In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how a content strategy is an essential first step in creating useful, relevant, engaging content for your digital workplace. Now that you know the key elements of a content strategy, it’s time to talk about the actual content that will populate your new destination.
How will you decide what content to include? How should you write it? And how can you keep content preparation on track for launch? This second installment will give you the lowdown on current best practices to ensure every choice you make about content is an informed one.
We’ll start by showing you how to take stock of your existing content and determine what’s missing. Then we’ll guide you through a content preparation plan and finish up with some practical tips on writing for a digital audience.
Why, how, and when to do a content audit
Organizations hold vast quantities of information. The older and bigger the company, the larger the stockpile. But even small start-ups have major knowledge stores. And all this information rarely gets scrutinized.
A content audit dissects every piece of content in your organization to assess its quality and usefulness. Full disclosure: it can be a slog. But it’s vital to meeting the goals of your content strategy. Think of it like spring cleaning: an opportunity to clear out the junk, find the gems, and start fresh when you launch your digital workplace.
Why do a content audit?
Content audits are also a crucial step in creating your site structure and information architecture (IA). By evaluating which content employees need to complete their daily tasks, you get a good idea of what needs to be built.
An audit of your existing content (within a legacy intranet, other file repositories, or on the company server) helps you make informed decisions about what key content areas you’ll need (e.g. news area, HR area), content gaps that need filling, and what to do with the content you already have.
Existing content can be:
- Moved into the new digital workplace
A content audit also reveals content-related business challenges such as:
- Outdated, irrelevant, and even inaccurate content
- Multiple versions of the same or similar content
- Unclear naming conventions
- Unorganized, hard-to-find content
How to do a content audit
The most organized way to get your content audit started is by using a Content Audit Tracking Template to track critical information for each piece of content, including:
- Content Name or Title
- Content Owner
- Subject Matter Expert (SME)
- Location and Format
- Content Status (needs updating, to be archived/deleted, etc.)
- Action Required (update, get approval, etc.)
Taking the time to complete an audit sheet is well worth the effort. It will become your source of truth for content going forward. It will also help you answer questions from your stakeholders about where their content went or why it’s not on the new plan, for example.
When to do a content audit
Start collecting, reviewing, and organizing content for your digital workplace as early as possible. Work on the content audit in parallel with your other digital workplace planning tasks. This is a good task to split up across the project team and even SMEs who are most familiar with the content.
Preparing content for launch
Content preparation is a common roadblock on the path to launch, especially if your organization has a large amount of content to review, update, or create from scratch. A content preparation plan that includes a content team and schedule will help you manage this process.
Choose a content team
A temporary content team executes content preparation tasks leading up to launch and should include the following roles:
- Content Owners and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
- Content Creators/Publishers and Digital Workplace Builders
- Content Manager (coordinates the two groups above)
Create a content schedule
A content schedule provides a high-level view of progress across the entire site. Combined with your content audit, which provides the granular details about individual pieces of content, the content schedule coordinates the uploading of content to your digital workplace.
A content schedule template manages tasks such as:
- Determining the number of pieces of content required for each channel
- Identifying the Content Owners
- Assigning Content Creators/Publishers or Digital Workplace Builders to upload content
- Assigning deadlines for content completion
Use the information from your content audit to set deadlines based on the amount of content, actions required, and the workload of Content Owners and Subject Matter Experts. High-volume content (e.g. knowledge bases), new content, and content that needs heavy updating and review take the most time.
If possible, content should be ready a minimum of one week — but preferably two weeks — before launch.
How to write readable content
With your content strategy, audit, and content preparation plan in hand, you’re ready to get down to the fundamental task of writing and editing. Don’t rush this stage or underestimate its significance, because you’ll risk filling your new digital workplace with second-rate content that nobody reads.
It can be daunting, but here are two secrets to success: keep your audience’s needs top of mind and follow the basic rules of good digital writing.
What does a digital audience want and need?
The visitors to your digital workplace want content that’s easy to access, consume, and use. They come to find information, complete a task, or both. And they want to get in and out fast, without hitting any roadblocks or wasting any time.
Digital audiences need content that’s:
- Easy to access
- Attentive to literacy, language, and cognitive barriers
The ABCs of digital writing
Every word matters in your digital workplace. They can make or break user experiences, communication efforts, and even adoption. More specifically, the writing in your content affects:
- The rate and success of content consumption
- Users’ ability to complete tasks or access information
- Users’ trust in the content and the source
These writing strategies will help keep your audience informed and engaged by all your content:
- Keep it short and simple: Be clear and concise, use plain language, keep sentences and paragraphs brief, and avoid jargon.
- Use the active voice: Wherever possible, make sure the subject of each sentence performs the action instead of receiving it (“The ball hit the boy.” versus “The boy was hit by the ball.”)
- Grab your audience’s attention: Put the most important information first.
- Break up large chunks of text: Use bullets, headings, visuals, and descriptive links. (See how we just did that with this list?)
Expert guidance on managing digital workplace content
Check out the Igloo Playbook for more recommendations on producing, publishing, and managing digital workplace content that your employees will consume, interact with, and leverage in their daily tasks.