An Event Apart: Content/Communication

by August 27, 2013

At An Event Apart in Chicago IL 2013, Kristina Halvorson talked about the importance working together collaboratively when dealing with content issues on the Web. Here's my notes from her talk Content/Communication:

  • Content Strategy as a discipline gained a lot of popularity online. This lead to lots requests for content strategy help. But after many consulting projects, Kristina found people were left unfulfilled.
  • Clients would call overwhelmed, under budget, needing affirmation and be jaded about their content. Telling them they are doing it wrong only made things worse. They needed content "therapy".
  • People get emotional when confronted with things that are out of their control. There's more foundational things that we need to function as healthy teams.
  • A framework for collaboration can provide a way for us to think and talk about how and why we work together.

Collaboration Framework

  • Five things: principles, strategy, processes, roles, and perceptions.
  • Principles help bring teams together and form a culture.
  • The site is driven by a set of principles that are organized around people's actual needs. Principles keep us accountable to our values and embody our way of working together.
  • Often times principles that come down from leadership are crap. You can't apply them to real life. Make your own for your team.
  • Strategy gives you a way to reach your objectives. Make your strategy focused and simple. It needs to be a rally cry for your team that provides people a shared, long-term direction for their short-term goals and activities. This needs to guide the team.
  • If you are not considering strategy, you have no chance of reaching your objectives.
  • When planning a strategy, don't try to do everything all at once.
  • User needs come from talking to customers -in person.
  • Put your strategy into a statement that leads to action. This can help you prioritize your content efforts.
  • Activity does not equal productivity.
  • Many of us have no control over this. Business objectives come form the top and half the time we have no idea what those are or what they have to do with us.
  • Ask the ever important question: why are we doing this? In what context is this project being completed. How do my activities contribute to specific objectives? You'll find this helps to motivate you.
  • Whatever process you are using, don't make process your God. You will need to evolve how your because the rest of your World will always be changing.
  • Different processes work or fail because of people, not because one process is better or worse.
  • Artifacts are not the outcomes of your work. They are tools you use to get aligned on decisions. Good process helps us move forward together.
  • Roles are not unique jobs. We all play different roles on teams -they shape what we think is important and organize our activities.
  • At some point in the project, invite all the people.
  • Make sure everyone is aligned on the terminology so everyone has the same expectations. Identify timing, issues, agendas, and responsibilities.
  • If something doesn't make sense to you, stop and ask for clarity. Its ok to repeat things back to people to make sure they heard you correctly.
  • We all need to be better listeners. You can only communicate with someone on their own terms. They can't hear you if you don't speak their language.
  • Content strategy skills must include translating and negotiating, so we can facilitate communication between disparate disciplines and help them to communicate. Content strategy needs to be a translator because everyone touches the content.
  • The multi-device Web is scary for lots of people. We need to put this into perspective in our conversations.
  • The Web was formally commercialized in 1995. That's not that long ago -we're perpetually catching up and behind. That's not going to change anytime soon.
  • We have to deal with people's feelings and issues. In a major study of teams, the greatest predictor of a team's achievement was how the members felt about each other.
  • Our biggest challenge is how we work with each other. Consulting is helping people see how they can be more awesome.
  • If people can't hear you, it is on you to tell a better story.