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Posted By Phase2 on 11/29/2022

Digital Content Strategy: Five Sticky Notes at a Time

Digital Content Strategy: Five Sticky Notes at a Time

For digital content creators, in organizations around the world, productivity beats perfection every day of the week. 
Even when we begin writing with the intention to edit our content into strategic and grammatical gold standards, the drive to meet deadlines loves shortcuts.

Welcome to the slippery slope. 

It starts with a few things getting rushed out the door in a quick and dirty publishing process that skips grammar, branding, SEO, and well … everything. Before you know it, your organization has published a virtual library of off-brand, inconsistent content that’s not only performing poorly, it’s actually working against you.

What is the real danger of letting best practices fade into the background of your publishing process? 

First, let’s define best practices and content strategy. These are your predetermined strategies including branding, editorial style guides, content governance, digital messaging frameworks, SEO keywords and strategies, accessibility standards, DEI goals, and good grammar.

Writing without those guideposts is like driving somewhere new, without GPS. At first, you’re probably OK. You have a general sense of direction and even if you don’t arrive exactly where the GPS would have put you, you’re close. 

The problem is, each new piece of content you write begins where the last one stopped. Meaning that any sloppy processes, errors, or inconsistencies from the last thing you published become your starting point for everything that comes next. Slowly, you drift away from your best practices and into a sea of disjointed content that’s eroding consumer trust, alienating users, and actively working against your business goals. 

Remain Calm and Reset

At Phase2, we help organizations to stop, recalibrate their content goals, and realign with best practices. Often, that includes reassessing the content creation process and governance itself, getting at the root of your broken best practices problem. 

Where did it start to go wrong? Why? And how can we prevent it?

While every team and organization is different, one problem they usually have in common is that the pressure to publish will eventually outweigh the importance of doing it well (again). 

So what do you do? 

You make it easier to follow best practices. 

Much, much easier.

Put Your Most Important Content Strategy on Sticky Notes

Our content strategists help organizations to create sophisticated collections of governance, branding guidance, accessibility standards, and more. You need those documents as a polished, single source of truth for your content and brand. But we’re also realistic. 

It’s not practical to use all of those resources, all of the time. 

A practical application of those documents would be to distill them onto sticky notes that sit on the wall above your desk. Because everyone can spare a few minutes to check a few bullet points before they finalize a page. 

That’s realistic. And realistic processes are sustainable. Meaning you’ve bought some more time before your next site-wide revision. 

So What’s on Your Notes?

Sticky #1: Brand Voice

The nuances of brand voice and tone are so important for successful communication. They can also be a lot of information to keep top-of-mind. 

My favorite trick for writing in a specific brand voice is to personify the brand as a person or celebrity that’s easy to replicate. Then, to supplement that vivid tone of voice, jot down the following:

  • The top three attributes of each tone and when to use them
  • Three to five general brand attributes to serve as a brand filter (inclusive, trustworthy, innovative, compassionate)
  • Any notable “don’ts” that you’ll need reminders to avoid

Sticky #2: DEI

Use this next note to highlight opportunities for and attributes of diverse, equitable, and inclusive content. Focus on whatever aspects of DEI that are least obvious to you. 

  • Diversity opportunities: age, sexual orientation, size, class, experience, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, religion, culture, language, etc.
  • Check photos, forms, content, etc.
  • Don’t include unnecessary marginalizing details
  • Ask yourself if your unconscious bias is affirming stereotypes 

Sticky #3: Plain Language & Accessibility

The basic principles of plain language and accessibility can be consolidated into an easy checklist to keep you on track. Any of the following points make great reminders for policing your own copy and staying accessible.

  • Eighth-grade reading level
  • Be concise and clear, not clever or cute
  • Stay scannable with bullets
  • Cut your word count by ⅓, twice
  • Highlight keywords
  • Screen readers need descriptive headlines and links 
  • Add clear, concise, and helpful alt text for images
  • Use heading tags and keep them nested in descending order

Sticky #4: Grammar & Content Strategy

This note is a helpful catchall for personalized grammar and punctuation reminders. The points below are good guidance for creating a list that will address your specific strategic and stylistic goals.

  • Does this support a key business goal or fulfill user needs? (not just organizational politics)
  • Spell out your most common errors
  • Use Grammarly as well as peer review
  • Is this content aligned with the brief used to request it?
  • Is all grammar and style used consistently (like punctuation in bulleted lists)?

Sticky #5: SEO

There’s something about SEO that makes it feel like an unattainable unicorn for all of us that don’t specialize in it. So we stick our heads in the sand and rely on someone else down the publishing chain to wave a magic wand that optimizes our content. 

And that never really happens. 

But the good news is, SEO best practices can be as simple as a sticky note for writers:

  • Include a meta description (160 characters or fewer)
  • Use keyword phrase variations naturally and everywhere
  • Look for Google-featured snippet opportunities and write for that format
  • Update and refresh your content quarterly
  • Audit (and update or archive) every page of your website annually
  • Most importantly: Write for real users trying to solve real problems

Making Content Strategy a Real Part of Your Process

Just like weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, you have to commit to the marathon of content strategy, not just the sprint following a migration or brand refresh. Because strategy that’s not sustainable in your day to day is just a budget line item, not a practice. 

Steal and adapt these ideas for your own pain points and publishing processes, as a cheat sheet, one-pager, or even a form. However it works best for you, just know that you can achieve sustainable strategy too, with an investment of time and energy as small as a Post-it note.

Danielle Rhodes

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