Leading content change in a large, highly-regulated organization brings unique challenges to delivering clear, consistent, and straightforward content. For example, if, like me, you work in the healthcare industry, you are constantly faced with turning complex terms and jargon into easy-to-understand content for the public. And, this rings true for many industries.
Here are five lessons I have learned in the process of leading content change at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
The first place you want to focus on is your leadership. Once leadership understands how content can improve the consumer’s experience and buys in, resources will follow. KPIs are key. Leaders talk to leaders using data stories and want to project success.
If the goal of your content strategy is to deliver simple content, for example, find a metric that captures how complex your content currently is. Then find a metric that illustrates how simple your content will be in one to two years, after you make changes. Establish a baseline—then pulse check and track progress.
Example KPI: Choose a readability formula but know that they all have limitations. Getting a “good score” is not a guarantee that your content is easy to read.
As content people, our instinct is to think about end-users first. When leading content change in a large organization, your end-users and your internal stakeholders are equally important. Delivering thousands of communications daily, monthly, or annually, requires an army.
When thinking about your stakeholders, ask yourself:
Make sure you listen to what your internal stakeholders need.
Help communicators across your enterprise connect with your content strategy. For example, instead of calling your initiative an enterprise content strategy, which is a marketing term, give it a name. If the goal of your strategy is to be consistent across all communications, try something like “One Voice.”
Remember, many of your colleagues may be in a position that requires them to write or develop content. This may not be the main part of their job, and they may not have training in it. Be sensitive to their perspective. Being aware of this is important if your content strategy recommends change that affects staff in those types of roles. Create an environment of support. Your content strategy is not a criticism of abilities or talent. You want to motivate.
There will be obstacles to overcome—technology, silos, a never-ending list of stakeholders, business versus customer as priority, team structures, ownership, resources. You name it. Some co-workers already knew there was a problem, and just didn’t know how to solve it. Consider building a network of like-minds.
Example Network: Start a grassroots workgroup. This means asking for volunteers from across the company who want to help deliver on the content goals. Hold quarterly meetings for updates and knowledge sharing. Maybe the workgroup can act as a distributed team. What do you want to be done—and how can they help? A volunteer grassroots workgroup is different from a dedicated team. Workgroup members are often working across various projects, so set your expectations accordingly. Other ideas for a workgroup include setting up workshops or developing resources to share with communicators that explain ways to use brand voice or simplify content.
Creating significant change in a large and complex organization will require a trial-and-error process. Create a fail-fast culture. But don’t be so quick that you deliver inaccurate content. If you are in a regulated industry like banking or healthcare, be sure legal and compliance are part of your review workflow.
Team members will likely get frustrated along the way, but there are ways you can help them. Be a coach. Sit side-by-side and co-write a letter, blog post, or web page with your colleague. Doing so will allow you to see firsthand how your new content strategy needs to evolve and will give team members a chance to weigh in.
You will also need to be ready to reinforce and repeat the new content rules frequently. Content change takes time, and you will get pushback. Sometimes it will be pushback that is useful and other times it won’t be. Get ready to make changes to your new content strategy when necessary and uphold and explain the strategy when team members need it reinforced.
Get comfortable, find a hobby, exercise, sleep. And be kind to yourself. Leading large-scale change is demanding.
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