“Content” is everywhere. It’s ads and long form copy, images and videos, stories and metadata. But what’s the point of it all? That depends on the content strategy. Content strategy plans for valuable, findable, meaningful content.
For many people, content seems to begin and end with publishing. But for a content strategist, content begins with defining requirements, and identifying user needs. Before writing a word, content strategists outline the brand’s message, and the organization’s goals. If the project is a site redesign, they might audit and review the pages currently on the site. If the project includes a new site backend, they might research and develop a migration plan for a content management system. The ultimate goal? To have flexible, searchable content that appears to the right people, in the right places, at the right time.
Content strategy basics
Content strategy focuses on the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of content. Content not only includes the words on the page but also the images and multimedia that are used. Ensuring that you have useful and usable content, that is well structured, and easily found is vital to improving the user experience of a website.
Creating a comprehensive strategy and governance
The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content. Throughout her book, Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson discusses in detail the benefits of and how to create your content strategy. It reiterates that your strategy helps you to identify what already exists, what should be created and, more importantly, why it should be created.
There are broadly four components that come together to help you create a successful strategy and governance which breakdown into content and people oriented components:
(1) Identify goals and substance
Focuses on what content is required to successfully execute your core strategy. It includes characteristics such as messaging architecture, intended audience(s) and voice and tone.
(2) Determine structure
Focuses on how content is prioritized, organized and accessed. Focuses on the content itself, including mapping messages to content and creating detailed page tables.
(3) Roles and Workflow
Focuses on how people manage and maintain content on a daily basis, including the roles, tasks and tools required throughout the content lifecycle.
(4) Policies and standards
Focuses on the policies, standards and guidelines that apply to content and its’ lifecycle, as well as how an organization will sustain and evolve its content strategy.
Producing compelling and sustainable content means that you need to understand and follow the content lifecycle which usually includes the following:
Several of the deliverables related to each of those phases overlap with the deliverables of other fields, including brand development, information architecture, user research, project management and web analytics. Instead of thinking of who owns each deliverable, it’s important to think of who contributes to each and how those different contributions come together to define the final product. There’s value in including multiple perspectives on deliverables.
Best practices for creating meaningful content
We have identified these best practices to help you create meaningful and relevant content. Each piece of content should:
In general, understanding content strategy practices – and, where possible, adopting them – will help you in one or both of these ways:
Getting your content to the right person at the right time and having teams that work efficiently don’t need to be “someday” ideas. If you educate yourself on the topics discussed here – and partner with one or more content strategists – you can work toward those goals today, transforming not only your audience’s experience of your content but your team’s experience as well.
If you are interested in finding out more about content strategy and how Gather can help your organisation, please contact Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper at email@example.com
The hardest part of a successful digital transformation is the cultural piece. Like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, it begins with small steps.
One of the elements that is misunderstood about a digital transformation is that it’s typically a Trojan horse for a much broader business transformation, a time to review many aspects of a business’s operations from top to bottom—the talent, the organisational structure, the operating model, products, services, etcetera. Some of those are hard changes that need to be made, and some are softer, like language or culture.
Culture is the hardest part of the organisation to change. Shifting technology, finding the right talent, finding the right product set and strategy—that’s all doable, not easy, but doable. Hardest is the cultural transformation in businesses that have very deep legacy and cultural roots.
The power of words
The language that’s used internally in the organisation—around products, around the customer, around opportunity—and how you translate that externally to your customers or clients can have a very powerful impact on how you conduct your business and the outcomes you can deliver.
For example, at a financial-services company, the kind of language that’s used internally to talk about the customer experience is often peppered with three-letter acronyms that are just “management speak.” There’s an opportunity to completely change the game and to think differently by focusing the language around what you’re actually delivering for your customers and then rethinking the way the business operates along those lines. It can be a very powerful shift in culture and in the way people think about what they do.
Three steps for getting digital transformation back on track
Any change process starts with an awareness that there’s an issue in the organisation. There are many ways to address those issues, but the “softer” things that signal change, such as altering the language used, are important. Some organisations even change dress codes and the office environment, break down silos between organisations, and make certain senior managers more visible. Leadership starts to be seen more around the office and to be more open to more junior levels of the organisation than they may have typically been in the past. There’s a more informal, if you like, style of management.
Then you start to move into the ways the company judges itself—the key performance indicators (KPIs) and the measures you use, for individuals and for teams and for the wider organisation—to try to drive real change. How high up do those new KPIs need to be on a dashboard that otherwise may have been rather traditional and may not have changed much for a decade or more?
And thirdly, it’s the actions you take, whether it’s putting a designer on your executive team, like at Apple, or even making a designer your CEO, as Burberry has recently done.
So there are a number of quite significant changes you can make to send a signal through the organisation. It’s not just about a chief digital officer or a chief data officer or a chief analytics officer. Actually, this digital thing becomes everybody’s job, everyone’s responsibility. You need to inculcate that change across the organisation, and you need to take many small and large steps to do that.
Building a culture of constant change
Businesses need to be in a state of constant revolution. You don’t make a change and then just sit back and wait for the next five years of business as usual. You need to build a new momentum and rhythm in your business that reflects the new reality of the industry in which you are operating.
Many companies already have a strategy of continuous improvement in their businesses and in their operations globally. You need to instill a culture of continuous change and evolution in how things work.
Some changes are gradual and evolve toward an end goal, which becomes clear over time, and you need to make a number of small steps to do that. Sometimes you do this through external actions, such as acquisitions, investments, partnerships, or other external activity or statements. Or sometimes you do this through internal activity, such as the people you promote or the way you talk about the company and its customers and mission. Some people will be taken a little outside their comfort zone, but that’s OK, so long as you give them the permission to take small risks and fail quickly if they can.
The board’s role in the digital age
The role of the board in a digital business is quite different from the role of the board in a legacy business. One of the challenges many legacy companies face today is that their boards are not really ready to challenge them and to support and encourage their digital transformation.
If you think of the average age of most board members around the world—and, frankly, of their backgrounds as well—they are not digitally ready. A recent Russell Reynolds survey suggested, that only 4 percent of global 500 companies truly have a board that’s digitally ready, even fewer in Asia–Pacific, and under 25 percent in the United States. So there’s still a long, long way to go.
To make a digital transformation happen, you need complete alignment—from the board through the executive team through the whole organisation. Without that “air cover” from the board and from shareholders who understand the change that you’re taking the organisation through, it is very, very hard to do it successfully.
For example, many board meetings are backward looking in their approach. The data they’re looking at is often a little old. They’re not looking at live data. Many board members are often not active customers of the company’s products or services. There’s a new generation of board director emerging that is much more hands-on, with a more entrepreneurial background. You mix that with some of the more traditional board profiles and you get greater diversity on the board.
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you on your journey to digital transformation, please contact Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in May 2016, I wrote an article putting the spotlight on the FTSE companies that had not yet launched mobile friendly websites. You can follow the link for the full article but I will give you the headline:
In May 2016, 84 constituents of the FTSE 250 did not have mobile friendly websites. That is 34%.
This is a very high number considering mobile friendly website design is by no means a new phenomenon. In fact, the majority of digital media consumption now happens on mobile rather than desktop and has been this way since the ‘digital tipping point’ in 2014.
Over half a year on from my initial blog post I have reviewed the 84 non-responsive companies again and found the following:
of the 84 now have mobile friendly websites
(25.2%) of the FTSE 250 still have non-mobile friendly websites
Predictably, the FTSE 100 has a lower percentage of non-responsive websites with just 17 failing to adjust for smaller screen sizes.
When combined together the overall number of FTSE 350 companies without a mobile friendly website is 80. That is 22.9%.
Although slightly better than it was six months ago, the corporate world is still generations behind the rest of the internet.
Unresponsive seems a suitable term to describe how reactive some organisations have been to the change in user preferences when, in truth, a website built with purely desktop experience in mind is not fit for purpose in 2017.
Interested in finding out how we can help you? Please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper email@example.com
The way some digital agencies talk, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only focus for a digital project should be the end-user.
But as a digital project manager, I see it as my job to make sure the websites that Gather produces meet the objectives of our clients as well as the requirements of their end-users.
Too often, the emphasis put on the end-user is to the detriment of clients’ needs. This leads to a very rigid website, with little room for flexibility or future development.
Back when the internet was an unknown quantity, content management systems were more prescriptive and clients were generally happy to leave all website updates to their tech team or agency.
Now, everyone is more digitally literate and the power over website management has shifted from tech teams towards the client side. Agencies should not fight this but facilitate the transition as it will allow them to be involved at a more strategic level.
In order for this shift to be a success, the website needs to be built in a way that allows future development and a part of that is giving the client team proper training on how to use it and make the most out of its capabilities. (The old adage about giving a man a fishing rod rather than a fish seems to ring true.)
This shift should also signal the demise of in-house content management systems as clients expect more flexibility. Flexibility that can only be provided successfully by well established tech giants like Adobe or open source development communities like like Drupal or Umbraco.
Of course, not every client has the time or resource to employ such a hands-on approach and this is where consultancies like Gather can draw-up bespoke ongoing maintenance and support packages.
If you think you could benefit from a more flexible content management system or support package then please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper on firstname.lastname@example.org
The first in our ‘Breaking down the barriers to digital’ series.
The term digital strategy is commonly confused with a mish-mash of social media tactics or technology infrastructure. Digital Strategy is developed for the business as a whole – not just for marketing and not just for IT. We prefer to call it digital business strategy – because it is the business strategy that’s important and we view the business challenges through a digital lens. Digital business strategy is also the starting point for Digital Business Transformation.
Digital business strategy is a process of diagnosing and eliminating near term challenges using technology, in order to progress a business towards its stated vision.
What is a business without a digital business strategy?
It’s like a road trip without a map or GPS. You drive for days on end. Your petrol and lodging bills are piling up. Cheap accommodation, bad coffee and lack of sleep are getting to you. All this just to find out that you have been driving in the completely wrong direction and now have to backtrack, costing you double the time and money.
Most likely, your digital and business objectives are out of alignment – you need a digital strategy. This most likely happens because of one or some of the following:
This produces a poor return on investment and results in serious waste and inefficiency. As the first step, you need a business plan, and it must be on paper. You can call it a plan, a strategy, a business charter, or anything you like. It doesn’t have to be a fifty-page document. Most business models can fit on one or two pages. This document should cover such sections as mission, vision, objectives, core values, value proposition, and short- and long-term goals. It can be in bullet form. You should also do a detailed SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). The process of putting this on paper may bring unexpected clarity and help you stay focused. You should be prepared to share this document with the world because trust and transparency are key motivation drivers in our digital age.
Developing your digital strategy?
Once you have this information, we can help you work through your problems and develop a digital strategy. For all of our projects, we do the following:
Very often, the most obvious problems and solutions can be more easily spotted by an outsider, even without expensive research. We can scale the work to fit your needs and budget, but we won’t cut corners. We firmly believe that it’s impossible to build an effective website without getting to know your business and the playing field.
In conclusion, when you have a moment, answer these questions:
Did you take the time to understand your business and competitive environment, and does your website reflect that?
Have you done a 360 SEO analysis to understand your digital competition?
Does your digital presence have a solid relationship with your business objectives? Or, have you ever established succinct, measurable business objectives?
Interested in finding out how we can help you?
Please contact our Business Development Manager, Mitchell Kirkham-Cooper on email@example.com
“Good corporate governance is about having the right checks and balances within big business to strengthen decision-making and accountability”
The Prime Minister has made it very clear this week that she will continue to pursue the proposed corporate governance reforms in a bid to moderate executive pay and introduce a governance framework for private companies. The UK has always been praised for its strong and rigid governance procedures, it seems therefore only appropriate to maintain these standards and continue ensuring that business is not only succeeding in the economy but is also following appropriate practice.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have published a consultation paper outlining a number of options relating to the proposed reforms. The paper addresses three areas:
It sets out a number of other options in relation to the role of the remuneration committee, transparency on executive pay and long-term incentive plans, and has requested feedback by 17 February 2017.
Shareholder voting is currently advisory, but remains an area of significant public concern as executive pay becomes even more disconnected from the average employee and long-term company performance. The BEIS Green Paper suggests a number of options to address the problem, including subjecting elements of remuneration to a binding vote, introducing stronger consequences for companies whose remuneration report is rejected, encouraging a limit on total annual pay, holding a regular binding vote and strengthening governance to better engage shareholders.
Many businesses are faced with the challenge of overcoming the disconnect between employees and the board, and need to establish a stronger stakeholder voice. Potential reforms include the introduction of a stakeholder advisory board, designating non-executive directors to ensure the employee voice is heard, appointing a stakeholder representative to the board and strengthening stakeholder reporting requirements.
As we seen before, in a bid to prevent any future scandals of a BHS or Sports Direct magnitude, the Government has chosen to regulate again. Now the Prime Minister’s is suggesting that large private companies should be required to meet a minimum corporate governance standard. The standards for public companies are in place as a measure of reassurance to shareholders that companies are being operated in an appropriate way. Despite the differences in the shareholder-management relationship, there is a public expectation that companies will be run in a responsible way, but it seems that left to their own accords, this isn’t always the case and other stakeholders tend to be the most affected. Ultimately, this reform would see the introduction of enhanced standards to ensure that private companies are applying the principles of the UK Corporate Governance Code (the Code).
Following the publication of this report, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have revealed that they will also consult to update the Code in 2017, despite their earlier announcement this year that further updates to the Code are on hold until 2019.
Now, more than ever companies should be considering how they are communicating their corporate governance practices, establishing how they can go beyond compliance and demonstrate that they are taking it seriously.
‘Transparency sends out a strong signal about what is important to you as a business. It makes us all accountable…’
Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO, Virgin Money
The communication of governance and how boards are engaging and understanding the business is critical, ensuring that all the right checks and balances are in place does not just promote good governance, but also strong and sustainable performance.
It is important to note that governance is not just a hygiene factor and regardless of the steady stream of scandals, boards need to remember the responsibility for a company’s success starts and ends with them. A company’s reputation is hinged on transparent behaviour and communications. Boards should ensure that their disclosures are transparent in a meaningful way, not just for the sake of it and not just to shareholders.
To learn more about our approach to corporate governance and ensuring clarity and transparency in your disclosures, download the latest papers in our governance series. The series seeks to help companies respond to the evolving requirements and navigate the complexities of best practice and regulation.
Successful organisations are really clear about who they are and where they are heading and they understand that while you can’t predict the future, you can create it. They succeed in aligning their activities to their brand by having what we at Gather call fierce clarity at the centre. Fierce clarity is all about how the brand is articulated by an organisation – the words they use, the story they tell, the logic for the business and the relevance to the employees: After all, they are the people whose behaviours define and support the customer experience. Successful organisations align their activity to their brand by actively engaging their employees – who then engage all their stakeholders. Simple? Certainly not.
Successful brand engagement programmes share the following characteristics:
1. They use brand language that is smart and succinct.
Most celebrated brands find their articulation through simple phrases: GE has “Imagination at work”; Sony has “Make. Believe.” Google’s mission statement is simply “to organise the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful’’. There may be more detailed versions of the brand internally, but these simple phrases sum up the spirit of the brand and bring it to life.
2. They are built on the truths of the organisation – reflecting both the realities and the ambition.
You can’t just invent this stuff out of nothing. Organisations have to work with the culture they’ve got and develop it so that it is most useful to where the business is heading. Imposing a culture that doesn’t credibly fit what exists doesn’t work.
3. They are developed collaboratively with the organisation whose employees then feel they contributed right from the start.
Top down development doesn’t generally work, even in top-down organisations. The culture described by brand values is more likely to be embraced if it is developed in an inclusive way and can be seen to be practical and useful. Values have to work for everyone at all levels. The people in the organisation need to feel ownership.
4. They are championed at Board level or personally by the CEO.
In many successful organisations the brand is not just ‘brand-ing’ or a logo, but it’s the chief concern of the CEO because it guides the culture – and culture drives performance. Successful organisations see brand as long-term business strategy. Attempts to raise engagement levels are likely to flounder unless there is a willingness and energy at a senior level to take an holistic and long term approach to building commitment in the organisation.
5. They guide communications and behaviours.
Use the right kind of words and they can inform the style and content of communications as well as guide behaviours. Again fierce clarity is key. Forget words like ‘Innovative’ and ‘Professional’ – Expert, for example suggests a tone of voice, but also sets up an expectation in terms of behaviours. And since brands must do what they say, especially in today’s world of super-scrutiny and opinion online, why not have a shared basis for doing and saying?
6. They are supported by a well-managed and professionally produced communications programme – digital is key, but not everything.
Culture change is very, very hard and takes time – years rather than months, before activities are aligned to the brand. Getting to the point where everyone in an organisation has a shared understanding takes commitment. It starts with a well-managed and properly produced communications programme and only stands a chance if it’s delivered properly, online and in print. Online invites a much more interactive approach to culture development. But many employees may not have easy access to it so you need print too. There are phases of explanation and the celebration of behaviours that are on brand become the story internally and reinforce the values. Thousands of engagement programmes fizzle out after just a few weeks or months because of the sheer effort it all takes. Someone once said that 80% of them fail.
7. They are designed to last and are capable of development and refreshment.
It’s what people used to call a big idea. The brand idea has got to be articulated in such a way that it is smart enough and inclusive enough to have the broadest impact. And there should be lots of room within that idea for creative development and expression.
So, how do you align your activity to your brand? The answer is, with fierce clarity, with a huge amount of effort – and, probably, with a great deal of difficulty along the way. But, ultimately, your activity is your brand. Those who get there win.
I’ve heard clients talk about investors who “just need a pdf to print off and read in the taxi” and in the next breath they tell me about the investor that spent most of the meeting “getting lost in their corporate website”.
So which one do we need to accommodate?
The truth is both skim-readers and deep divers.
But although the answer is obvious, delivering it is a much harder task.
The skim reader
People in the City are busy and important and don’t always have time to go through pages of text and figures to form an opinion of an organisation. These users are looking for content to be delivered ‘at a glance’ and it should be available to download and print.
I say should because we are in 2016, and you would imagine that most businesses would have embraced responsive web design. The skim-reading investor could then access the ‘at a glance’ content from their smartphone or tablet without the need for downloading and printing.
This is not the case as Gather has shown. Our research into which of the FTSE 100 companies have responsive websites shows fewer have embraced responsive web design than you’d think.
The deep diver
Depending on the size and sector of the organisation, there could be multiple digital touch points for the inquisitive (or lost) investor to stumble across and although the content won’t be aimed at them, they will form an opinion of you based on their experience.
In this instance, clarity is key. It needs to be clear when a user has moved from one area of the site to another, which can be a challenge if the investor content is embedded within a consumer facing site. It should also be clear who the audiences are and where they can find content relevant to them. Shell do this well by listing their audiences by name in the navigation.
It seems that one of the biggest differences between online and offline is the order in which users can consume content.
Reports and presentations are in a very obvious order with a helpful content page to help the impatient investor flick straight to the preferred content.
Websites are not built in this way but instead need to accommodate multiple journeys that allow the user to define the order in which they want to consume the content based on their immediate needs. You need a duck to reach investors, because a duck is built to both skim and deep dive.
In the last few years, the landscape of Higher Education has changed beyond recognition. How are universities and other institutions to meet the harsh realities of a world now driven predominantly by market forces and technological change? Gather has identified 7 of the big challenges facing organisations in the sector;
There is a growing trend towards localism and a sense of identity that rests in people, place, pride and purpose. If your Higher Education (HE) institution is in a city with a distinct personality and culture, the challenge is to find the truth of that personality and articulate it in a way that can be useful.
Today all institutions have to play on a global scale. You must leverage your ‘place in the world’ to face, particularly, new recruitment from the East and from the Indian sub-continent. The challenge is to ensure your positioning enables you to reach abroad for both prospective students and funding opportunities.
Students are consumers
Students want choice, they want control over their futures, they want better health, wellbeing and an experience on their own terms… and they increasingly view universities as suppliers of services in an open market. The challenge is to articulate and express the brand in such a way that it competes effectively in this new ‘consumer’ landscape.
The new funding
Not only is the student a consumer, you are also competing for the best students in an age of austerity. There is an argument that says that the real challenge is to articulate an ‘investment story’ to diverse audiences.
Whilst digital is critical in terms of delivery, HE brands must work hard to fully exploit the desire for more personal engagement. The challenge is to make your organisation come to life in more personal ways e.g. through peers, family and friends. That means understanding who the influencers are and providing them with tangible and personal evidence of the brand values.
HE brands should be trying to understand how they can move beyond identity and place to create social brand platforms to fulfill needs; social (one-to-one, many-to-many); layered (multiple levels of involvement); living (shaped by the audience experience) and curated (functional and facilitating).
Membership and loyalty schemes must now think differently about their traditional (transactional) offers: There is the challenge of finding the value in traditional Alumni operations in the era of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Your institution should be using its brand to reframe Alumni membership, identity and purpose in order to create new networks in wider society.
The ultimate challenge for any one institution is to identify its particular strengths and articulate them so that meaningful and relevant connections can be made with stakeholders; everyone, that is, from potential domestic and international students and their parents, to academic and professional staff, to alumni.
Our experience in the sector suggests that this is the point at which challenge turns into opportunity.
The Brexit referendum is dominating public debate in the UK, with everyone feeling uncertain about the outcome. It is no surprise then that CFOs in the UK are ranking it the most significant business threat.
Tightening monetary conditions, economic weakness, interest rates and emerging markets also present extremely volatile business conditions. Not to mention the risk associated with the US elections and Mr Donald Trump.
Like everyone else, the Bank of England (BoE) is talking about Brexit. In an interview with Andrew Marr, Mark Carney defended his statement that Brexit ‘could possibly lead to a technical recession’ by explaining that:
‘We (BoE) also have a responsibility to explain risks and then take steps, because by explaining them… what we would do to mitigate them, we reduce them. And that is the key point. Ignoring a risk is not to reduce it’
This is why the clear communication of potential risks is paramount. Risk reporting all too often becomes boilerplate as companies are not willing to disclose information that may hinder their competitive advantage. But companies also have a responsibility to explain to their shareholders risks that may affect future forecasts and financial results.
Risks are constantly changing. In the area of cyber risk, for example, sound risk management and the communication of it contributes in itself to overall corporate governance and it should be treated as an integral company process rather than a compliance activity.
Companies that are risk resilient are able to withstand business disruption by relying on their internal controls and management technique. Those that are agile are able to respond rapidly to changing market dynamics. Companies that are both resilient and agile are expected to see a significant increase in revenue and sustainable growth.
The lesson is don’t ignore, communicate more. The Institute of Internal Auditors recommends that business risks are addressed using the ‘three lines of defence’ model. This is consistent with the UK Corporate Governance Code (and its supporting guidance on internal controls) and provides an effective way to enhance risk management communications to ensure the organisation promotes clarity of risks and internal controls. It mitigates risk at three levels; operational management, risk management and compliance functions and the internal audit increasing the transparency.
Strong risk management requires coherent and succinct internal reporting. There is limited use in identifying business risks without sharing the information internally and externally. That just leaves a company susceptible to a potential failure in operations with possible detrimental financial implications.
Fundamentally, the importance lies in determining the risks that are relevant to your business, and explicitly explaining the impact on your company’s operations, rather than addressing general market risks in a general manner.
This will mitigate the risk and by mitigating the risk, the risk itself is reduced.