The ten commandments of content strategy

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This post is the last of a series on online content strategies developed in cooperation between the Europa.eu web team and web consultant Sue Davis. Thanks for everything, Sue!


1. Think ‘content first’ and ‘content always’

Talk about content early on in the site production process. Don’t allow your site’s development to be led by design or technology. Minimise use of ‘Lorem ipsum’ and filler text, so that your placeholder text is more real. See blog post on the Tyranny of Lorem Ipsum.

2. Treat content as a business asset

Our website is more than just images and words, it is an extension of our organisation. We need to ensure our website serves the needs of our organisation, aligns with our organisational goals. See The value of content on government websites

3. Thou shalt not create ‘content blobs’

Instead create chunks of modular content which can be reused and combined. Your content should be held in a series of fields that enable the design to be separate from the content. This ‘structured content’ will be more flexible, meaning it can be reused and recombined on a variety of platforms and channels. See Adapting ourselves to adaptive content, a talk by Karen McGrane.

4. Steal great ideas from UX and IA

Put user experience (UX) and information architecture processes to work for our content strategy uses. Personas, top tasks, journey mapping, empathy maps, content inventories, usability testing and wireframes can be used to help assess and develop content, not just create usable designs and structure. See Content strategy essentials.

5. Steal great ideas from print publishing

Put good old-media processes and ideas to work as part of our content strategy. For example, we can use: editorial calendars and publishing schedules, workflow, editing, quality control and editorial style guides, and ongoing planning and management when publishing web content.

6. Thou shalt not ‘launch and leave’

Although we can use some print publishing ideas, web content has a different lifecycle. Content needs continual evaluation by page owners to prevent it becoming irrelevant, outdated or trivial. We will also need to consider when content needs archiving and deleting. See Archiving web content

7. Content should exceed our readers’ expectations

It should be accurate, original, usable, relevant and scannable.

8. Your CMS should be a slave to your content strategy

It should enhance publishing and not get in the way. It should enhance workflow rather than create a straightjacket that doesn’t work. See Strategic content management, by Jonathan Kahn.

9. Steal great ideas from agile and lean project management

We could create leaner and meaner content by using some processes and ideas from agile and lean, for example: creating ‘minimal viable content’ – stripping away as much as we can that doesn’t help our audience, learning lessons from your audience once content is ‘in the wild’, failing fast and learning from mistakes, publishing what you can maintain.

10. Create a strategy for your strategy

All your plans will fail if they don’t consider organisational and people aspects of the plan: the internal structures, culture and workflow. As Peter Drucker said “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

OK disciples – spread the word!

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