By Ahava Leibtag published February 21, 2011 Est Read Time: 4 min

Creating Great Content: 7 Steps to Keep Your Team on Track

So much has been written about content creation, and it’s easy to get excited about the possibilities. However, have you ever noticed that everyone is gung-ho when the project starts, but things fall apart months later? Do you find yourself asking the following questions:

  • Why is there always a content bottleneck, either in creation or in editing?
  • Why do the developers always seem to need to know so much more than the writer hands off to them?
  • Why do executives look at the work of many months and many people and say, “Nah, this isn’t really what we had in mind”?
  • Why does content creation seem to be such a beast?

Are we all on the same page?

There are a lot of reasons why content projects fizzle. Part of why content creation is so difficult is because everyone on the team has different goals. There may be confusion about what users really need or want. Some may not think the content is important and instead want to focus on a redesign or a new, cool application. And, even if content is given a priority, some may think it is easy to create (not writers, of course).

It also comes down to poor planning and general timeline ignorance:  “Oh, you need that today?”

As an example, let’s consider a legal company that outsources the content of its total compensation packages to an HR company. These packages are typically distributed to employees every July, and they include information on their salary and other benefits, such as healthcare and retirement. Let’s analyze how a project like this could be planned from the beginning so none of the above problems occur.

Practical solutions for the content conundrum

Satisfying both the client (legal company) and their employees is the key here, and that requires careful planning to create content that will appeal to each audience.  Here’s one way to do it, but you can certainly adapt it to your team.

Set the goals of the project

From the beginning, everyone on the team needs to define and set the goals of the project. Leading this effort should be the content creators (either the HR company, or the company they’ve outsourced to create the content).

Do you want to simply hand these content packages to the employees or create a relationship with employees to help them realize they are working at a company with great benefits? Do you need to transition them from printed benefits to online benefit statements? Answering these questions fully will help avoid the typical snafus experienced later.

Talk to the client about content types

The types of content you need will depend on the goals above.  Is print the best format for all employee benefits, or is it better to house the longer content online and produce a printed piece that invites employees to learn more online?

Research the users

Define the user(s) carefully so you know what types of content will appeal to them while also satisfying the overall goals of the project. To avoid making assumptions, conduct focus groups, usability testing and user research. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.  Consider asking a random sample of 15-20 users to get an overall sense. You could also conduct a company-wide online survey.

Document the content development plan

Include things such as timelines and outlines so everyone on the team can weigh in—both the content producers and the client.  Make sure someone on an executive level signs off on it. Consider it a roadmap.

Develop the content in stages

Ask the stakeholders to weigh in at the draft format, halfway point and final product.

Test your content

See how users respond to your content.  It’s very rare that the first draft is the best draft. You can develop great content by rewriting and revising it until you create the best message possible that meets everyone’s goals.

Evaluate your process

Learning to run great content creation projects requires assessing what worked and what did not in any project. Train your team to do a regular review of content creation projects to improve managing them in the future.

How do you plan for content projects?  And, what has your experience taught you about managing expectations from the client side effectively?

Author: Ahava Leibtag

Based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Ahava Leibtag is a Web content strategist and writer. She leads AHA Media Group, a Web and content consulting firm, and authors the blog Online it ALL Matters. She thinks 60 words is way too few to communicate why she’s interesting. You can connect with Ahava on Twitter at @ahaval.

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