You know how chefs get ornary when they find out you want to hold an ingredient, or substitute something in its place? Well, I can sympathize with their reaction in my line of work.
In the case of content strategy, skipping strategic steps up front will always dilute the end result. If you are presented with a supervisor who wants to “ala carte” your content strategy project, here is your defense:
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”We already have marketing goals established. We don’t need another set of goals?”
Why it can’t be skipped: Marketing goals often cover umbrella ideas for all initiatives. But as a result, they do not offer tactical aspirations when it comes to something as complex as content. That being said, content goals should always take the lead from marketing goals, and translate them to relevant applications. “If we want to accomplish x, then our content online must do y.” Content goals also have great longevity: you can hand them to any good content writer down the road, and they’ll have their marching orders.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”It takes too much time. Can’t we just audit 20 pages and be done with it?”
Why it can’t be skipped: How many websites a day do you visit? And of those, what percent do you bounce from due to a bad user experience, or content that just doesn’t make sense? Exactly. Odds are, your site is turning someone off right now because a link is broken, a navigational path is too convoluted, a typo makes you look sloppy, or a page they thought was about A is actually about B. The point is, none of us have patience when we’re online. The only way to wrap your head around what’s wrong with your content (and how your site supports it) is to allow someone to get in the weeds and start pulling.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”Now that we know what’s wrong, why don’t we just fix it?”
Why it can’t be skipped: Completing an audit and identifying fixes is just the beginning. And if small fixes are identified — typos, broken links, empty fields — go ahead and get going on them. But an audit isn’t like editing a mid-term paper. The biggest reason for this exercise is to identify overlapping trends across the site that are preventing you from accomplishing your content goals. Often, this goes beyond just the words on a page, and trickles over to design, development and even workflow. Documenting the tactics that will need to be employed — as well as who they involve and in what order they need to be implemented — not only gets everyone on the same page, but its creates an easy-to-follow way forward for everyone.
Frequent excuse for skipping: ”Kale is bitter. I would rather eat dandelions laced with Roundup.”
Why it can’t be skipped: Kale you can skip. I hate kale, too. I’d even ask a Top Chef to substitute it.
The three steps outlined above are just the three most common ones to be jettisoned from my experience, and certainly, every project is different. But content strategy is founded on (a) establishing objectives, (b) evaluating how you are currently meeting (or failing) those objectives, and (c) establishing a corrective course of action. It’s not a three-course meal. It’s a process. Don’t skip any of these steps.