juni 21

Content Intel—episode 19: Improving your web content strategy

Content Intel welcomes Richard Jones, Chief Strategy Officer at twentysix and Deane Barker, Global Director of Content Management at Optimizely, to discuss how to generate an effective web content strategy that is sure to resonate with your audience. Click below for more.


Transcript:  

Speaker 1:

Hey everyone! Before we jump into today’s episode, I want to let you know that Opticon, Optimizely’s annual flagship conference, will be back in-person this year in San Diego, CA from October 3 through the 5. Early bird registration for Opticon 2022 is now open and will continue until July 22. So please go to optimizely.com/opticon to register. Again, Opticon 2022 early bird registration is open now until July 22. Get your tickets now at optimizely.com/opticon and hope to see you there!

Laura Dolan:

Welcome everyone to another episode of Content Intel, brought to you by Optimizely. I am your host, Laura Dolan. And today we are joined by Richard Jones, Chief Strategy Officer at twentysix. And Deane Barker, Global Director of Content Management here at Optimizely who will be discussing how to improve your web content strategy with us today. How's it going, gentlemen?

Richard Jones:

Good. Good. Very good.

Deane Barker:

Good morning. We're on opposite sides of an ocean.

Laura Dolan:

Yes, that's true.

Deane Barker:

We were together just a couple weeks ago and now we're on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Laura Dolan:

Yeah. Let's start out by talking about that event you went to last month, "Getting website content strategy right." It was in London, right? I'm super jealous. I saw some pictures on LinkedIn. Looked like a lot of fun. How was it for you guys?

Richard Jones:

Yeah, great from my side. Great to have Deane involved as well. Deane, I think you documented pretty much everything for your daughters, which was also good. Great turnout from our side of things and some real engagement.

Deane Barker:

It was really lovely and Richard's talking about my two daughters. This was my first overseas trip since prior to COVID and I promised that I would document everything on Snapchat. So it was exhausting. I was taking pictures and video of everything, it was annoying and exhausting.

Deane Barker:

But I do have a trail of evidence for what occurred. But it was a lovely event. Great location, fantastic engagement, wonderful audience. I thought it was great.

Laura Dolan:

Yeah. Now you have all that photographic evidence to look back on. You have great memories. It'd be great to relive it, right? Well, speaking of fun, you gave a presentation at the event. How was it received and what did you guys cover?

Deane Barker:

I gave a talk that I've given several times before. One of my favorite talks about how content is used to connect human beings. It's one of my favorite talks. In fact, I wrote it after I started at Episerver/Optimizely back in 2019. And it was one of the keynotes at the Sun Conference in 2019. Since then, I've probably given it a dozen times and modified it over the years. It's one of my favorite talks to give and I think it was received very well. Had a lot of people come up to me afterward and said that they really appreciated it. It's something that I believe in very, very strongly and it's a talk that I always love to give.

Laura Dolan:

Fantastic. Richard, how was your experience at the event?

Richard Jones:

Yeah, really good. I would echo Deane, really. I think what I tried to talk about was to fill in some of those gaps, just in terms of why web strategy is important. A little bit more of those kind of operational, what you should be thinking about. Just to prime people, really. And Deane's talk was fantastic. We had a huge amount of engagement and I've subsequently spoken to some of the people that were there that really did engage with it.

Richard Jones:

I think they found Deane's talk quite inspirational really, and it allowed them to see from an operational side of things. Those things that they really need to start thinking about why it's important. But also got them really fired up, I think. I've had some lovely feedback and some lovely comments from the event. So really, really worthwhile doing. We've certainly set a lot of people off going around and thinking about what they're doing. And maybe with a renewed vigor around content, which is also great.

Deane Barker:

I think that too. It's important that people think about the origins of content. I've very much been thinking about this over the last year while we were talking and negotiating, and ultimately purchasing Welcome. Optimizely purchased Welcome software, which is a content marketing platform, content orchestration platform. I've been thinking about where content begins in an organization, where it starts. I don't think people think about that enough. They think content's just magic, it appears out of nowhere.

Deane Barker:

And I think anything we can do to further discussion that content is not magic. It does not fall from the sky. It is the result of strategic thinking and strategic process. The more we can get people thinking about that and acknowledging that content takes real work. There's some kind of misinformation that organizations that are winning the content game and doing amazing things with content are just lucky or just have some kind of magic. They don't. It's where it takes strategy and it takes process. And the more that we can get people thinking about that, the better.

Laura Dolan:

I couldn't agree more. I'm in content myself. I'm a content manager, content editor, and it doesn't just come from nowhere. There's a lot of ideation that goes along with it. So, what, in your opinion, Deane, do you think constitutes an effective web content strategy? And how do you determine what content will resonate with your audience?

Deane Barker:

I was just thinking about this last night, I was just putting some structure about this last night. I might be some writing on this later this week. But I think there's three big chunks in getting content from idea or feeling to actual deliverable. There's a level of strategy and this is where you as an organization analyze your audiences, and figure out what do our audiences really need from us. Not necessarily what do they need from our digital properties or our website, but what do they need from us as an organization? Once you determine what your audiences need from you as an organization, then you need to sit down and think of their tasks. When they actually interact with one of our digital properties, what are they looking to do? What is a good outcome for them?

Deane Barker:

The first phase is figuring out what content to put into the public domain. And the second large phase is what I would consider process, less strategy, more process. Once we figure out what content we have to get out there, how do we actually get it done? What does that process look like? And this is where a tool like Welcome really comes into play. These are workflow and collaboration tools that allow your entire team to collaborate around content. And this is the thing that people don't think of. We think that content happens just some person alone in a room, magical fingers on keyboards and something happens. That's not the case. There is process, there are people involved, there are stages you go through, they have workflow. And then finally, after the strategy and the process have been done, the third stage is delivery.

Deane Barker:

How do you get that content that you've generated? How do you turn that into a consumable artifact? We tend to look at things like webpages and say, "Oh, well this is content." That's not content, that's actually an artifact. That's a webpage made from content. That last stage of the process is, how do we take this content that we've generated, this idea, this strategy that we've reified into this consumable set of content? How do we turn that into one of more artifacts and actually deliver that to our audiences? So I think strategy, process, delivery. Those things together. That's the road that you travel to get things from idea or feeling to actually consumed by our audience.

Richard Jones:

Yeah. I'd say 100% agree. I mean, I unashamedly come at it from a customer lens and my background is customer experience. I love researching, understanding how people use content, what they need it for. So what Deane said there really resonates in terms of understanding the tasks people go through, what they need us to help them with. And I think from my side of things, what really makes content robust is understanding what people really need. Not just what tasks as Deane said, they're not just those tasks so we can help them, but also how do they want to consume. What is it that's right for them at the time that they're looking to complete those tasks or find information? Or, really just surrounded by some new knowledge that helps them achieve what they want to achieve.

Richard Jones:

We spend quite a lot of time working out how people want to consume content, what the right format is. And for me, there's nothing better than speaking to real people, understanding what helps them in their real life. Some of the conversations that we had at the event around... Remember, there's humans in the mix here that they're consuming this content and what we're putting out there really does need to work for them. I think from my point of view, it's just making sure that there is that real human touch in there. Making sure that you are researching, you're testing it. Obviously that the great flip side of that is if you produce content that people really want and that people can use very easily, then that makes it much more effective and it makes your budgets go a long way.

Richard Jones:

Therefore, those discussions and conversations that you invariably have about investment into content creation and production are a lot easier, because you can demonstrate the value and the effectiveness of it. From my point of view... Really, really try and understand how people are using content and what they need, and put great stuff out there. There's nothing wrong with trying to delight people as well, which is often overlooked when people are talking about content and what they can put out there.

Laura Dolan:

Do you think there is one type of format that companies should be leveraging over another? Do you guys have a favorite type of content? Whether it's blogs or videos. Or like you mentioned, Richard, just actually meeting in person and having that human experience, and sharing ideas in one room. Nothing beats that. What do you think would constitute a good content strategy in 2022?

Richard Jones:

Certainly. There's so many parts to it, but certainly getting the right content in terms of the right format. We are seeing, as always, a huge amount of engagement with the video content, more interactive content. But I think the written textual content often gets almost quite quickly dismissed these days in terms of, "Hey, we've got to have something much more interactive, something that engages people." Well, written content is always going to engage. So from a strategic point of view Deane touched on, obviously you need to work out what you can produce, how you can do that in a scalable fashion, making sure you've got the right resources. But it's that vision, it's what do you want to achieve.

Richard Jones:

What is the content there to do? Making sure you have that at the heart. And then just finding out what works. When we are looking at what really resonates with people, we often have obviously so much behavior analytics available. We always start there. We always try and weave in some real-world research to make sure that what we are actually doing resonates. And you can do that in many, many different ways. Whether that be in person, whether that be quick in-flight light-touch surveys, to really understand what people like consuming and the types of content that they like consuming in different formats. So for me, it's a bit of a mix, but always, always, always start with vision. What do you want to achieve? And then you've got measurable outcomes from that. Then focus your content production around that to make sure that you're producing the right stuff.

Deane Barker:

I'm a sucker for the written word. I love text and that's sometimes to my detriment. Sometimes I have to check myself and realize that not everybody wants to read 5,000 words on a particular subject. Just this morning, just literally 20 minutes ago, I finished a book by Colleen McCullough called, "The First Man in Rome," which was a 1,200 page history of the Punic Wars. I put it down and my daughters were just astounded that anyone would ever read something like this. I have to remember that how I consume content is not necessarily how other people consume content. I tend to think text wins, text was the original and text is the way we should go. But I always have to stop and just realize not everybody consumes content the way I do.

Deane Barker:

And I think that organizations should think that too, that people consume content in many, many different ways. And that's why I love the separation of the idea of content and artifact. Because the content that you create is the idea, it's the messaging, it's the feeling you want to invoke, it's the goal you want to achieve. The artifact is just how you do that. If you come up with an idea, or a message or a goal, you can convey that through multiple different artifacts. You can turn that into a blog post, a podcast episode, and a video and a social media update. You have to have a big tent approach to content. Not everybody consumes it the same way and I suffer from myopia in that sense.

Laura Dolan:

I agree. I feel like companies that have that omnichannel content strategy, they do have like the overall edge. If they have those resources, if they have a YouTube channel, if they have their social media platforms in place. Just to have more avenues to get your content out there is always the best strategy in my opinion. And kind of related to that, what are some of the core challenges facing enterprise-level organizations right now? If they're looking to enhance their customer experience through content, how can they overcome those challenges and limitations?

Deane Barker:

I think process is always a huge struggle. Again, I'll go back to the point that everything's content, everybody thinks content happens from magic. And I think disabusing yourself of that notion is important. Content is not glamorous. It is hard work and it is process. As content creators, there's this myth that we just get overcome by inspiration and magically create content in some momentous moment. And that's not the case. They say that writing is really editing or rewriting, and it's the same thing with content. It's a very pedestrian, unglamorous process of figuring out what your audience wants and creating a crappy first draft. Then refining that over time, getting input and bringing a team together. So there's nothing glamorous about it. There's nothing magical about it. It's a lot of hard work.

Laura Dolan:

It is. I know that all too well. I tell people I do a podcast, they're like, "That's awesome." I'm like, "Yeah, but there's a lot of editing involved. The transcriptions, there's blogs and getting photos." It is a huge process but the end result is what you're striving for. It is very rewarding when it comes to that.

Deane Barker:

Our job is to lie for a living, right? Fundamentally, Laura, when this podcast comes out, it's going to seem beautiful and magical. It's going to seem very, very smooth.

Laura Dolan:

Hopefully.

Deane Barker:

It's going to seem like it just happened perfectly. I mean, we're like TV producers, right? When you produce, you're lying for a living and everybody accepts that you're lying. But when you pull the curtain back, there's just this horrible amount of hard work that it took to get to this point and tedious things. And you, Laura, as the creator of this thing. When people are listening to this and they're saying, "Oh, this is wonderful." You're in your head knowing like, "Oh, that's the point where I had to edit out that three seconds, pause. Because Deane clicked his mouse." Or something like that. These are the things that we do as content creators that we shield the audience from. Because it's our job to lie about the production. It's our job to pretend the production is easy and simple, and everything just falls from the sky. And it doesn't.

Laura Dolan:

Well, that's what makes us good at our jobs. Richard, what say you? Do you have any input as to challenges you've seen over the years that organizations struggle with?

Richard Jones:

Yeah, absolutely. It really does chime with what Deane said there, too. I was talking to an enterprise-level business just yesterday and they were fraught with this overwhelm about how they possibly produce more content, better content. They have multiple regions, international markets, different verticals, different sectors. There's already a lot of content being produced, but they want to make sure that it's the best content they can produce and they want to give it some structure, and some vision. One of the things that really makes me think and how I talk to people about content, one of the biggest things that you can make the whole production process easier is just draw back those curtains a little bit.

Richard Jones:

And get some really key stakeholders on board with a) how hard it is to produce content, but also how great it can be when you get everything lined up. When the process works, when you really focus on what you want to achieve. Ultimately, the outcomes of that, whether that is engagement, hardcore conversions or just more awareness of your organization and what you're doing. So for me, it always starts with picking those stakeholders in your organization, really helping them understand how great content is produced. And then really getting them on the wagon of, "Hey, look. If we produced great content, this is what we can get."

Richard Jones:

It is hard. We do need the right people, and we do need to engage the right people across the organization with the right processes. But actually the returns can be huge. Peel back those curtains a little bit, help people understand how to create content. Take a little bit of the fear away because often if people do see that there is a structured, scalable process, it gives people confidence. And that is a framework that allows people to go off and do some great stuff.

Laura Dolan:

Absolutely. And like I said, the end goal is the product that you're actually producing is what makes it all worth it and how it's received. Just adding that value to your customers and your audience. There's nothing better than that. I can talk to you guys about this all day long but just being conscious of time. I know we're all busy. Is there anything else we didn't cover that you guys would like to talk about before we wrap up?

Deane Barker:

I just want to mention the venue we had. I'll let Richard explain the venue, but the venue we had at the event was just lovely. Richard, why don't you talk a little bit about that?

Richard Jones:

Oh yeah. Wonderful. I mean, quite quirky. It was a cinema screening room, private screening room, the most fantastic chairs. How would you describe them, Deane?

Deane Barker:

Dangerously comfortable.

Richard Jones:

Dangerously, definitely dangerously comfortable.

Laura Dolan:

Oh dear.

Richard Jones:

I did get slightly worried when we walked in. It was quite a warm day as well but absolutely full to the brim. So yeah. Great environment. Great venue for people to sit. The acoustics were great. And some good engagement afterwards, lots of people walking around and things. I think from my point of view, the only thing that I would add in is when people are creating content, really, really, really try and put the human at the heart of it and find out what people want. Over the years, everybody feels that research is hard. But doing little bits of research, weaving that into the stuff that you're producing goes a long, long way to making it much, much more effective. And also, enjoy creating this stuff. Because people are consuming it, people are reading it, people are interacting with it. I think people should be proud of the content that they produce.

Laura Dolan:

Perfect. Thank you again both so much for your time today. Again, I know we're all super busy, but it was a pleasure talking to both of you. Let's just keep producing great content. Here's to keeping that up in 2022.

Deane Barker:

Thanks Laura.

Richard Jones:

Thanks Laura.

Laura Dolan:

Thank you both so much. And thank you all so much for tuning into this episode of Content Intel. I am Laura Dolan, and I will see you next time.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Content Intel. If you'd like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our content, commerce, or optimization tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.