Hilary Marsh is President and Chief Strategist at Content Company, Inc. A leading content strategist since 1999, Hilary helps associations, nonprofit organizations, and corporations improve their practices for content creation, governance, management, and promotions. Her firm, a Chicago-based content strategy consultancy, works with clients including the American Bar Association, Endocrine Society, Institute of Food Technologists, Allstate, Intuit, and California State University.
In addition to consulting, Hilary teaches content strategy courses for Kent State University’s online masters program in user experience design. She manages the 25,000-member content strategy community on LinkedIn and the 1,200-member Chicago content strategy meetup.
She is also a frequent speaker at national and global conferences, including the AM&P Annual Conference, ASAE Tech Conference, Confab content strategy conference, Content Strategy Forum, Technology Councils of North America summer conference, IA Summit, WebVisions conference, and Society of Technical Communications awards banquet, and numerous meetups and webinars.
IA Summit 2015 Main Conference Talk
Topic(s): content strategy and politics
Politics affect what content strategists do, in a big way — and they also play a big role in the success or failure of UX contributions. If a site is built based on aspirations rather than reality, then while user needs might be satisfied, the organization’s internal roilings may prevent the site from making a positive difference for the business. If the cloaks of accountability remain unspoken, then it’s incredibly challenging to tie digital efforts to metrics that are meaningful to the organization (and that ensure ongoing staffing and budget). And if the internal clients don’t have organizational buy-in, they may go down with that ship too.
Politics often dictate what goes on the home page, what can or can be cross-linked, and even what content is exempt from usability guidelines. We – content strategists, UX practitioners, and designers alike – need to have a shared understanding and speak with a common voice about the need to get past politics in order for the work we do to achieve its intended goals. This session will serve as a call to action and will forge a common path for our profession.
Hilary Marsh: Good morning.
Audience: Good morning.
Hilary: I’m going to do my own introduction. It’s early, it’s Saturday morning. Everyone’s having coffee. This is the room of people who have organizational challenges that prevent our web efforts from being successful. Am I right?
Hilary: How many people here work for a university?
Hilary: Or with universities at an agency? How many people work for an association or a non-profit organization? Good. My name is Hilary Marsh. I’m a content strategy consultant. I’ve also served as the Website Director for the National Association of Realtors.
Most of my clients are associations and non-profits. This is the stuff that I deal with everyday, and that you all deal with every day. I’m really glad that you’re here.
Let’s just get started. There’s so many things to talk about. When other people hear politics, they might think this.
Hilary: In our world, it’s something a little bit closer to this. That the people having the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot conversations are marketing or different product lines. Or usually, it’s this. There’s everyone else and there’s sales web team.
According to our peers, our bosses, our spouses, our friends, “OK, so you manage a website, how hard could it be?” We do a wire frame and it looks like this. IT thinks, “How hard is it? We’ll just put the last three articles on the home page, done deal.”
Or, “If people can’t find things, we’ll just delete everything on site that’s older than a year.” How often have we heard that one? Here’s some of what politics looks like, at least in my experience.
This is Jamie. Jamie is the social media manager of the organization. She started a month ago. She comes to the Web director and she says, “OK, we want to have social media channels and we don’t have them today. This is my job.
I want to create a YouTube channel. I want to create Google+. I want a Facebook page or several, or LinkedIn, or Instagram, and StumbleUpon, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
All of those, each of these is going to need it’s own contents stream, because it will just happen. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen, but all of these are so, so, so important to our organization. Without this, we’re not going to succeed.”
This is Terence. Terence is in charge of a program. Let’s pretend for this very second that we’re the department of education. Terence is in charge of the Teacher of the Year program.
Terence already worked with IT to put it on the home page, right there, center, because it’s the most important thing that the organization is doing. The only reason he’s coming to you, the Web director, is that he wants it in the newsletter.
This is Jeremy. Jeremy is the assistant director in charge of meetings. Jeremy is up on the newest latest of everything. Jeremy has this great idea for what he wants to do on the meeting home page. He wants there to be a person…
Hilary: …walking across the bottom of the screen and telling everybody, “Hi.” A little funny aside about this, this technology doesn’t exist anymore. Thank God.
Hilary: But this is actually a live page on the Disney Channel’s media site so that you can actually still see a rendition of what this looked like, which is unbelievable that it’s there from 2006, live on the Web.
This is Martha. Martha’s the senior deputy to the president. She wants to make sure that the president’s speech is up on the website as soon as possible because it’s so, so, so important.
You work with her to put the president’s speech online along with all the others that are really, really old. You know how many people visited each of these? 15.
Audience Member: Total?
Hilary: Yeah, total. When I was at NAR, that was the course of my typical week. This was my first reaction, “Oh my gosh, crazy.” My second reaction was this.
Hilary: The more I thought about requests like this and the endless stream of ones like this that would come to me in the course of a day, the madder and madder I got. It came time, finally, to do a redesign of our home page at least.
We couldn’t redesign the whole site, but at least we wanted to redesign the home page to make progress toward a new and better structure for the site. I went to talk to my boss. That’s not my boss, but a good rendition of a boss-like figure.
I said to him, “OK, we have too much and it’s crazy all the randomness that comes across my desk.” We worked with our user experience consultant and he said, “You have a fork in the road. There are two different approaches you can take. One approach is very tightly curated approach where you make serious prioritization choices about what goes on the home page. The second approach is that you give everyone enough of a vehicle and a spot on the home page to represent themselves correctly.”
This was, at the time, what we ended up with. It’s not that unattractive, I don’t think. This of course rotated, because it is what it is. We couldn’t do away with the organizational focus left-nav, because we used Lotus Notes or Domino and the design was baked right into the presentation on several of our databases.
But that’s not all. This is what the home page actually looked like. Clearly we had to choose option B. Everyone had a little slot or an accordion or a button or an area, every initiative, every program, everything. How many people scroll to the bottom to the…In case you missed the very important step that was on the home page last week?
Hilary: Not that many. I have some quotes peppered throughout here.
Hilary: Then there’s my other favorite one, which I didn’t include, called shouldIhaveacare.com, which is absolutely hysterical. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it and go show it to everybody when you get home.
I wanted to talk for a minute about the word “content.” I know that many people in this room are not content strategists, but we all work with content. Content’s a terrible word. No one goes to school to be a content creator. We call what they do content, but they do not. That’s really important. We have to do our own translation as well, and we should.
Content instead is everything that they do. It’s the events and the products and the classes, programs, research, et cetera. If all of that is content, content strategy…Because content is the way that all of these things are manifested in the world, not only on a website, not only digitally, but in the world. It all shows up as content.
Content strategy is really an event strategy, a program strategy, class strategy. It’s a strategy for each of the things that this is. This is why it’s political, because who’s in charge of the event strategy? You, the web director? Yeah, I don’t think so, you, the UX person? You the content strategist? I don’t think so.
But we’re actually responsible for it together. It’s got to be a partnership that you’re an expert in what you do and I’m an expert in helping it go online so that people can find it and use it.
It takes two. It takes that partnership in order to make it work. That’s why content is political. Because nobody ever had that conversation before and they think that they’re in charge of the whole thing, soup to nuts.
They think they’re in charge of whether their page has tabs and whether it’s blue blinking text or all of that stuff. They think that that’s part of the event strategy, as opposed to the web component to it.
If content is all these things, where it gets tricky is that that’s how people think of it, my event, my product, etc. It looks a little like this. I love that picture.
Another quote. Every pixel has an owner. Think about that home page for realtor.org, where every pixel literally had an owner. Yet what that didn’t do is ultimately what helps and what makes that difference, which is to build the bridges between the content areas and show that it’s not one at a time and we’ll talk about this in a second, but that it’s a collective effort and a collective presence.
What each person works on is a really important piece and what’s extra-important is the whole of the pieces collected together.
Here’s a quote from 1935 from Upton Sinclair, writer and organizational guy. “It’s hard to get somebody to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” I think that that sums up what we do best of all.
Personally I think that politics are caused by a budgeting process. If I’m budgeted to get my program done this year and to get it promoted this year, that’s it. I’m a person with a mission. I don’t really care about anybody else’s program or anybody else’s product or class because that’s not in my interest. Because when things are budgeted alone the success looks like it’s in a vacuum.
Ultimately our changes have to be higher than us, that we’re not empowered to enact the change that we need to happen. We can shine a light on the fact that it needs to happen and we’ll talk about that more later, but we can’t make it happen by ourselves
I think that another reason is this. Things are as they are because we’ve always done it that way. This is actually the title of a great little book about associations, but you hardly even need to read the book because the title says it all.
I don’t know about you, but when I started at my organization, I heard this phrase all the time, practically once a week, “This is like this because we’ve always done it that way.”
This is how I tried to save my life, so this is a little better than I normally do, but back before the Internet existed, none of this was an issue. Every department, every group, had its own message, and its own audience, and they handed it to people in person, or they mailed them a newsletter, or they gave them a brochure.
It didn’t matter whether things agreed. It didn’t matter whether they’re describing our organization in a common way so that it does or doesn’t even sound like the same organization.
This is the mindset of people who have worked there a long time, or who lived in the world, in the business world, before the Internet played the role it does today.
I worked for a long time before the Internet existed, and websites, at first, were just this cool little thing off to the side, and then it didn’t matter. It didn’t affect people’s work. Then somebody had the bright idea, “Oh my God. If we put ourselves online it’s free.”
Then they started using it to save money and save time, but all of a sudden, the person who used to be in charge of managing that agency to design the brochure, and again, it didn’t matter whether it matched, really matched, or matched the organizational standards or any of that.
Now, all of a sudden, it all lives next to each other on the home page, and whether it gets its own box or has to share a box, or make cross-linking, all of a sudden it’s an issue. Now we have responses, and automatically generated/deleted links. Now, that stuff really is integrated with each other. When you click on a page, and it’s like, “Surprise, brand new experience,” then it just doesn’t feel like a holistic experience, and it isn’t, in fact, a holistic experience.
The whole like “We’re special. I’m more special, so I need my own experience. That navigation’s not going to work for me,” thing, really gets to be a jarring experience for the user.
Instead, the new thinking has to look something like this. Again, I’m not paid to do visuals for a living, and it’s a really good thing, which is that we’re an entity with a whole collection of programs and offerings, and from all of those emerges a collection of messages.
The audience then has the opportunity, not even obligation, but the opportunity to discover for themselves what that whole looks like, because from the nucleus of having the idea, there often is not a very clear trajection, if that’s a word, for remembering why we have this? Why we do this collection of stuff? If you’re just looking at tunnel vision, then you’re not creating the opportunity for the audience to cross-discover what else there is.
It’s usually a common audience and a common set of reasons for having this myriad group of programs, or products, or offerings, or whatever, but we forget to make the connection. That’s where politics gets in the way of a website working.
Content strategy is change management. More than that, user experience is change management, and digital is change management, because it’s shining a light on the organization in a much more holistic way than could have happened before the Internet existed.
Here’s what doesn’t work. When I started at NAR, I spent my first six months there creating our content strategy. It was a big book that listed everything, “Here’s what should be a PDF, and here’s what should not be a PDF, and why. Here’s who should get a blog, and here’s who shouldn’t, and why. Here’s what an online poll would look like, and here’s how it would work. Here’s what goes on the home page, and here’s what doesn’t, and why.”
We spent a long time, and a lot of time, speaking about our technology strategy, our content strategy, user experience, accessibility guidelines, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was, like I said, a big book.
We had 23 departments in the organization that created content. Some were in Chicago. Some were in DC. We made time with the heads of every department to walk them through, “Here’s the high points, and here’s your book.” It was a physical binder filled with all this stuff. “Here’s how the site’s going to work right now, and here’s the high-points you have to know.”
We did this 23 times, flew ourselves to DC to have the meetings with the DC people, and guess what happened after each of the meetings. What did the people do with the book?
Audience Member: Stuffed it on a shelf.
Hilary: Stuffed it on a shelf, exactly.
Really, who was the audience for this? It was us, because they weren’t going to change a single thing about how they did things. They might remember why we were going to say no if they wanted that 80-page thing that they had been working on for eight months, and created as a fancy looking PDF, if we said, “No, we’re not going to stick it up on the website that way.”
In fact, it was still hard for us to say no, because they promised they were emailing it Monday, to their committee, and they needed to send them a link week, so it had to be up there.
We can say, “Yes, this time, but just know in advance that we’re going to say no next time.” Next time came around, and it wasn’t a whole lot different, so that doesn’t work.
What also doesn’t work is this. That didn’t get me too far. I went to talk to a whole bunch of people, to ask, “What does work? What has worked for you?”
This is Amanda Costello, who lives here in Minneapolis, and in fact was at the happy hour, last night, that I went to. Amanda works in the School of Education and Human Development, at the University of Minnesota.
Amanda is both a content strategist and the project manager within her college. There are eight programs, and she very proudly says that each of the eight has their own content strategy, which she feels really, really proud of.
Amanda said, “I can’t mandate everything because everyone wants to do what they want to do. Instead, our content strategy has to support the groups as they envision it. We have to empower them.” She looks for opportunities to teach and show best practices.
Here’s one of the things she said. What she has is a situation that we all have, which is that she’s got a list of all the things that they’re going to be working on in the next quarter, and then leadership comes in and says, “Guess what? My thing has to come first. Everybody else is going to get bumped.” We’ve all been there.
This is what she does. She understands that you need to be transparent. If your project gets bumped, let people know why, so that it’s not just a surprise, or it doesn’t look like you’re sticking your heels in, or for some reason say no. Instead, show them what they can be doing while they start, whether that’s reviewing their page and seeing if there’s things that can be updated or deleted now, or whether they’re going to start writing the content now, or whatever it is that they can be doing now.
This is Matthew Grotke. Matthew did a project for a big computer technology firm. This company wanted to raise customer satisfaction. The other pocket of clients that I work with are intranets, in particular, corporate intranets, which are similar.
The politics are exactly the same, and I think that it’s because the relationship between an association and its members is pretty much exactly the same as the one between a big corporation and its employees. Sort of understand, sort of the same assumptions about understanding that aren’t actually true.
Anyway, he did something similar. This company wanted to increase customer satisfaction and reduce phone calls to the help center by having better support content. Some content was created by the tech folks. Some content was created by the marketing people Total Silo.
What he did was he called all 50 to 60 people and had workshops. The workshops’ intention was to ask them what was going to work. He established himself as a listener. Then he recommended that they have a cross-functional editorial team, headed by an editor in chief who was agnostic.
He had a great quote that said, “Lines of business are really effective for profit, but not so good for content or for efficiency.” He said that the best thing you can do is be an evangelist for the good work that the people are doing and help them understand that you’re their champion, and you’re making way for them to do what they do best.
This is how you establish yourself as a partner, as opposed to an enemy, which I thought was also really, really good advice.
This is Sarah Zaleski-Walsh, who used to work with me at the National Association of Realtors. Sarah is now the lead content strategist for Motorola.com. Motorola, a giant company. Same kind of politics that we encounter all the time.
Sarah said that one of the things that she does is rather than just show her ideas in the dark and without any advanced preparation, she shops them in advance. She does this called the pre-sell, which is that she calls someone into the room and says, “Hi, can I show you something?” What that does is that it invites them in.
It makes them feel really special because they’ve gotten a sneak peek of what her idea is. If they have input, they have an opportunity to give it to her in advance, and she can hear it one-on-one.
Then when it comes time to do the bigger reveal, she’s already pre-sold it, so it’s pretty much not in danger of getting knocked down. I thought that that was also really, really good advice.
This is Mary and Clara, who worked at a university in Australia. I can’t remember the name of it, and they asked me not to say. I had a great Skype conversation with them last week. They said, “Our university’s pretty much run by fiefdom.”
Hilary: They have just gone through the first wave of a re-design. They reduced the number of web pages they had from 10,000 to 1,000 pages. They trained all the content contributors in a new structured content way. They did a really good thing, which is that they built content ownership into everybody’s job description, which was great.
They said once they laid all these good foundational pieces in place, they thought their job was going to be to monitor a group of empowered authors, which perfect, right? That’s not really their reality. Their reality is that they find that because once the training is done, that people have a lot of power to do whatever they want, so that they do whatever they want.
Here’s their quote. That what they do instead, because there is no lock down, so instead, it’s about the relationships that they build with the individual content owners. Another quote that I thought was really, really important. “Remember, everyone is trying to do a good job, but they don’t always have the resources or skills they need.”
We need to have empathy for the people we work with. Because just like they have to understand that we’re not saying no just because we feel like it, they’re not not doing what it is that we think is best practice because they don’t feel like it. They have other things going on. They are pressured from their leadership.
They don’t have time to do it the way we’re asking. They don’t have time to work with us to build a whole separate section on the website for that 80-page PDF. It’s already a done deal. They can’t go back and undo it at this point. Maybe they can do it differently next time, hopefully. We have to have empathy for them as well.
This is Carrie, who’s sitting right there. There she is. Carrie has a great quote as a fellow website director for an association that says, “Use strategic nagging,” which is a phrase that I love really so much, which is keep repeating the same message over and over and over again.
That idea of operationalizing what you do actually is more familiar than you think. We haven’t done it, but the world does it all the time. How many red lights are there? They’re not each a surprise. You know this is the pattern and this is the way it works.
Repeating the same message over and over again, at the right time, is such a good technique because they will remember. I think that there’s the marketing mindset, which is that you have to repeat the same message several times. There’s the communication mindset, which is “I told you last week” or “I told you eight months ago. What do you mean you forgot?”
We, in life, are surrounded by repetitive messages, and it’s OK and important to repeat yourself. Anything else that I should add about that? Good, just checking.
Here are some of the things that have worked for me. I have lots of pictures instead of the words that I just use immediately. At NAR, one of the things that I did that worked really well to get us working together instead of in opposition to each other was something called Empathy-Based Personas. The Empathy-Based Personas are created by the organization.
We had people in a room, thinking about and putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience and our members. That was really important because everyone started the conversation going, “Yeah, but my members…Yeah, but my committee…Yeah, but the people I tend to work with, think this way.”
Well, so, check your job title at the door and let’s think together, who are these people? What keeps them awake at night? What are their motivations and their fears and their opportunities, so that you’re thinking from their perspective, which is brand new for most of these folks.
This particular technique is now something that I build into ever content strategy proposal that I create. I don’t do it, I don’t need it, I work with somebody who does this for a living, and he is so good at getting people to step outside their own skin and their own job title and put themselves in the shoes of the audience.
This is who he came up with. These personas were actually quite amazing, I think. We did these in 2009 and I can still tell you great amounts of detail about each of these people. The one of the left is every association’s future member.
We actually didn’t like this guy, by the time we invented, because he’s a very slick sales person, the organization doesn’t really know how to talk to him, doesn’t understand, doesn’t have experience, and he wants information right now. He wants it in a completely different way than the members we were used to serving.
Understanding what made him tick and how we could get through to him was incredibly informative. When we were done with this exercise, we made life-size cutouts, and we actually introduced them to the staff. It really was incredibly helpful.
Another thing we did, when it came time to apply some of the same thinking to our e-newsletter challenge. We had a huge e-newsletter challenge. Everyone and their brother had an e-newsletter coming from the organization. We found, of course, that the more we sent, the less they opened. Even though each particular one cost like 0.06 of a cent, it added up over time because our volume was just so incredibly high.
In that case, what we did was we had a communication summit, a two-day communication summit. Again, it cost the organization a lot because they flew people from some of the 23 departments, creating content, into Chicago for two days, and took them offline from their regular work. We had them send examples of their web content and their e-newsletters ,and anything else that they were producing, and bring them with them. It took us an entire day to go through everybody’s content. We called it The Recitation.
Then the second day, they broke up into teams, again, agnostic about what department they were working with, and worked on solutions. What are we going to do about this? What we ended up doing was returning back to a structure where everyone’s content fed into a single weekly e-newsletter with, I think, one exception.
I don’t remember what the actual number of e-newsletters, what we had before then was, but it was a huge shift to go back to a single one. Then we set up a structure where they could submit things and recommend what weeks it would go in. There was a curated section at the top that came in like a voice of the president, whatever. That really helped a lot. The shared experience and the shared solution is the best way I know, or one of the best ways, to get buy-in.
Here’s some others, which is “Don’t just tell people your content is not working, show them.” This is something called the customer of focus calculator. It used to be called the “we we calculator” because it measured the balance between how much we’re talking about us and how much we’re talking about you.
This particular example was AT&T. Theirs is about 60/40. When I did this recently for our business-to-business client, they got zero. It was all about them, nothing about the customer. That’s customerfocuscalculator.com.
We also analyzed, at a different time, the items we had in one of our newsletters to look at what’s working and what’s not working. What we found is that the most popular items were externally focused. They were audience-focused. They were useful to them, they were relevant and timely.
The least read item, so again, this is out of qualitative into quantitative, were those about us. No one cares. They’re not in this.
There’s a saying, “Your customers don’t care about your products and your services. They just care about themselves.” This is, again, how we get out of politics and we have to figure out how not to put the teacher of the year as the center piece on the home page or the fact that we have a new president. That doesn’t matter.
Have the president doing something that is relevant to them, and just put their face in there for a reason, but don’t just have that item because it’s taking up valuable space away from information that is really relevant to them.
I recommend getting your governance in order. This is from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This is a wonderful series of articles on the four ways to manage digital projects for non-profits. We can talk about only this for hours and hours because it’s fascinating. These are different models about how web teams are run within the context of bigger organizations.
I’ll just tell you, everybody picks hybrid. They always pick hybrid everything. There’s totally centralized, totally decentralized, sort of a pave-the-way, go do what you want. Then there’s hybrid, which is the combination, and everybody always picks that. The combination of a central body, to set policies and then representatives who are accountable in each of the areas.
This works really well in organizations like the ones we work with, like universities, non-profits, associations, government. There’s the lovely RACI chart. Anyone here not familiar with RACI? Responsible, Accountable, Consultant, yeah.
I recommend this as well. Couple of other ideas which is to do pilot projects, start small, and find willing volunteers, the people who’ve been begging you to do something cool and different. Let them try it. Just say, “Yes.” Work with them, so that it’s the best yes that can be, and see how it works. If it works, go share those successes. If it doesn’t work, that’s OK.
This is how we learn to walk. We try, we fall. We try, we fall. We try, we fall. We try, we get up. It’s just how it has to happen. Many at some point, you’re going to have to have a conversation with the CEO to say, “Things are not OK. Here’s the changes we have to make.” This is the agenda for your meeting with the CEO.
It’s going to require you to set it up in advance, and for you to get the buy-in at levels closer to you beforehand, but show what’s broken and why. Show the potential about what could be better, if we did it better. You have evidence to show it. You have the pilot projects that have worked.
You can say, “Here’s what didn’t work. We tried this other thing, it didn’t work. We tried this, and it worked. I have the policies in place. I have the structure in place. I know what works look like. Here’s how we have to change.” The governance structure changed the reporting structure.
The university people from Australia, they have a plan to make all the people in those desperate groups have a line, a dotted line reporting to them, so that it’s not just nice to have its built-in, and anticipate the roadblocks that the CEO’s going to raise. “What about my leadership, when they want to do this?” You have to think about how you’re going to accommodate that as well, and then follow up.
Talk to the person right there on the spot. “When do you want to come back, and what do I need to report back to you?” This is how professionally you sell in a big organization to someone worth these are their concerns. They’ll not have this concept of “Respect the depth.” The first time I said this, I kind of heard a gasp in the room, because we’re all trained. Silos are bad. Silos are terrible.
But, you know what? The people who work in each of those silos have a career of expertise in what they do. Unless you start out with a position of respect for what they bring to the table, they’re not going to listen to you. What they have is the neat and the value that your organization provides. They need you, just like you need them, because you’re not an expert in what they do.
They’re not an expert in what you do either. That’s where the partnership can really help and be patient. Then, you have to show them how, so that’s having meetings with them on a regular basis. Show those successes. Give them a lesson of the month. Produce letters, or post content on the Internet about best practices.
We don’t know the stuff innately. None of us know it. They don’t know it. You can’t blame them for not knowing it, if you haven’t been patient, persistent, repetitive, and strategic nagging about what that’s going to look like. Then, help them work together. Give them projects. Do the personas.
Have them work on the 75th anniversary or whatever it is, so that there’s a thing they can do together and experience the value of working together, because I find that in a lot of big organizations. Folks don’t work together, because they don’t know each other. Help them do that. Then, motivate and recognize.
Ultimately at the end of the day, this is equally true of UX people as it is of content strategies. It’s that we’re coaches and therapists. Redefine success. Let them know the big, green check mark doesn’t come, when you just put the thing up on the website. Did it work? Did it work doesn’t mean that it get a lot of page views.
It means, did it produce the results that you intended it to produce in the first place? Again, just like no one knows the “Create content.” No one is creating content just to create the views. The views have to do something. Get them to where they want, so that their project is successful. Then, educate and remind them. That’s an agenda for a meeting that we had.
Operationalize and socialize. You’re not just telling them what to do, but you’re building into the CMS what they can and can’t do. You’re setting the field limits. You’re requiring them to put related links, if that’s what you want to do. Give them options for creativity within limits. It’s the whole raising a toddler thing. You don’t say, “What do you want for breakfast?” If Coca-Cola’s not an option.
You say, “Milk or orange juice.” You give them options of, if you want to have some cool, jazzy thing on your side. It’s not the guy walking across the bottom. It’s things that we’ve blessed. Solutions and options that you have that we’re good with. After a while, you blame the policy. “Hey, look. If it were up to me, I would let you have the blue blinking-type.
The policy says otherwise.” If the policy is shaped and approved, then it becomes sort of law. Whoever wrote it, even if it’s you, and presents tallied rationales report on progress, and ultimately it’s this. Instead of having an opposition where we’re on opposite sides of the rink, we’re working together for the satisfaction of our users. That is it.
There’s three levels. One level is, I do it for you. That’s convenience, but it ultimately doesn’t teach them anything. Empowerment is, I’ll tell you what to do, you do it. The ultimate level is, you’re accountable for the end result. That’s it. Thanks so much.
Hilary: What questions can I answer?
Audience Member: One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve gotten from you in the past is, like you said, “Appear to show the numbers.” The discovery that I had once step beyond that was to let the shock and the pause and the silence at those numbers carry out. We had the CEOs, all about the CEO page. We looked at the analytics. It had zero hits. [laughs] Not even one, like his kid, his wife, not even one thing.
Audience Member: Yeah. He had me go to see it. We let him sit in the silence with that and digest that.
Hilary: I have a client who has a password protected videos on their site, similar kind of topic. It was password protected, because it was very private. It got four views. How much of the organization spend to get four views?
Audience Member: First, thank you so much for that talk. It was very illuminating. I work for an agency that then works with nonprofits in universities. Because you can’t separate content from design, we’re more and more becoming involved with the content side of the work. The way that we are experts in design, we’re also experts in writing for the Web and choosing how much of this information to be visual or language-based.
It’s also extremely scary to get involved. It’s like afraid to stir the horn. It’s nest of your client’s political situation that you don’t really know about. I’d love to hear any advice you have for agencies that are working with a university, for example, on the content side and the governance and the strategy side.
Hilary: The activities of facilitating personas or engaging them together in a shared solution to a problem that you might see, but they don’t see. Getting them out of their department, out of their skin and working on something together helps them develop something that’s common.
The more that they’ve participated in it, the likely ever they are to buy in. Even go so far as probably the champion that buy in to their own group. If it’s not something that comes from on high, but something that feels more organic to them, the better.
Audience Member: Hilary, thanks so much. I’m just curious. Have you seen any trends with videos, particularly in Internets? Are there people using the more or less, or are they longer or shorter? Have you seen any trends over the past couple of years?
Hilary: Shorter and shorter and shorter. Yeah. They are. They had board meetings that were hours and hours long. They recorded the entire board meeting, because the board asked them to put them up on video. Nobody watched them all the way through. I would say, yes that’s the trend, but you can tell. More and more of the video tools out there for you to use measure, where people drop-off.
I don’t think that it’s a generic best practice, but you should look and see what the behavior is on the videos that you put up. I also don’t think that it’s necessarily about the link to the video about what’s covered in it. Would it be worth just taking an excerpt, or not putting it up at all, or putting up the transcript? There’s lots of options. Thank you so much for your time this morning.