When your government organization is building a new website, you obviously need good content to support it. You’ll not only need to edit the content you’re moving over from your old website to the new one, but you’ll also need to create new content. It’s easy to frame content migration as a technical problem or something akin to data entry. But if you stop there, you’ll miss the opportunity to elevate your content and, with those improvements, to see an improvement in your user success. And isn’t that your ultimate goal?
The success of your website depends on a solid content elevation strategy — and that can be overwhelming for an already-overtasked organization. Fortunately, an expert municipal website vendor will take the reins and provide content strategy training that makes it easy to start implementing effective improvements.
4 Components of Municipal Content Strategy Training
When you work with a specialized vendor like Interpersonal Frequency, we begin content training at the very beginning of our relationship with you. That means that as your new website is being built, we’ll help your team master these four essential components of good content strategy. Then you can take the ball and run with it.
Simplify your municipal site’s foundational content goals
From the discovery phase to the development phase of your website rebuild, we’ll build a solid content foundation. When we have our discovery summit, we’ll discuss both what you need from this project and what your users need. Then we will evaluate the current state of your content by measuring it against these three key metrics:
- Is your content useful? Your content should tell users what they need to know. Does it accurately answer a question or fill a need with clear instructions and plain language?
- Is your content accessible? Your content should be orderly and descriptive, and available to all who need it, regardless of ability. It should be created out of genuine empathy and a desire to reach your whole community.
- Is your content alive? Your content should be up-to-date, responsive, and optimized for search. It should include links to connect to other useful, relevant information as well.
Useful, accessible, alive: they’re metrics for quality content and a simple content strategy motto for your team. An ounce of content prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure. A mindset of useful, accessible, and alive will remind you what your content goals are and eliminate unnecessary revisions down the road.
Make your municipal content strategy participatory
We won't override or discard past style guides. Together, we discern what elements you most need when you're working on your website.
A sustainable content strategy requires team participation to create a joint sense of ownership. We’ll start building your organization’s streamlined content style guide by asking your team how they want the site to sound and weigh in on rules to follow. Even if you have a variety of perspectives, departments, and policies, we start fresh in a collaborative session and give everyone a role to play.
A hefty style guide can be time-consuming to consult and end up being a thorn in the side of your content team. Instead, we choose what will have the biggest impact and create that consistency across the site and include it in your organization’s “Rules for Writers.” It’s a prioritized collection of the most important rules that make the biggest impact and make it easier for everyone to get aligned.
If you want to expand the number of people who are maintaining your website’s content, they don’t all need to be expert writers. It’s actually good for the overall health and longevity of your organization when you can spread the content development responsibilities. Inclusivity and accessible content tools positively change the tenor and tone of how people approach the work.
If one individual or department dominates the content process, conflict that detracts from your real goal (user satisfaction) might result. Creating opportunities for team participation is vital as you disseminate and train on your content strategy.
Put content training into action (and get additional support if you need it)
After you train with us, your content team should get right to work prioritizing and making targeted improvements. Identifying content priorities isn’t complicated; just answer these questions:
- Where are the web pages that house key user interactions or transactions, and are they supporting user success?
- Have you provided clear instructions to prepare users for success when you're directing them to external platforms?
- If you want to elevate service provision in your information architecture (as many municipalities are currently seeking to do), where do you need to do content work to support the envisioned functionalities?
- What are your big categories of content? What's the life cycle of each? What is a realistic content review process?
You may realize that you need help so the quantity of work doesn’t detract from the quality of work. You might need a few additional fast writers and editors, so your senior staff can just do the review. Or you might need a content lead who acts as coordinator and bridge between your vendor and your organization. This is often a very reasonable investment. And if you have a clear content strategy, you can get extra hands up to speed and aligned with your vision quickly.
A permanent hire may not even be necessary. Interpersonal Frequency can assist with locating that just-right temporary hire to fill the gaps and help get your team set up for future independence.
Set yourself up for long-term success
The content training we provide need not fade away. Your new website will have guidance help text in the CMS, and you’ll have your own Rules for Writers to rely on. Simple content calendars and content lifecycle charts will make it easier to maintain your content and onboard new staff as needed.
You can also use free and low cost tools to help you maintain content. At Interpersonal Frequency, we recommend the following:
- Flesch-Kincaid readability formula determines grade level based on sentence length and word count. In general, an eighth grade reading level is about right for most audiences.
- MailChimp content style guide is a good place to see what a fully matured style guide for the web should look like.
- Letting Go of the Words (by Ginny Redish) is a classic, reliable text that can teach you “how to produce clear writing in plain language for the web.”
- How to Write Short (by Roy Peter Clark) will help you write succinctly and effectively, always a plus when writing for a site that most users will access on small, handheld screens.
- Writing for accessibility is a straightforward tool to help you meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.
Your new content strategy process may even provide a few unexpected benefits. Members of your team who start contributing content may find their new workload is actually a gift. They may enjoy it and feel proud of adding tangible value to your website, your organization, and most importantly, your users.
When your website launches, you may discover you run into content roadblocks. Interpersonal Frequency is available to consult and collaborate when you need it. Let’s talk when you’re ready to turn content challenges into something your team understands and masters over time.