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8 Steps to Understanding Your Content

| June 28, 2017 | Suraj Renganathan

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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!

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