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This chapter is from the book

Content is Political

Okay! After weeks of blood, sweat, and tears, you have a first draft of the content finished. Whew. Now, it’s time to circulate it to the folks who need to review it.

Here’s what happens next:

  • The information architect hasn’t seen this copy since it was “lorem ipsum” in the wireframes, and if she’d known it was going to say THAT, she would have taken a totally different approach.
  • Marketing needs to sit down with you to ensure brand, messaging, and word usage are consistent with current campaign and style guidelines. (Which, didn’t you hear? Those changed again three weeks ago. Here’s the new 100-page manual.)
  • The business owners, by the way, aren’t too happy with the direction marketing is taking with this new campaign. They’re totally missing the boat on at least 14 key benefits, here. Can you take a stab at incorporating those benefits into your copy?
  • Legal is sick and tired of the way everyone seems to be willfully ignoring the fact that we are required by law to include this 800-word disclaimer on every page that mentions this one particular service. They would prefer to see it at the top of the page so that no one will miss it. While they’re at it, they have some input about the way you’ve phrased a few hundred sentences.
  • By the way, your CMS team is going to need two months to enter all this content into the CMS now, not two weeks. This is a lot more than they expected. Sorry.

Um. Hey. Whoa.

When it comes to web content, everyone has something to say. And when no one owns the content, priorities clash, and compromise can end up trumping best practices.

Making decisions that are primarily driven by many opinions puts you in danger of a free-for-all that seriously threatens your content quality, consistency, and effectiveness. As the adage goes, you can’t make all the people happy all the time. Everyone has an agenda, but there’s something you can agree on: You want your content to succeed, both for your business and for your users. A solid content strategy helps align stakeholders on priorities and desired outcomes, which makes life easier for everyone. For more, see Chapter 4, Alignment.

When it comes to content, no organizational unit stands alone. The table on page 24 shows how differing priorities and choices can impact content quality.

Every Organizational Unit has an Impact

If THEY PRIORITIZE ...

ANd NEGLECT TO CONSIDER ...

THE RISKS ARE ...

Business

Budget/ROI Schedule Deliverables

User experience Actual time to develop Project risks

Content doesn't meet user needs Missed deadlines delay project completion

Marketing

Talking about key features and benefits Search engine optimization Ability to measure response

Audience's priorities Customer-facing copy Maintenance post-launch

Content is more promotional than educational Writing suffers from "marketing speak" Content is launched then neglected

Advertising

Campaign-driven creative Highly interactive features Web 2.0 tools

Usability Existing content CMS restrictions or requirements

Content is more flash than substance Content is delivered in animation or graphics that can't be indexed or measured

User Experience

Audience needs and desires Research Visual design

Current state content analysis SEO considerations Planning for content

Business content objectives are overlooked or marginalized Desired content can't be completed by project launch date due to lack of source material, time, or budget

Information Technolog

CMS or development requirements Production workflow

People involved in the content creation process Brand and messaging

Content may be published with a "fix-it-later" plan final published content may not adhere to visual or editorial brand standards

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