A while ago now, I wrote about the fact that “content strategy” isn’t a document but that sometimes we are asked to produce one. My response was to bring together the range of documentation, research and other elements that might inform your content strategy and satisfy the frequent organisational desire for quires of printed paper.
More about content strategy documentation
More recently the need to define and codify what content strategy looks like has been described as content strategy modelling. So it made sense to look at this in more detail and how the model might relate to the documents without getting in the way of the strategy itself. You can find a new blog post from me about this on the emarketeers website
But the more I looked at this area the more it became apparent that the content strategy model is increasingly a trust model. I first started looking at trust models for digital content back in 2007! Then my model looked like this.
I should stress that this is trust between the two human sides of the equation rather than trust in the underlying technology. The tech – whether it’s a desk top behemoth or a state of the art wearable, is merely an interface which brokers the relationship.
Factoring trust into content strategy
A its simplest, your content strategy should be comprised of a collectively understood system and process designed to take content from conception to delivery point. It is defined by both business objectives and user needs and evidenced through a range of elements in marketing/communications, product and service delivery.
Content means business
To create a robust content strategy model you need access to, and an understanding of, 3 areas:
- Business objectives – as defined in the business plan (or similar) and often refined in light of annual targets, launches, seasons pushes etc.
- User needs – not only what they want from you but how these needs reflect broader social expectations and emotional states.
- Content process – from idea to publication and including all the boring stuff such as back end functionality and sign off processes.
Some of you will be nodding smugly at this point but it doesn’t do to get too comfy. Walk with me…
Evolving content environments
One reason we all need to stay on our toes is the frightening speed with which users and their content environments evolve. An environment can be anything from a website, to a social media platform, to point of sale messaging, both online and instore.
We all responded to the demands of mobile – in some shape or form – and “responsive design” has transformed the look and feel of content on the web. But that was just Phase 1.
Phase 1 was very much about about size/length and shape and the media queries that define what goes where dependent on the device being used. More about media queries
That was the start, my friends. Just the start…
Enabling trust as part of Phase 1
The fact that we now absorb the bulk of our content via mobile devices has influenced everything – from the way we entertain ourselves, to the way we shop, or even absorb news.
The recent brouhaha around fake news is, in my view, an example of how profound the mobile influence has been. Would it have been such an issue if we’d all had to sit at our desk top computers or unzip our lap tops to get at and then to share it?
And mobile wifi is now more important to people than sex, alcohol or chocolate, revealed a recent survey by iPass.
A study by the Mobile Marketing Association in 2010 indicated that, back then, just 6% of consumers purchased products or services via mobile, and 6.5% of retailers offered mCommerce sites. By September 2016, retailers were seeing up to 50% of sales coming through mobile, according to a research paper from Bijou Commerce.
Bijou also talked about trust being a key factor in the dynamic. This is hardly surprising if you accept that interacting via mobile is a much more intimate experience. The more intimate the experience the more important trust is.
Plus mobile, while bringing many benefits, is also stress-testing trust. Cyber bullying, sexting and online fraud have all been better enabled by mobile. A new report – the UK Millennial Study: Privacy vs. Customer Experience in Retail – indicates that UK’s millennials have growing security concerns around sharing personal information with retailers, even though they continue to shop online. Read more about this report on the Internet Retailing website
Data breaches suffered by brands as diverse as Yahoo, Talk Talk and JD Wetherspoons – to name but three – all put the trust dynamic under tension. Mobile access via banking apps, tap and pay etc, exponentially increase the number of occasions when things can go tits up.
So what does that mean for content strategists?
Most critical is the need to establish an emotional context for the user journey so we can establish and address the trust pinch points. So when we map user journeys we need to think about 3 things:
- The timeline.
- Steps/stages and actions along that timeline.
- The emotions the user is experiencing while undertaking (or considering) those steps and actions.
A classic example of such a pinch point is a website that suddenly whisks you off to an e-commerce platform, with a different look and feel, right at the point of purchase. It may have to be done but how it’s done can make the customers more or less apprehensive.
Other trust pinch point examples include users confronting unclear, or hard to find or use, size guidelines; or poor colour rendering in fashion and furnishings content prompting returns or dissatisfaction (you might want to read this blog post on the colour issue).
You can also add to the list jargony or overly wordy Terms & Conditions, inconsistency (anywhere), overly florid language or sales hyperbole, offers and discounts dependent on a lot of (hard to meet) small print – even 404 pages (not just how many but how they are worded).
And while broken links and missing pages may be easy to fix, when viewed as content issues, the impact on trust and therefore on brand are far harder to remedy.
TalkTalk allegedly lost 100,000 customers after data that included credit cards, bank account numbers, names and phone numbers was revealed to have been stolen. Chief amongst the criticism was its slowness to inform customers and the relevant consumer watchdog. How a digital content strategy might communicate such a breach response might be an interesting addition to more traditional disaster and content modelling.
Regaining trust starts with admitting scope and culpability in the problem, but how much better if the breach of trust does not happen in the first place? You may not be able to fend off every single cyber attacker but you sure as heck can do something about those Ts & Cs and the dreadful colour rendering on that pashmina in your online catalogue.
Maybe I should do some more work on that pyramid…