No doubt about it: content is king! High-quality content enhances the user journey, gets people excited about a product and captures their interest. Often, however, there is no comprehensive approach to the content lifecycle. Content marketers complain about changing formats, silo thinking, confusing processes and lack of insight into content performance.
Carmen Candinas and Matthias Schmid explain the six common challenges in content management and how to master them.
6 Challenges in the Content Lifecycle
#1: Unclear Roles and Responsibilities
A piece of content goes through many hands in its lifecycle: Web editors, UX writers, SEO specialists, marketing managers and translators create and publish content. In addition, specialists from other departments, product managers and legal advisors contribute knowledge and expertise. Everyone involved has their own specific perspective and their own agenda. It is not surprising that common ground can be hard to find with so many players involved.
Even though there are many people involved in content production – or maybe because of this – it is not always clear who is responsible for a specific piece of content. Often, there is no dedicated content team that has authority over the content. And even if they do, they frequently lack the resources to manage the content holistically.
#2: Cannibalisation Through Redundant Content
The problem described above creates many others: Without a dedicated content team, there is no one to keep track of and coordinate the various topics and websites. That may lead to different entities in the organisation creating (sub)pages on topics that compete with each other.
In banks, for instance, there are often different departments creating subpages on topics such as “investing” or “mortgages”. These pages then end up vying for attention. As a result, users end up in the “wrong” part of the website: Private customers, for example, may end up in the area for business customers after a Google search.
#3: One Size Fits All Approach
Content is initially created with a specific purpose and specific format in mind, but then later the content piece must often serve several platforms and channels.
An example: An in-depth profile of a specific person is created for the print edition of the customer magazine. The job is contracted out to a third-party communications agency, a photographer is hired to take pictures. Since the profile costs the company a lot of money, the text is later also to be recycled on the website and social media. But by the time the content is to be published, the problem becomes blatantly obvious: There is no suitable web content such as video sequences, metadata, microcopy or alt texts. Also, different rules apply to print texts than to web texts: Structure, composition and even word choice differ significantly.
But the biggest problem in cases such as these is that the target group is often neglected. Are the readers of the print magazine really identical to the readers of the website? Are the users really looking for a profile, or are they interested in a different aspect of the topic? And what even is the online goal of the profile?
#4: Format Changes Throughout the Lifecycle
Project briefing, text creation, review, translation and publication: These process steps are often performed by different actors in different tools. A typical approach may look like this: An expert creates a briefing on a page in Word which they send to the marketing department via email. Within the marketing team, a web editor takes on the task and creates a draft text based on the briefing. To optimise the text for user-friendliness and topic coverage, they forward the text to an SEO specialist, who uses SEO software for keyword research. The finetuning of the text now happens in the SEO tool. For the final adjustments, the text is then copied back to the Word document. On and on it goes: Until a text is fed into a content management system, it is imported and exported from and into a range of tools and emailed back and forth between various parties. This process comes with numerous format changes, which makes it inefficient and prone to errors.
#5: No Consideration of the Content Value
More and more content strategists place relevant content at the heart of their activities, with “content first” in mind. But what is the value of this content for the company? This question is not easy to answer, which is why it is often disregarded. But this value would be an important indicator to help decide what financial and human resources should go into the production of a content piece. If it is not clear what objectives a content item pays toward (in terms of micro and macro conversions) and where it is embedded in the customer journey, that is hard to assess.
#6: “Stale” and Dated Content
And last but not least: Content is often not updated because it took (too) long to get it online in the first place. Editing a published text often requires lengthy discussions with many stakeholders. Processes and resources for text edits are sometimes not institutionalised or available. The maintenance of existing content requires clearly defined processes and responsibilities.
Content Strategy to the Rescue
A content strategy helps tackle the challenges described above. A content strategy is a plan for the creation, publication and maintenance of useful and accessible content. It helps companies build a solid foundation for content production. The following elements form the cornerstones:
The 4 Steps of the Content Strategy in the Content Lifecycle
Who is part of the content team? What are their responsibilities? And what decisions are they authorised to make? Institutionalised governance mechanisms define rights and responsibilities. This includes role descriptions, clearly defined tasks and decision-making powers. It also includes spaces for exchange, such as editors’ meetings and content planning.
As well as rights and duties, targets and budget must also be defined for effective governance. A path-oriented analysis of user behaviour can serve as a basis for decision-making. This way, a contribution to the conversion value can be attributed to every content piece. That, in turn, allows for an estimation of the current monetary value of a content page and the target value after optimisation. The sum of these amounts can then be compared to the content production and distribution costs to evaluate and improve the efficiency of content marketing. This is no easy feat, but it pays off when budgets are used well and you get a better feeling for the effects that contents have.
What steps does a content piece have to go through before publication on the website? Which roles are involved? What is the value of reviews? Workflows need to be defined to answer these questions. Tools such as Gathercontent or Sitecore Content Hub are best suited to the content creation workflows. If these tools are used across the entire organisation, format changes can be reduced because text creation and review loops take place within these tools.
Content maintenance, however, needs to be institutionalised. Content audits for quality and quantity help check and optimise content on a regular basis. Redundant content is identified and eliminated and pages with subpar performance are detected and improved.
What kind of content do we need? What messages do we want to send to our target groups? The creation of content tailored to the needs of users that also pays toward the company goals requires close and frequent dialogue with a variety of stakeholders. It pays to summarise the different needs, aspects and objectives in a core strategy. Without a core strategy, you may end up with content on the website that neither serves the needs of users nor pays toward the company goals.
If no goals are defined for the content, measuring them retroactively becomes rather difficult. That is why a core strategy is also helpful when you want to assess the content ROI after the fact.
How do we want to showcase our content? In what language, architecture and priority? The answers to these questions should be documented in content guidelines. They make up the rules for content creation. Declaring content guidelines binding and disseminating them across the entire organisation minimises the risk of the website looking like a random collection of content. Content models help structure content that is used in several places.
Once governance, workflows, substance and structure have been defined, you can successfully tackle many challenges across the content lifecycle.
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