Does your organization have a lot of content—like thousands of articles and web pages? Then you’re probably overwhelmed with uncertainty of what’s going on with your content. “A content model could be a solution for your team,” says Scott Kubie, Senior Content Strategist at Brain Traffic.
Scott encourages organizations to consider these questions:
- Where is your content coming from?
- What do your high-level processes look like and are they effective?
- Who are your audiences (internal and external)?
- What are your business objectives?
- What technology systems are you using across departments?
- How do all of these things interact?
According to Scott, content models can help your teams verify assumptions, see new opportunities, plan activities, document vocabulary and process, and improve understanding between stakeholder groups. “Perhaps most importantly, the model-making process reveals where people have different ideas about reality, giving you a chance to work out these differences before they derail your projects,” Scott adds.
If you’re not sure that content modeling is the right move, here’s a cheat sheet from Scott’s presentation at ConFab Central 2017:
How content models can help
- Content modeling creates clarity. It helps you make sense of all your content because it lays it all out for you.
- Models allow you to experiment—because you test the model not your real content. You can test until you get it just right.
- Models show relationships between content, teams, groups, etc.
- Models encourage new perspectives because it reveals a colossal amount of new information about your content—how it works or doesn’t work, who it helps or doesn’t help, etc.
How to get started
- Sites: All the places that your information is going, not just websites, but internal tools, as well.
- Content types: Articles, chat boxes, web pages, and internal forums—to name a handful.
- Systems: Technology, processes, and guidelines. Consider all the different systems you’re using and how you can eliminate duplicate work by integrating tools.
- People: Teams, departments, and divisions—basically anyone involved with creating content.
- Products: The deliverable that you “package up and put a name to.” This can also include services, not just tangible products.
Steps to create a model
- Ask honest questions to frame the activity. Consider these questions: what is it, why do we have it, who’s it important to, and how does it get to the end user? Keep the answers to these questions visible and be open to changing the questions you ask.
- Compile a list: Collect the nouns and verbs of your content ecosystem. This can come from places like help content, support content, marketing content, etc. You can also get these nouns by looking at tags and categories, words used in your CMS, organizational charts, product UI, customer feedback, etc.
- Connect: Draw and label meaningful connections between nouns and verbs. Make sure everything is connected. “Drawing connections is always going to be messy at first. So connect things in both directions, and ask yourself which one feels more true. Focus on interesting and important connections [across your content],” Scott recommends. By compiling a list and connecting the pieces, you reveal duplicate work, ineffective processes, and outdated information.
- Arrange: Organize concepts into a shape that feels right. For example, are the connections cyclical? Or is there a hierarchy to the content? Or is everything just scattered? Knowing where and how your content moves across groups can help you define inefficiencies. (And show you what you’re doing right).
- Refine: Add and alter the meaning of your content models with labels, color, and visual metaphors (i.e., make a diagram look like a tree or mountain to show how your content moves through different groups). Label content a certain color, people a certain color, processes a certain color—just make sure it’s easy to follow.
As with everything content related, one size does not fit all. Scott suggests that content models are useful for organizations who have people on the same team that don’t share the same reality of what’s going on with their content. Content models provide clarity and visibility into things one may not have recognized before. Models can also reveal relationships and disconnects between content, both of which can be leveraged to persuade groups to work on their content processes.