From Content Audit to Content Strategy
So, you’ve completed your content audit. Now what?
If you are new to the idea of a content audit, it is the analysis phase and the prep work required to identify and implement a successful content strategy. Read “8 Steps to Understanding Your Content” to learn how to conduct a content audit that will help you truly uncover the who, what, why, and how behind your content.
After examining the results of your audit you will have a better understanding of your content life cycle and the risks and challenges you need to address with your new content strategy. A closer look at their current content requirements and processes leads many enterprise organizations to confirm the urgency with which they must move away from ad-hoc content creation and management strategies.
Based on the findings of your content audit, the next step is to design your content strategy. Designing a content strategy requires a few critical stages, including:
Cataloging Information Products
To develop an appropriate content strategy you need to identify high-priority document types that will have the most impact when your content processes are improved. This includes defining the highest value improvements to be addressed, and estimating the qualitative and quantitative value of making those improvements.
Designing Information Models for Published Documents and Source Content
You’ve identified the high-priority document types and highest value improvements needed. Here you will identify specific end results as they relate to content type, order, occurrence, source, and how they can be developed in an improved content process.
Mapping the Information Design to Standard and/or Custom Information Models
This step requires codifying the analysis into actionable rules and structures that can help guide the selection of software that can apply those rules and guidelines.
Defining Style and Interactivity Guidelines
In order to improve consistency, brand coherence, and comprehension, in this step you plan how design and messaging elements will be managed and delivered across departments within your organization, as well as methods for ensuring adherence to brand rules.
The work you do throughout the content audit and resulting strategy will help your content better support your corporate goals – from improving customer satisfaction and speeding time to market to empowering internal teams with the right information at the right time.
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!