not audits. But that’s a whole other blog post.

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  1. Tweets that mention Overcoming Content Deficiency Disorder | RICHTEXT -- Topsy.com - February 17, 2011

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  2. Recruitment in Web Content and Technical Communication | Firehead - February 28, 2011

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