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Content Strategy in the Fortune 500

Jul 6, 2011 By Nicole Jones

Your corporate site has everything. Product details. Media info. Legal terms. Calls to action. Friendly support. People flock there every day. It’s the perfect feeding ground. Duh dun duh dun duh dun.

Unprotected Waters

On the corporate communications yacht, progress is harder than it should be. Stakeholders are everywhere; strategy is a quarterly deliverable; silos divide us all.

Working with content isn’t new here, but the idea of content strategy may be foreign to peers and executives. You may spend more time fighting for changes than making them; you may even feel like a pebble trying to change the sea.

But don’t be discouraged. You can make waves with what you have today. Whether you’re a writer or communications lead, it’s relatively easy to sneak in strategic work without being eaten alive.

Communication as a Process

Here’s an outline that has helped me:

Research. Survey the water from shore.

  1. Fish for answers.*
    • Does the project make sense?
    • Why is it important?
    • Who is the audience, what do they need, and what action should they take?
    • Is there any data to support the project?
    • Does the content apply to other countries or languages?
    • Who owns the content, and who will update it?
  2. Interview the experts. Start with stakeholders. Talk to customers if you can.
  3. Inventory existing content.
    • Does this relate to other content assets (e.g., article, product image, video, FAQ)?
    • How do competitors talk about similar topics?

Plan. Chart your course.

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Develop an approach. State what will change; specify goals and steps to get there.
  3. Outline next steps with timelines. Set deadlines.
  4. Set rules for anyone that touches the content.
  5. Get the project stakeholders to agree to the plan.

Execute. One nautical mile at a time.

  1. Get your hands dirty. This may mean writing the content. For larger projects, it may mean developing content templates, workflow recommendations, an editorial calendar, style guidelines, metadata schemas, and more.
  2. When the new content is ready, ask for approval from project stakeholders, Marketing, and Legal.
  3. Need content for other languages? Work with a localization specialist.
  4. Push the content live.
  5. Keep an eye on your work.*

Some of these tasks may be up to a writer or editor, but it’s important to know how your organization handles each part of the process.

Feedback is Imperative

*This flow assumes you have a feedback loop. Don’t have one? Start here:

  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Analytics (e.g., click maps, search terms, popular pages)
  • User reviews or discussions
  • Contact center data (e.g., metrics, escalations, popular canned responses)
  • Employee satisfaction surveys

Terms of the Charter

The tasks aren’t easy; what we do is work. But if you want to practice content strategy in the Fortune 500, you can start today.

With the “why” compass in your pocket, you’re on your way to content ownership. You are the reader’s advocate. You are the content expert.

So dive in—and be patient with your progress. Even small copy changes take a few tidal cycles.

Follow the Conversation

15 comments so far. You should leave one, too.

Tiffani Jones Brown said on Jul 7, 2011

Hear ye, Nicole Jones! Props from inside the 500.

Mark S said on Jul 10, 2011

Nicole - Good delivery of the points in this article. What workforce collaboration tools / software have you used or recommend for teams to manage the process of content strategy and creation?

nicoleslaw said on Jul 10, 2011

@Mark S - It definitely varies based on the company. I use Pages/Word and TextMate a lot. OmniGraffle for wireframes. Numbers/Excel for audits.

Workflow tools are usually proprietary ticketing systems, but for a CMS: WordPress, Drupal, TeamSite, and Inquira. The last two are painful KM tools.

Basecamp and Dropbox are helpful for collaboration, but larger companies often avoid hosted software.

For analytics: Omniture or Google.

GatherContent is in beta, if that interests you: http://www.gathercontent.com/

K Roussi said on Jul 10, 2011

Content is definatly one of the most difficult aspects of web development with organizations, even if they're relatively small. This is a great workflow outline to develop a strategy.

Okulary Korekcyjne said on Jul 18, 2011

Excellent article, and I have been searching the web for an article on this topic. I have bookmarked your blog and will definitely be returning in the future. Thanks again.

Sandra said on Jul 25, 2011

Bless you for giving us in the Fortune 500 some hope that we can foster change!

One other item I'd add to the list is that it is okay to start small. For a megacorp, perhaps apply this strategy to one productline/series of deliverables. Proof of concept work may help show the benefits and convert a few other teams to apply content strategy to their output.

Brook said on Jul 25, 2011

Yes, yes and yes! Thanks for this great post! I've been working on turning a content strategy dinghy into a proper vessel at a Fortune 500 for over a year now. It's exhausting, hard, wonderfully rewarding work. It's validating to see that I'm not the only one!

SEO Copywriter said on Sep 19, 2011

It only seems to get harder to develop the content, the larger the corporation gets. Everyone seems to want their ideas to be first and their voices heard.

Koozai said on Sep 26, 2011

The hardest thing for big companies are compliance procedures. Whilst a small company could get away with a mis-spelt (or even spun) piece of content, for a big company it can be picked apart by their competitors.

Companies in financial industries also have to be very careful, as outsourced content, must still comply with financial information regulations.

Bill Johnson said on Nov 24, 2011

@Nicole This is a great run-through process for content. Thanks for mentioning the GatherContent beta. We're on a serious mission to make things easier for content professionals and their clients :)

Tony said on Mar 21, 2012

I agree. Small tweaks can yield a big ripple effect.

kredit laptop said on Apr 10, 2012

wow is the best strategy for me to

Carpet Cleaning Prices said on Apr 21, 2012

Thanks a lot for this useful information. I appreciate everything you shared with us and definitely like your content strategy.

Bvlgari Rings said on May 26, 2012

Incredibly inspiring article, Thank you !?!

Rudy C said on Jun 11, 2012

Brief guideline thats fairly concise. Perfect for busy stakeholders that don't understand content strategy.