8 Steps to Understanding Your Content
Regardless of your industry, the first step towards a successful content strategy is understanding your content. Although it can be a daunting process, the best way to truly understand your content is to conduct a content audit. A content audit will ultimately help you select the best solutions for improving how you create, manage, publish, and deliver business-critical information to customers, partners, and employees.
So how can you conduct a content audit to get the most value? We boiled down the process into eight critical steps.
Step 1: Define the Objectives and Scope
Before beginning a content audit, you need to define your business and end-user objectives as well as document your authoring and maintenance objectives. Where possible, your objectives should be defined in specific, measurable terms. For example, a possible business objective for a life sciences organization could be to reduce staff training time by five percent for the roll-out of new pharmaceutical products. A content consumer objective might be to reduce the time it takes for customer support teams to find relevant information to no more than seven seconds.
Step 2: Plan Surveys and Inventories
In the content audit, you are on a mission to address questions related to your content, such as:
- What type of content do we create?
- Who consumes the content and how?
- Who creates our content?
- How much does our content cost to create?
To answer these questions you will need to create surveys and inventories for content teams within your organization to complete. In this step, you are creating the documentation that will help you learn how content teams are structured, including roles and responsibilities, content types created, and how final content is delivered.
Step 3: Perform Document and Infrastructure Inventory
In many companies, documents are stored in multiple places, which can be a source of inefficiency and result in errors. To understand where documents live, you will need to conduct a document inventory, which is a quantitative assessment of all content assets, including documents, graphics, charts, photographs, spreadsheets, etc. In this step, you will:
- Identify all document repositories
- Identify where the main authoritative sources of the document are stored
- Determine the document type sub-type each document in the set belongs to
The information you gather here will help in step four.
Step 4: Document Inventory Information
Once you understand your content and where it’s stored, formalize your inventory with more detail about each content asset. You will need to collect and organize the following foundational information about each asset:
- Source File Type
- Navigation Type
- Document Type/Sub-Type
Step 5: Identify Guidelines and Standards
In this step, you will identify which guidelines and standards apply to your content. Here are some examples of possible guidelines and standards for document and content types:
- Title naming convention
- Brand guidelines
- Editorial guidelines
- Legal guidelines (disclaimers/terms of business), metadata taxonomy and usage guidelines
Step 6: Conduct User and Author Surveys
Earlier, in step 2, you planned for user and author surveys. Now is the time to select users and authors for the survey. Be sure to:
- Ensure that the survey sample represents the user and author community
- Identify each document subset and survey each user audience separately
When you survey your authors, include all individuals who are responsible for creating and updating documents that are included in the content audit. With the survey, you are looking for first-hand knowledge of why, how, and by whom content is created, approved, and stored.
Step 7: Perform the Document Audit
The document audit is a qualitative evaluation of the document set and requires the content surveys to be completed and responses analyzed. The purpose is to establish a baseline for the current state of the documents. You will find out:
- The primary purpose or use of the content
- The average frequency users access the content per day, week, month, and year
- Which events trigger the need for the content to be updated, such as regulatory changes
- How well content meets end user requirements
- How easy it is to find the correct content
- How well content adheres to style, brand, consistency and compliance guidelines
If the documents you are auditing have multiple audiences, conduct separate audits for each audience.
Step 8: Perform Document Analysis
The document analysis follows the document audit and should consider all the results from the various surveys and direct observations. The document analysis determines the necessary next steps for implementing a content automation solution. Common issues highlighted during content audits include:
- Inconsistent content order and structure, which impairs consumer comprehension
- Inconsistent wording and accuracy across multiple documents that address the same topic
- Inconsistent style and design
- Heavy reliance on manual processes such as copy and paste.
Step 9 and Beyond
Steps 1-8 will help you fully understand your content and highlight your best practices and areas for improvement. As a result of a content audit, many enterprise organizations confirm the urgency with which they must move away from ad-hoc content creation and management strategies to more formalized content automation processes.
Are you considering conducting a content audit but would like more information? Contact Quark or download the Beginner’s Guide to Content Automation and begin to learn how a content audit can enable you to start planning and designing your content strategy today!