Before we can align content goals—let alone make content plans—with business objectives, we need to understand what those business objectives are and plan for an effective audit. How do we do that? There is an analogous framework for the inventory-audit-analysis process in the business-process improvement methodologies that are part of Six Sigma. The DMAIC framework (define, measure, analyze, improve, control) is used for improving, optimizing, and stabilizing business processes and designs. Here’s how you might adapt the DMAIC framework to a content project, beginning with Define. Watch this space over the coming weeks for posts on measuring, analyzing, improving, and control.
This series is adapted from Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook.
The business requirements, usually gathered at the start of a project, tell you the expectations and what the business wants to achieve with the content.
Conducting stakeholder interviews before beginning your audit is a valuable exercise. The stakeholders are the people you are working for, and their insights and pain points set the context for the audit process.
Talk to the executive sponsors of the project, the business owners of the content, the people who create and publish it, and the people who maintain and support the CMS and the site. In short, talk to anyone who has a stake in the site’s success. Stakeholder interviews, besides setting the overall context for the audit, are also great inputs into persona creation. If you can interview site users and internal staff, you can create composite personas against which to measure your insights and recommendations.
When you talk with the stakeholders, ask whether they have already attempted content initiatives and, if so, how they went. Knowing what the team has been through before—what worked and what didn’t—can help you avoid going down the wrong path and can show you how to work with the stakeholders. If they’re in a once bitten, twice shy” frame of mind going into the project, you may have to do more organizational-readiness work and manage your communications accordingly.
How does the business measure success? I’ll talk more about analyzing metrics and key performance indicator (KPI) data below, but knowing what the organization values and measures itself against is a key part of understanding the business objectives and gives you the baseline against which you’ll audit current content and measure the future state, post-launch.
Before you begin your audit, gain an understanding of what your brand is intended to represent and how it is supposed to be expressed. You’ll be looking at content and images in that light.
Other sources of business goals include the company’s mission statement, business strategy documents, or roadmap. If you don’t know what the goals are for the site and how they’re measured, you don’t have an accurate baseline, so don’t skip this step when planning for your inventory and audit project.
Just as we need to understand the business owners and their requirements, we need to understand the users and their requirements.
If you have developed personas or have other customer research available, these are great sources of insight with which to familiarize yourself as you begin your project. Data-driven personas provide a useful lens for viewing the content and testing it against what you know about your customers.
An even more powerful approach is combining personas with customer journey maps. If your site has a definable path or set of tasks that users typically go through—or that you want them to go through—create a customer journey map, and associate content with each step. This enables you to find gaps—places where you aren’t supporting your customers enough or where support levels are inconsistent.
If you don’t have personas, learn everything else you can about your audience. If you don’t have or can’t afford primary customer research, learn what you can from secondary research sources such as industry analyses and trends.
Mine carefully any data that comes directly from your customers. If they leave feedback in the form of reviews or ratings, or if they post questions to a Q&A or FAQ section, you have a good idea of how engaged they are with that content. And if your customer service team is getting a lot of the same questions over and over, look to see how or whether you are answering those on the site. You may need to create content to help answer those questions, or maybe you have the content but it’s too hard to find. Either way, you can take action based on that information.
Content projects exist in a business context. Whatever your reason for auditing, whether for a site overhaul, migration, or brand refresh, the larger reason is that the business wants the content to achieve something. Does the content fulfill core business and user goals?
The audit answers that question. You also want to answer these questions: What do the missed opportunities cost? What does addressing these issues cost? How do we fix the issues we’ve identified?
Explain the vision and goals of the project to your stakeholders and to your project team to make sure that everyone is working toward the same end. Ensure that the team agrees about who the audience for the audit is, what business goals it supports, and what the project requirements are. Establishing these goals helps everyone on the team make cohesive decisions and spend time effectively. Large-scale content overhaul projects often require significant application of internal resources and can point out the need for organizational change. You’re more likely to get organizational buy-in if you can clearly articulate the vision and the projected future state.
Next week, we'll discuss how to measure against goals.
Paula Land is co-founder and CEO of Content Insight and author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook.