Every single digital project I have worked on has been delayed by content. Every website, portal, intranet, reference manual, app, product, tool, and hamster wheel. It’s a sad but realistic truth. Unlike design and development, content stretches across all areas of the business, creating headaches for those tasked with wrangling it.
So where do you sit in on the process? Do you manage writers? Do you oversee content in any capacity? If you answered yes, then you are part of the problem. You are part of the problem because oftentimes you conflate editorial oversight with control. The manifestation of control is a bottle neck and we all know how that affects deadlines.
Compounding the issue of insecurity, which often plagues any and all who work with content somehow believing that if a efficient content process was in place, their role would no longer be needed. Fun fact: Controlling your editorial process does not ensure job security. In fact it may have the opposite effect.
Tribal Knowledge is Costly
We love to fetishize tribal knowledge in the workplace – “Go ask Frank in Receiving, he’s the only one that can fix the printer.” This same mentality applies to common content workflows. For some reason that one data sheet cannot get posted to the website unless the manager reviews it. See, she’s the only one aware of the marketing positioning that hasn’t really been approved yet, so she can’t share it with the team. Problem is managers, directors, vice presidents… (you get the idea) are busy, content is not the only thing they are working on. So that one data sheet sits on a desk (inbox) for weeks before the helpless writer can do anything with it.
Elevate Your Content Producers
Ask any top level manager or executive and nearly all will tell you the biggest problem they face is letting go of certain tasks. The great leaders are very good a deputizing, however too many of today’s content professionals can’t seem to trust their writers to publish content without their approval.
As a consultant, one of my first tasks is to document all the tribal editorial knowledge from content approvers. I have them edit and approve my observations, which I document as editorial guidelines. Next up, I either run a one day or series of workshops teaching the writers everything in the editorial guidelines. I invite the managers back into my final workshop and we all edit content together. That’s probably one of the most valuable 4 hours of I can offer as a consultant.
What I find is that most managers lack the confidence that their writers can edit and publish content with all the editorial insights they may have. By stopping to document what’s in their mind, I can elevate the authority of the writers (with buy in from their managers). This keeps deadlines on target, writers happy, and managers in control.