In this episode, Jeff talks with Andrea Ames, Content Strategist, Architect, and Designer at IBM, about how her team is changing the way IBM approaches to content creation, design, and customer experi…Read More
Content strategies are complicated. They have moving pieces. They have immovable truths. They are built on the unpredictability of the future. They mean so much, and sometimes, so little, but at the root, they are trying to do good. Strategies are nothing if they are not measurable. Telling that story of output and input is not an easy feat. Some people love to read – they love it, they live it, they breath it. But most people, and probably your stakeholders, are much better at consuming visualized information. They want graphs and flows and ways to easily consume the vast amount of information that you are putting in front of them. If you’re going to sell that strategy, you need a way to visualize it.
“Strategies are nothing if they are not measurable. Telling that story of output and input is not an easy feat.”
You could go the route of some strategists and simply provide graphs and tables for your analyses, or you could go beyond. You could build your strategy piece-by-piece in a clickable, flow-through content ecosystem using a prototyping tool like Axure. You can’t tell the whole story with Axure, but you can sell the measurement of it – your channels, metrics, and the intended journey of your audience.
Visualization of Content Channels
There will be many of them and they will all have a purpose, but how do you visualize the purpose of your channels? The answer is to give your stakeholder a hierarchy of channels to view. Let them consume this information in the same way the audience would consume it, but with a maestro’s perspective.
Most content strategies involve several layers of a journey – social media posts, blogs, syndication, ads, landing pages, emails – and these channels have their own value in audience and segmentation. Use Axure to demonstrate that.
[Pro Tip: Axure’s pages are created in the same way (in some respects) that pages are created within a CMS. While working within the tool, remember that drag-and-drop and right-click are your best friends.]
Create a page for every channel and create child pages beneath your most outward channels. In those pages, include important information like audience size, audience affinities, baseline data from channels you are already using, and researched best practices and baselines for channels that you are not yet experienced with. Don’t bother printing out and attaching a media kit. Put that information right on the page, explaining why it’s important.
Create a content ecosystem with Axure.
Here’s a great starter list of information you could and should provide by channel:
- All channels – audience demographics, audience affinities (especially for products that require using psychographic segmentation), audience size, baseline data from your own relevant campaigns
- Syndication – digital readership, social media audience size and any other data they might provide around their social channels, digital ad costs, author page elements (photo, links, social links) and bio character count, editorial calendar, any suggestions from the editor regarding their pitch process or what their content needs are.
- Social media – previews of your ads and how they will appear on both desktop and mobile, as well as intended segmentation for your campaigns.
- Digital Ads – frequency, segmentation, keywords, competitors.
This will give you a great start to helping your stakeholders understand the value of each channel and the content ecosystem that you are building.
Visualization of Content Metrics
This might seem redundant, but it is valuable to physically show the points of measurement within your strategy and to help your stakeholder understand what you’re looking for.
Sometimes you’re looking for just hard conversions: “How much money did you actually earn from this particular campaign spend?”
Sometimes you’re wanting to understand the audience and their content needs before spending money on campaigns: “How did website visitors get to the landing page? Did they dive further into the website and, if so, where?”
Sometimes you’re building an audience and you’re measuring the audience’s tolerance for frequency: “How many times was my ad viewed and has my engagement rate changed with frequency?”
The more you are measuring and the closer you get to being able to demonstrate ROI, the more easily you will be able to sell that strategy.
Create digital touchpoints and tracking points for your metrics in Axure.
You can do this within the channel pages that you’ve created in Axure. Drag-and-drop a rectangle widget into your channel page. Within the rectangle, identify the metric: clicks, engagements, traffic, followers. Use the connector mode to show exactly where you are measuring.
Find connector mode in the Axure toolbar
Find the rectangle widget in Axure
Visualization of Audience Journey
Because it is a prototyping tool, Axure allows you to link pages and content within each file. These files are then publishable so that your stakeholders can use a link to access your strategy supplement online and click through pages as if they were on a website. The best part is that you can design the pages so that they are as clickable as the final product. This allows you to show intended behaviors, audience journeys, digital touchpoints, and areas of content that might be changing over time.
Start by building a page solely to show your potential audience journeys. You can use the rectangle widget and connector mode to create flows from one piece of content to the next.
Create flows with the rectangle widget and the connector mode.
In this way, you can create easy-to-consume journeys and point out desired results. This also helps stakeholders understand the wide variety of desired results and the many layers of valuable engagements – beyond the ‘sale’ itself.
Making content clickable in Axure isn’t rocket science, but it does require a few steps.
- Select the content item you want to link
- In the top right area of your screen, the ‘Widget Interactions and Notes’ module should be ready and waiting (if it’s not, click on view -> reset view)
- Double click ‘On Click’ which should open the Case Editor modal to assign an action
- In the modal, click ‘Open Link’ and then in the ‘Configure actions’ column, choose the corresponding page within your ecosystem
- Select which window you would like the page to pop up in (either in the current window or in a new window)
- OR if you would the link to be to an actual URL, select the ‘Link to an external URL or file’ radial and insert that URL into the field
- Click ‘Ok’ and your content should be linked
Assign links to content with Case Editor in Axure.
Now, publish that file with Axshare and test the link by clicking on it. Once you’ve done this a couple of times, muscle memory takes over.
Now Go, Sell That Content Strategy!
This is a time investment and it’s not for the faint of heart. But, putting extra time and energy into your strategy has several advantages. First, it will make you think more carefully about the moving pieces within your strategy. If you’re working with a team, this allows you to assign areas of the strategy with a shareable ‘workbook’ of the big picture, so that no one gets lost in their own area of the maintenance of the strategy. And, most importantly, this shows the value of the strategy to your decision makers and your clients.
Remember, you might think and know that your strategy is wonderful and is worth the time and energy that it takes to make content strategy work, but your stakeholders need to be convinced as well.
Finally, Axure isn’t for everyone. There are tons of ways to put together a visualization like this. Don’t be afraid to experiment – part of what makes a strategist valuable is their ability to stay agile.