Why Your Web Content Strategy Should Be Driving Enterprise Content Strategy

Pssst … Hey you. Yeah, you with your marketer hat on. Is your Web content becoming more and more important to your client? Is your client upping her spend on content creation for the Web?

Web Content Strategy Drives Enterprise Content Strategy
If the answer is yes, and your Web content strategy hasn’t started influencing (if not shaping) your enterprise content strategy, you could be in for a rude awakening.

For good reason, content strategy and user experience design have a nice long process in place to assist in content and site creation. Through persona development, messaging mix and the creation of a content governance plan, we should be able to create content that can be delivered as scattershot as we’d like or as precisely as the bullet from the Army’s best snipers. We already know a lot of folks don’t follow these processes when they develop new content for the web, but if you do, what’s stopping you from flipping the process on its head and applying it to your enterprise work?

Here are just four (and there are a lot more) reasons why you should allow a well-established Web content strategy to start influencing the enterprise stuff:

1.Good Content Strategy starts with personas, which essentially means you know the individual needs, drivers and habits of the various potential content consumers (customers, etc.)

Who wouldn’t want to start delivering different enterprise materials to their audience based on their habits? It has the potential to prevent creep on project scope, reduce printing costs or highlight deficiencies in your enterprise messaging mix. If we have a better understanding of who the content consumer is, chances are we may even be able to eliminate certain messaging mediums altogether. Does 89-year-old Uncle Morty really need a big glossy photo in the local city magazine for a sale on his bed sore cream? Probably not.

In bed-stricken Uncle Morty’s case, should we really be messaging to his caregivers? What are the best ways to do that in a non-digital way? Personas and a content plan based on those personas help determine exactly what we should be producing.

2. Governance Plans keep messaging fresh and on target.

How many times do you see the exact same asset, or message or mailer from a company on a weekly or monthly basis if you even notice it in the first place? It doesn’t take too long for some messages or assets to get incredibly stale. Governance Plans are in place on the Web to combat this and they can certainly be used for non-digital communication plans. We don’t have to do look any further than our daily stack of mail and the custom publications we receive from brands we’re affiliated with to see whether or not the content we’re being served is still being effective.

Good Governance Plans put expiration dates on content.

3. Adoption Of The Web Approach For Enterprise Solutions Leads To Accelerated Release Of Content To The Market

Marrying your Web content strategy to your enterprise approach allows for content that is rooted from a proven process. Through synthesis of strong consumer, social and product insights that lead to several personas, content creators have shorter creation cycles due to laser focused content goals and reduced maintenance cycles.

Our creators spend far less time repeatedly authoring new content because they reuse existing content wherever possible, supplementing it with modified content where appropriate. (Uncle Morty only needs you to change some sentence structure to speak from a position of authority about bed sore cream as opposed to trying to educate him about its potential benefits).

With a unified process in the driver’s seat, Editors also spend less time reviewing content across channels because they only have to review the content that is new or changed; existing content has already been reviewed and signed off. With more work done on defining needs up front, we can drastically affect the publishing and production cycles by reducing the scope for our content creation teams.

4. Content rooted in strategy is BETTER CONTENT!

This one sort of seems like a no brainer, but it’s worth pointing out. We’re not guessing or doing creative solutions for the sake of doing creative solutions because our reasons for doing print, web, broadcast, mobile apps or any other medium are clearly defined. Content that is clearly modeled for consistent structure; improves things like readability and usability. Most importantly, content is accurate and consistent wherever it appears. Issues of inaccurate content, inconsistent content, or missing content are reduced or eliminated because it all has a reason to be there.

This process is incredibly repeatable and can be applied to a variety of organizational situations. Think about marketing materials, advertising, internal Web sites, corporate communications or even your news releases. It’s time to stop thinking of the Web content strategy as a separate monster and start thinking of it as the driver for a more unified publishing vision.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Katie Riddle says:

    Hi Daniel…
    I think that if you changed the title of the article to “How to Create a User- and Business-centered Content Strategy,” your article would be spot on. You include a lot of great information about what should go into a content strategy. But in my opinion, you didn’t prove your premise.

    All of the processes that you describe as web content strategy-oriented, like:

    “Through synthesis of strong consumer, social and product insights that lead to several personas, content creators have shorter creation cycles due to laser focused content goals and reduced maintenance cycles.”

    are done for enterprise-wide communications strategies all the time. That’s what I’ve spent my last few years doing.

    The web is an element in a company’s communications strategy. It’s one gun in the arsenal. It can be an cannon or a rifle, depending on personas and business needs (retail business=very important, vs. retirement home=not so much). One communications channel shouldn’t drive the communications strategy for everything else.

    Just my 2 cents!

  • Katie:

    Agree with you on this one. Firguring out what to actually call this was something I admittedly struggled with and I agree that it presumes the Web should drive everything, which I certainly don’t support.

    Agree with your point as well on the fact that social, product and consumer insights are often part of enterprise content strategy, but I’m of the belief that many big agencies, think tanks and content producers don’t approach it in the same order and way that content strategy does.

    I’m finding that many brands aren’t asking for these deliverables in their enterprise-wide strategies.

    For example, in my experience (which admittedly is within an advertising agency) many brands view ‘personas’ as what they are receiving from a media buying partner as opposed to the deeper variety that would come from strategists that gather everything from social technographics to Forrester data, etc. That leaves creative direction on content to production to client direction or creative direction only, which can result in a huge content failure.

    I guess it’s my true hope that we’re able to start showing how success in the digital space via a strong strategic framework and rigid testing, can provide huge wins in every other communication medium when planned with the same care that some firms are now giving their web contnet.

    Perhaps I’ll go through the exercise of changing it. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Hoping some other folks chime in with their experiences with barriers to developing on the enterprise side as well.

    – Dan

  • seamus walsh says:

    Dan, thanks for you insightful post. I disagree with Katie, it’s not a content issue, its an integration issue.

    If your website is brochureware and does not give users the ability to book orders with future delivery I think you are safe for now. But anyone who is selling customized products, services or are allocating finished goods work-in-process to customer orders it is a necessity.

    You know much more about the automobile industry then I, but the scenario holds true for many product and service industries. I walk into a showroom and don’t order off the lot (current in-house inventory.) Instead I order a car for a future delivery with custom features, integration is required for insight into raw materials, labor requirements, ship dates etc.

    Even product companies like Nike and Timberland, mass produce custom products. As clients and customers expect more, we all need to have web integration to enterprise applications for insight that can serve the customer the details about the order.

    There is no doubt, the barriers the naysayers are many, but as companies integrate the web more and more into the customer’s buying life-cycle the silo’s will have to come down.

  • Katie Riddle says:

    I guess it’s true that our past makes us what we are. I come from a design consultancy background, similar to frog design or IDEO, where personas were taken very seriously (distilled from ethnographic studies, user interviews, etc.) So that colors my opinion that most of the top brands develop brand->communications->content strategies in a channel-agnostic way, THEN customize per media/per audience. In an ideal world…:)

  • seamus walsh says:

    Katie and Dan, I agree, my past influences my thought process when it comes to content strategy. There is no doubt, that coming at it from an enterprise ERP and sales standpoint, it’s all about integration of the customer’s buying life cycle into enterprise applications.

    As varied people intersect focused on a particular issue, we can have several outcomes (and plenty of opinions)

    1. We can continue to see things as individual contributors.

    2. We could interpret and integrate the best ideas of all contributors

    At the end of the day, I think the varied opinions and experiences will benefit the whole. I hope you agree.

    All the best,


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