“Create relevant, engaging digital content,” they said. “It’ll be easy,” they said. And then the world of content marketing and content strategy exploded. As the drive to create content at scale and serve it across multiple platforms in a contextually relevant manner has grown, so has the need for a robust content organization.
From Content Strategy to Content Experience
So, how mature is your content organization? There are many content maturity models out there. We like Rahel Bailie’s 2011 model the best for its simplicity and focus on content as a key element of an organization’s overall growth strategy.
But as digital and content marketing have become increasingly complex, we find that the most successful organizations don’t just excel at content strategy, they deliver a connected and contextual content experience to customers. That’s a more complex proposition, which requires a content organization to do more things well. So it’s no longer sufficient to evaluate “content strategy maturity” on its own.
Instead, evaluate your organization’s “content experience maturity” across these five pillars:
- Strategy and planning
- Content creation
- Content architecture
- Content operations
- Content optimization
5 Pillars of Content Experience
Strategy and Planning
While there are likely a number of folks thinking strategically about content in your organization, a mark of maturity is how those strategies tie back to overall audience and business goals, and how consistent they are across organizational silos.
Some of the questions to ask yourselves include:
- Does your content strategy tie back to your organization’s short- and long-term goals?
- Is your content strategy centered around the informational and educational needs of your audiences?
- Are content teams collaborating across teams and silos to build a cohesive strategy?
To guard against what we affectionately call “random acts of content,” a mature content organization will have in place the guides and guardrails that support the creation of relevant and engaging content. While not everyone can and should be creating content, the reality is that the responsibility falls on a large and disparate group of individuals, and it’s important to ensure they’re equipped and empowered to do a good job.
To understand how mature your content creation practice is, ask yourself:
- Is content developed based on a messaging framework and actionable style guidelines?
- Do you have enough of the right resources in place to deliver on your content plan?
- Does your organization use consistent content briefs or intake forms to gather information from key stakeholders?
Related Article: Content Teams: Beware the Headless CMS
Not just for websites, your content architecture defines the structure and hierarchy of the content you create and manage. Mature content organizations have documented content architectures, addressing the entire content ecosystem down to the smallest content building blocks or elements.
Key activities involve:
- Mapping out informational flows across your content ecosystem.
- Structuring content for re-use across multiple platforms and content formats.
- Developing a design system and/or content models.
Content operations is about putting in place the processes, tools and metadata that empower people to create content.
“You’re helping to make sure that everyone can be a content creator — but it’s happening with a high level of clarity and accountability in place, so that you’re set up for success,” said Jeneba Wint, AVP of Content Operations at LPL Financial, in a recent conversation with GatherContent.
The maturity of your content operations depends on whether you have a:
- Clear set of content workflows in place, including roles, permissions and tracking.
- Taxonomy that will support delivering a dynamic, user-facing experience and help internal teams as they manage content.
- Framework for content governance and how it’s applied.
Content strategies are great, but how do you know if they’re working? As your content organization matures, it’s important to test and measure the performance and quality of your content so you can optimize it, and adjust your strategy and approach based on what you learn.
- Do you have a measurement plan that will help you understand if key content goals and KPIs are being met?
- Are you assessing content on an ongoing basis and optimizing it based on the results?
- Are you user testing your content with key audiences and incorporating feedback in the content planning process?
Related Article: Structured Content Gives Companies Room to Scale
Don’t Try to Do Everything at Once
If this all seems a little overwhelming, that’s because it can be. I often hear organizations say they just don’t know where to start.
The key to evolving and maturing as a content organization is first to understand where you are today. Conduct a judgment-free assessment to paint a baseline picture of your organization’s maturity. Then, within each of the content experience pillars, start to prioritize initiatives and build a roadmap for implementation.
As with many things, while you’re in the trenches, it may feel as though progress is slow. But you’ll be surprised when you pop your head up after six months or a year and are able to see real, measurable progress.
Lindy Roux is executive vice president and partner at Tendo Communications, a B2B content agency based in San Francisco. She has over two decades of experience in content and digital strategy, CMS, SEO, user experience, consumer insights, branding and analytics.