Designers and developers are master problem-solvers, but it’s also crucial to have a content strategist on your team.
Traditionally, user experience (UX) has been considered the realm of designers and developers, but if a user has a confusing experience on your website, the best design or the fastest load time aren’t going to save you. If your content is lousy, you can’t design your way around it. If your message is off, no code can save it. A content strategist supplements and enhances a strong UX team by posing questions like “Who is the audience?”, “How can we help our visitors find this?”, “What style or tone of voice are we using?”
What is the role of a content strategist?
Content strategy is defined many ways and is an intersection of many disciplines – communications strategy, information design, copywriting. So, all that aside, here’s how we do it at Grain & Mortar. We use content strategy to plan for the creation of compelling, relevant content – copy, photos, video and more. We strategize our way back from your business goals and the needs of your audience to make sure content:
- is consistent with your brand message and values,
- makes you sound credible,
- helps you stand out from the competition, and
- delivers according to your objectives.
Ideally, the content strategist and designer work together from the start of a project. The more they discover about your product or company, the better. Both will interpret the information from their unique perspectives, which allows them to support and challenge each other creatively in subsequent stages.
What is the content strategy process?
Our process is built around targeted experimentation. Designers and copywriters can tinker and take chances safely because we have structured parameters built around our exploration.
While the process feels meandering, each stage is “controlled wandering.” There is always a built-in point where the copy gets pulled back to be tested by the design and vice versa. With each iteration, the disciplines improve each other. And as we progress, ideas become more solid, answers emerge, and direction is clear.
Starting with the research and discovery stage, we tear things apart, we veer and zig zag, all in an effort to better understand our client, their objectives, and any obstacles. During this time we may not know the exact answers to things, and that, too, makes everyone queasy. But uncertainty is good at this point. We may not know what the end looks like, but we know how to get there.
In the early stages of website projects, the process can feel messy. It can be uncomfortable for our clients. But the truth is — messiness is good for creativity. Sometimes, it has to get ugly before it can get pretty.
How do our clients contribute to content strategy?
Our process accommodates for the challenges inherent to content development, but there are steps our clients can take especially regarding copywriting, to ensure success.
1. Allow enough time.
Strategic copywriting includes the initial discovery and research required to understand a company, business, or product. We review original materials — including current web content. We audit the competitive landscape. We create your content so it adheres to web writing best practices (readability, structure, voice/tone, and so on).
We make sure to dedicate ample time for strategy and development as we timeline each project. We suggest our clients perform an initial content survey before beginning a website project. For instance, take stock of what you have that is reusable or needs updating. You can also perform basic tasks such as compiling your company history, gathering staff bios, identifying your company’s mission or vision statement, and creating boilerplate descriptions of your product or company.
2. Assign appropriate resources.
Before our clients begin their website projects, we recommend identifying a “point person” who is knowledgeable about company values, products, services, and internal dynamics. If that person can write or edit copy, that is a huge benefit. After a site launches, resources need to be dedicated to keep the site up to date and manage any social media tie-ins.
The creation of website content requires knowledge, authority, and time. After your site launches, your website will require updates and maintenance. Whether your site will be updated daily, monthly, or annually, you will need a person or a team to address that task.
Content strategy ensures that you “start with the end in mind.” It clarifies a project’s objectives and assures that a website’s messaging is seamless.