Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Customer-Centric Content: 10 Do's & 10 Do Not's.

It's no secret that if you want to engage your customers, you need customer-centric content. Business people, writers, and marketers are all getting on board with this. But what does customer-centric content look like? And, right now, I'm not talking about the medium or the delivery channel or the content provider. Sure, social media makes it easier to have a conversation with your customers, and customer-generated content is inherently customer-centric... but what about the copy that your company writes? With our ingrained habits of talking about ourselves, our company, and our key benefits, we're not always as good at writing from the customer's perspectives as we'd like.

Here are some tips to keep you focused.

Do Not:

  1. Write about how wonderful your company is. It's not credible coming from you.
  2. Use a gazillion wonderfully exciting adjectives to describe how unique and revolutionary your amazing new products and services are.
  3. Use many words at all.
  4. Focus on what you sell.
  5. Be too stuffy and serious.
  6. Expect your customers to come to your website...just because.
  7. Expect to get it right the first time.
  8. Interrupt your customers with irrelevant content when they're trying to do something.
  9. Try to say more than one thing at one time.
  10. Assume your customers are just like you.
  1. Demonstrate that you know who your customers are, without telling them. 
  2. Demonstrate how wonderful your company is, without talking about it.
  3. Write as if you're a person, wanting to build a relationship with your customers.
  4. Reflect your customers motivations, emotions, and life-context in your writing. 
  5. Provide content that is relevant to both your customers, and your business. 
  6. Be generous in sharing your knowledge in your area of expertise.
  7. Get customer feedback, rewrite, revise, repeat.
  8. Make products and service details easy to find and make the buying process easy.
  9. Publish your content where your customers hang out. 
  10. Focus on your industry expertise and customer needs.
Any other good ideas? Let me know.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Content Strategy or Content Marketing? I'm Confused!

In the past few weeks I've had a lot of people asking me about the difference between content strategy and content marketing. If you remove the first word from each label, it's pretty clear: content strategy is about STRATEGY and content marketing is about MARKETING. But both of them focus on content to get the job done. Let's look a bit closer...

A Content Strategist evaluates business and customer needs and provides strategic direction on how improved content and content processes can help to achieve specific objectives. The focus is to provide direction on how to improve content to meet measurable business goals.

A Content Marketer evaluates the market to find ways to engage with customers and prospective customers through relevant content. The focus is to attract and retain customers and promote the brand. 

So, clearly there's overlap. The word "content" is in each of them for good reason. And frequently a content strategy contains a content marketing component which in turn requires a more defined content marketing strategy. And THIS is why people get confused!

Make sense?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creating a Castle from Content Building Blocks

There are so many decisions that need to be made when creating content. To make that process efficient and effective, you need a system. Here's one of the easiest tricks I've found for wrestling messy content into shape: Think about all of the content-development decisions as building blocks. If you wanted to create a castle out of building blocks, you'd choose different blocks than if you wanted to build a truck. And if you wanted to build a bridge, you'd put the blocks together in a different way again. And so it is with content. You can pick and choose different elements (or building blocks) to use to create different effects, and to engage different audiences.

Trying to consider all of these elements whenever you create a new piece of content may seem daunting, but it really isn't. Your resources will dictate some choices, your audience some others. As you get used to making content decisions in this way, it builds a repeatable system that's efficient, and results in content that has both variety and consistency. The variety will keep your customers engaged and extend your reach, while the consistency will create a predictability which your customers will appreciate and learn to recognize. This reinforces your brand. You'll see patterns develop, and you'll learn that certain building blocks go together well and get good responses from your customer, and that other ones just don't.

Every company has different content requirements, but here are some of the building blocks that I typically think about. This is just a list. It's certainly not the list. Use it as a basis to brainstorm which building blocks are relevant within your organization and for your customers.

Content Goals
Stick to one primary goal for each piece of content. For example, the primary purpose of your content may be to:
  • Engage
  • Inform
  • Educate
  • Advise 
  • Persuade 
  • Inspire
Content Types
For instance, is your content essentially:
  • An opinion
  • An analysis
  • A description
  • An overview
  • A how-to
  • News
  • A story
  • Tips & tricks
  • Wayfinding
Content Source
Where does, or should, the content come from?
  • A dedicated content team
  • Marketing
  • Key contributors within your company
  • Your executives
  • Your subject matter experts
  • Your staff
  • Your customers
  • The public
Content Voice
The voice of your content should be distinct and recognizable. Even an overall corporate voice is made up of a tapestry of individual voices. So, is a specific piece of content best served by the voice of:
  • A specific individual
  • The "company" voice, and if so does the tone vary based on purpose or different customer segments?
  • Your customers
  • The public
Content Topics
These are completely driven by your business, but you'll likely have different topics that you frequently speak about relating to your areas of expertise, your customers needs and motivations, and your community actions or involvement.
Content Format
This is all about how you're communicating your content. For instance, as a:
  • Blog
  • Video
  • Webinar
  • Article
  • Image
  • Diagram
  • Interactive tool
  • Checklist
  • Interview
  • Call-to-action
  • Presentation
  • Newsletter
Content Placement
Where is this content best published and presented? It could be:

  • On your website. If so, where on your website?
  • Your blog
  • On YouTube, Facebook, or other social networking platform
  • External to your company
Content Promotion
What's the best way or ways to promote your content? Through:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Website links
  • Presentations
If this list seems overwhelming, then trim it down. Just try to think about the key decisions that are part of your content development process, and then create building blocks that you can keep coming back to. That way, you learn how to build a castle, or a truck, or a bridge, whenever you want to and your customers won't have to look at the pile of content on your site and wonder what the heck it's supposed to be.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thank you, content strategists everywhere!

Well, all of the American Thanksgiving vibes must be drifting north to Canada, because I find myself needing to take a moment to let you all know how truly grateful I am to be part of the amazing group of people who make up the content strategy field.

Earlier this year, as I was starting my business, I sought out other content strategists and asked them what it was like. What did they do, how did they get customers, what did they charge? You name it, I asked it. Everyone, including content strategists in my own town, were so welcoming and generous in sharing their knowledge and experiences. My "competitors" became my mentors and advisers.

When I showed up at my first content strategy conference last spring in Paris, I arrived knowing one person, and left knowing a whole network of content strategists from around the world. And every one of them has been open and excited to share what they know. This is also where I learned about the not-to-secret place where content strategists hang out... Twitter.

And that opened up a whole new world! In the last six months, I've found an endless supply of fantastic resources, a way to share thoughts and experiences, and I've found some real friends. The energy and enthusiasm that comes from content strategists everywhere is contagious... how can we not be thrilled about what we do when we're all so damned excited about it and each others successes!?

So, to all of you who have shared their expertise and experiences so generously, who have welcomed me so warmly into this community, who have provided such great material to feed the fire... and to all of you who have done the same for others... I thank you for making this a truly exceptional place to be.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Content strategy: Getting started in bite-sized steps

Content Strategy is fairly new and companies are still struggling to understand how to get started. They don't know what to ask for, or who to ask. They hear the buzz, but are not sure why they need a content strategy. As corporate content gets more complex, and the field of content strategy gains more exposure, executives begin to feel like they should know where to start but this only adds a layer of embarrassment to their ignorance. THIS IS NORMAL, and it's OK!

As content strategists, we frequently run across companies that really need a content strategy, but are not yet ready to commit. Sometimes it's because of lack of budget, sometimes it's because they are unsure of the value. And many times, it's just because they really don't see what all the fuss is about. But while we're all doing our best to educate our clients and the business world at large, one organization has decided to tackle this issue head on, and spread the content strategy love around. And not just around their own cozy circle of acquaintances, but around the world.

Firehead is a recruiting company that specializes in matching the right content strategy and technical communication people with the right companies. With head offices in Sweden and the UK, they've come up with a program that matches interested companies with some of the leading content strategists around the world to deliver a "Bitesized Content Strategy" specific to the company's needs. For very little cost or commitment, the content strategist will 1) inventory, 2) audit, and 3) analyze their web content and then 4) define clear next steps on how to improve the content to meet business goals. Simple, quick, easy, and effective.

I won't go into detail about the Bitesized program here, because you can read about it on Firehead's site. But I was so happy to see that somebody is actually filling this need that I wanted to share it with you. And I ask you to share Bitesized Content Strategy with businesses you know that really need a content strategy but don't know what to ask for, or who to ask.

Check out these links for more information about Firehead and their Bitesized Content Strategy program:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stakeholder interviews for quality content: Why, who, and how

Stakeholder interviews aren't very sexy. They're not new, or controversial, or unique to content strategy. They don't lend themselves to interesting diagrams or sketches. Both writers and clients often overlook them entirely. I'm not sure why. I think they just don't get it. They just don't see how powerful and useful stakeholder interviews can be. They must have tried it once, found it lacking, and gave up on it. If you're one of "them", I suggest you try again.

After all, how can we speak for our clients, if we don't speak to them? Here are some tips to make it easy for you.

Why do stakeholder interviews?

To build relationships and establish credibility. What better way to reach out and establish a conversation with the people who can make or break your project and those who know the most about it? You get to know them, they get to know you, and information is much more likely to flow your way after that. If you're walking in cold as a new project team member, stakeholder interviews (done right) are a fantastic way to establish yourself as someone who can listen, contribute, and add value.

To identify patterns. Whether you're trying to determine content requirements, business objectives, customer needs, or anything else, you have to look for patterns. And the best way to identify patterns is to ask each similar type of stakeholder a similar set of questions. Of course, you're going to ask on-the-fly follow up and probing questions, but when your core set of questions are consistent throughout your interviews, you'll find that patterns emerge. These patterns point you in the right direction.

To find discrepancies. Identifying differences of opinion early in the project is critical. If key stakeholders disagree it's better to bring that to light before any development is done. Sometimes discrepancies are OK (like different business units having different objectives) and can be dealt with in various ways. Other times, you really need to facilitate a commonly accepted approach, whether or not everyone is in agreement. For example, neither you nor the project will be successful if there is no widespread acceptance of who the target market is or how to communicate with them. Discrepancies can also indicate an abundance of subjective opinion and lack of real knowledge. You want to base your content strategy and content decisions on sound research and knowledge.

To unearth that golden nugget. It doesn't matter how prepared the project lead is, and how many stacks of documents they've given you outlining project research and requirements, there is ALWAYS a gold nugget still locked away in a stakeholder's brain. Maybe it's an interesting insight, or a great piece of research, or some examples that demonstrate what can't be articulated through words. Sometimes you just need to get the facts straight, or validate your assumptions. Stakeholders are powerhouses of knowledge, and there's always something new to find out through talking to them directly.

Who do you interview? The people who..

Hold the purse strings.
We gotta keep them happy. They also tend to know a lot of useful stuff. Think department Directors, VPs, etc.

Influence the people who hold the purse strings. These people are a giant step closer to the actual project. They've usually fought to get the project budget from the person above and are highly invested in it. You better get input from these people, because if you head off in a direction they don't understand they'll stop you in your tracks. These are often business managers.

Have customer knowledge. These are your customer stand-ins and advocates. They work directly with customers and understand their motivations and pain points. They often have a practical perspective and can provide insights that help you to see past a mountain of wish-lists and identify the few, critical, customer must-haves. These may be call-centre staff, sales people, or service providers.

Have technical knowledge.
It's all fine and well to create a brilliant content strategy, but if the client doesn't have the technical resources to make it happen, then it will die before it's born. Do your homework: talk to the IT guys.

Have subject matter knowledge.
As a writer, you know a lot of stuff. Especially about writing. But odds are, there are people in the company who know a lot more about what you're writing about than you do. You need to combine your writing wizardry with their knowledge. These people could be anyone. They may have an official title (like "Subject Matter Expert"), or they could be any old employee who has specialized knowledge.

How do you interview?

Get as close as possible. Face-to-face is best. By phone is OK if necessary, and sometimes preferable. For example, I'll often choose to do stakeholder interviews over the phone prior to an out-of-town, on-site project kick off to begin establishing relationships and so I can have something to contribute when we all meet. Then when I arrive on site, they already feel like they know me. But for the most part, interview in person when possible. Don't use surveys of any sort.

Be respectful of time. There's no right or wrong time frame. It depends entirely on the purpose of the interview and who you're interviewing. But as a basic guideline, ask for half the time you think you'd really need and stick to it. If you frame your questions well, and stay on track, you won't need all the time you think you do anyway. And you can always follow up later if necessary. Most of my stakeholder interviews run about 20-45 minutes, depending on the purpose. Subject matter interviews may need longer, but for anything requiring more than 1 hour it's better to break it up over multiple sessions. Or turn it into a half day session and call it a workshop!

Carefully craft your questions. This is critical. Developing really effective interview questions is both art and science. Read up on how to design good interview questions for your objectives. Focus your questions on three or four main topics and make sure that every question counts. Edit out the weak questions and eliminate redundancy unless it's part of your interviewing strategy. Always test-drive your interview questions on a real person first. Bonus points if that test person has a similar knowledge base as your actual stakeholders.

Take good notes. Consider having someone else take notes for you so you can focus on the interview. Make notes of any potential quotes that you could use if you're delivering a stakeholder interview report. Quotes that reflect common themes are a great way to personalize the data you collect.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Content strategy tip: Show, don't tell.

If you're like most business people (and many writers), the concept of "show, don't tell" is hard to integrate. When I talk to clients about demonstrating their corporate characteristics, and living their brand, and acting on their mission statements, I always get very enthusiastic head nods, and "Yes!" exclamations. Everyone's excited and on-board. And then they say, "And on the home page, we need to say something like 'We care about each and every customer as if they were our children, and you can trust us to provide the best service in the industry, bar none! You have our word on that, and our word is our bond!'" Hmmm... they missed my point.

Please, for your own sake, stop trying to tell your customers what to believe. They don't like it, and they don't trust it. That kind of copy is not only useless, it's potentially damaging. People just don't believe what they're told anymore--they believe what they experience. You still need to develop key messages for your website, but instead of conveying these messages through your copy, you need to convey them through experience.

Let's look at the client's message above and see how we can turn web copy into web experiences.

What's the first message in their home page copy? "We care about each and every customer as if they were our children..." OK, fair enough. But, instead of telling them, how can we show that you care about them? First you have to care enough to really know and understand them. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Get to know your customers well. Parents don't care for their children simply by telling them they care. They look after them and guide them. How can you look after your customers? How can you guide them? (Hint: It's NOT by telling them that you have the perfect product for them!) When customers come to your site and find information that's useful and pleasantly surprising--information that fits into the context of their lives and makes them feel understood--then they know you care.

Next message? "...and you can trust us...". Can they? What inspires your customers to trust you? It certainly isn't you telling them to. But maybe it's your credentials, or your professional reputation, or how long you've been in business. Maybe it's because you're local, or maybe it's because you're global. It may be because you have testimonials or reviews or recommendations from other customers just like them. Or they may trust that if you've already sold 20 billion products to 20 billion happy customers, then they're likely to be a happy customer too. Again, it's all about knowing what inspires your customers to trust, and then showing them that you're trustworthy.

And: "...the best service in the industry..". Says who? Other than you, I mean. If you can back up that statement by showing that reputable organizations, publications, or awards have recognized you as being the best, then do it. If not, don't say it.

And finally: "You have our word on that, and our word is our bond!' Really? What guarantees or warranties do you offer? What's your return policy? What experiences have other customers had that demonstrate you sticking to your word? Make these things obvious on your site rather than your verbose promise. (And ditch the exclamation marks. Nobody trusts exclamation marks.)

If all of these messages are demonstrated through the content on your site, you don't need to say them. Your customers will see it, believe it, and say it for you.

So here's my challenge: Take a look at your corporate mission statement and key customer messages, and think about ways that you can demonstrate them through your web content. Then share your ideas with us in a comment below. And a call-out to all the other content strategists and web writers out there: What other messages and values have you demonstrated online, and how?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Content strategy in 6 crazy-simple steps

I keep reading about how content strategy is so difficult. People say it's hard to pin down, it's vague, it's a moving target. Those are really just excuses. Content strategy is difficult in the same way that losing weight is difficult. The process is not complex. It's not hard to figure out what needs to be done. The challenge is in mustering the commitment and willpower to do it.

So, let's say you really are serious about implementing a content strategy for your website this time. Here are 6 surprisingly simple steps for you to follow:
  1. Conduct a content audit. Look at the content already on your site. What's worth keeping? What needs to be thrown out? Which pages bring in traffic, and which pages are never visited? Determine the "OUCH factor" for each page: is the page outdated, unnecessary, current, or has to be written? It's a simple idea, but the challenge here is in developing a deep and meaningful relationship with your spreadsheet.

  2. Review existing research. Odds are, in a company of any significant size, there is already some research done on your customers, your website performance, your competitors, and standards within your industry. There is often both in-house and third-party research for you to reference. Part of your job here is to paint as clear a picture as possible about these things, and the other part is to identify the research gaps that still need to be filled.

  3. Do primary research. You know the research gaps, so now you get to fill them in. In addition to the items above, you need to get crystal clear about your business goals, marketing objectives, technology constraints, and project requirements. You also have to get to know your customers as if they were your family. Who are they, exactly? What are their goals and motivations for doing business with you? What are their barriers? Where do they hang out online (or even DO they hang out online!), and why do those places appeal to them? What do they expect from you, and what would it take to pleasantly surprise them?

  4. Create customer personas. Now that you know so much about your customers, distill all that knowledge into a few well-researched, well-written personas. Personas are fictitious people that represent each of your target customer groups, but are based on real market data and customer research. Include personality, story, or lifestyle elements that answer each of your key customer research questions. Make sure that every team member gets to know these personas well, and run every web and content design decision by your personas to see how they react.

  5. Define your content strategy and tactics. You now have clear view of your business goals, marketing objectives, project success metrics, technology constraints, and, of course, your customers. You know where you are now, and are ready to figure out where you need to be to meet your goals, satisfy your customers, and beat your competition. In a nutshell, that's the first step of your actual content strategy--figuring out where you need to be based on all of the things above. It's really about knowing what the overall business strategy is, and determining how your web content can support and reflect that. Once you have your strategy, you can determine the tactics, or the techniques and tools you'll use to get there. For more on strategy and tactics, Chris Moritz wrote a great post for the Content Marketing Institute on diagramming content strategy and tactics that you should check out.

  6. Set guidelines and processes to support your strategy. Knowing what has to happen, and how to do it, is easy compared to actually doing it! A solid content strategy will fail if the people executing the strategy don't have the tools or resources they need to effectively carry it out. This is the stage where you create an editorial calendar and a writers' style guide. This is where you push to ensure you have sufficient resources to hire people with the right skill sets, or retrain the people you have. This is where you ensure that your processes support your strategy, and that they include continual testing and evaluation of all things content. This is where your hard work and brilliant insights will either fall flat, or take wing!
Alright, alright... I never said that content strategy was easy.I just said that the process is very simple. And I know you won't let the need for a bit of hard work, creative problem-solving, mind-boggling analysis, and insane powers of persuasion scare you away from doing what's right for your business. Then again, if you're easily scared, you can always give me a call.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where does "tone & voice" fit into your content strategy?

Frequently, a new client will ask me to set the “tone and voice” of their web content. And way too frequently, they don’t have a clue what tone and voice really is. They just know that they’re supposed to have one that works. So to all you business people out there who know you need an effective tone and voice, but don’t really know what that means, where it fits in your content strategy, and how to go about it... this one’s for you!

Tone and voice: What the heck is it?

The easiest way to understand your web copy’s tone and voice is to compare it with your mother.

The voice of your mother (and your web copy) is always recognizable. She has a clear point of view, a distinctive personality, and language idiosyncrasies that make her unique. Her “voice” never changes. It always sounds the same. It’s always recognizable as your mother.

Your mother’s tone, on the other hand, is changeable. She may use a completely different tone when baking cookies with her 5 year old grandson as she does when berating you for driving too fast. She may use a different tone of voice depending on the mood she’s in: angry, happy, confused, scared, or sad. She may use a different tone of voice depending on who she’s speaking to: her colleagues, her friends, her husband, or her children. She may also use a different tone of voice depending on the type of information she’s sharing: she’ll communicate serious information differently than she would tell a joke.

So, the voice remains consistent and recognizable, while the tone may change depending on the audience, the mood, and the message being communicated.

Where does tone and voice fit into your content strategy?

It’s an important piece of the much larger puzzle that makes up your overall content strategy. Yes, tone and voice is really important, but simply defining your tone and voice isn’t enough to get you where you need to go. If you’re looking at your web content seriously, you need to consider the other critical content elements: Are your content processes effective and efficient? Have you got good people with appropriate skill-sets caring for your content? Have you got a suitable content budget and can you demonstrate your content ROI? Does your content contribute to a positive customer experience? Is your content getting your business where it needs to go? Can you (and do you) test the effectiveness of your content? Have you got a clear plan for managing, developing, and publishing content over the next year? How can your content give you a competitive advantage?

Just as your mother by herself does not create a cohesive family, a strong tone and voice by itself does not create great content. Your web content needs to be effective and strategic, and an appropriate tone and voice is only one of the tools you use to get it there.

How do you develop an effective tone and voice?

First, think about voice. You need to have a voice that your core audience will relate to and trust. To do this, you need to really understand your customers. Who are they? How do they speak? Who do they trust, and why? What are they interested in? What do they want or expect from you? What gets them through their day?

An effective voice is not just about writing style. It’s just as much, or more, about what you have to say. What’s your key message? What’s your point of view? What kind of a communicator are you? How much information do you share, and when? How do you respond to customer feedback? What channels do you communicate through? All of these things impact your corporate “voice”, and this voice should personify your brand. 

Next, think about tone.
For each different type of information, you need to define an appropriate tone. Do you want to use the same tone for your security guarantees, marketing copy, advertising copy, and customer service FAQs? Probably not. You should identify an appropriate tone to use for each type of content, based on its purpose and your customers’ goals and expectations.  

Finally, think about people and processes.  
This is the glue that holds it all together! Now you need to determine the actual writing mechanics, phrasing, and vocabulary that create the desired tone and voice. Develop content prototypes and, if possible, test them with real customers. Make sure that your customers’ perceptions are aligned with your perceptions of the tone and voice, and that it’s effective. Create a writer’s style guide that documents writing and word choices. Keep it up-to-date, and ensure that it’s used by all content developers for all content. If you have multiple writers, assign an editor to ensure that your content has one consistent corporate voice, rather than a chorus of different voices. Make sure that your writers are comfortable using a style guide, and that you have sound content development processes that support quality content. 

So, just make sure that you know your company as well as you know your own mother. And before any word is written, ask yourself what your company would say.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How useful is your content?

Previously, I wrote about how you can ensure that your web content is readable. But it doesn't matter how readable it is if it's not useful. Here are four easy ways to make sure that your content is useful to your customers:

  1. Create customer profiles and personas.

    Who are your customers? Exactly? Create 3 or 4 primary customer profiles and personas that define who they are, what their needs are, and what they want to accomplish on your site. What are their personal or business motivations? What do they most value? What helps them to make a final decision? Think about the type of content that may be useful to them that they don't even know they need. Use facts and data (to create profiles) and then weave those into engaging characters (or personas) to help you accurately focus your content.

  2. Make it easy for your customers to do something useful.

    Your customers may want to contact you by e-mail, by phone, or by online chat. They may want to subscribe to your blogposts, leave a comment, or provide a product or service review. They may want to order your product or services online, refer you to a friend, or compare your products. Discover what they want to do on your site, and make it easy for them. (Tip: Customers don't often know what they want until they experience it!)
  3. Help your customers to learn something useful.

    Most prospective customers will come to your site to learn more about your business or products and services. They may also want to learn about your customer service and support policies. Be generous and transparent in your information. Gone are the days when you could provide a morsel of vague information and expect customers to contact you to learn more. They'll just move on to another site that gives them the information they're looking for. Existing customers will come to your website for customer service and support, to purchase additional products or services, and, if you provide truly useful content, to learn more about something relevant to your business and their lives. That type of content (also known as content marketing) often takes the form of blogs or newsletters, and not only keeps your customers coming back, but is often widely shared among prospective customers.
  4. Provide content that encourages customers to make a decision

    Most prospective customers won't make a purchasing decision until they have sufficient information about the product or service, and trust in your company. Why should they buy from you, instead of your competitor? Have other people just like them been happy with your product or service? Why should they buy Product A instead of Product B? Which of your products or services is best for them right now? What happens if they're not happy with their purchase? Again, be generous and transparent in your information. Prices, taxes, fees, additional charges, and return policies should be clear, unless you have a good reason not to publish that information. Testimonials, customer reviews, and customer comments help to instill trust. If your product or service offerings are extensive or confusing, help your customers to determine which is best for them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How readable is your content?

Content readability is a basic writing fundamental that’s often overlooked when writers or researchers evaluate online content. I’m not sure why. It seems to have gotten a bit lost in all the complexities of content strategy and design. But your content isn’t worth spit if your audience can’t read it! Here’s a quick primer to help you understand the basics of readable online content.

What is readable content?

Content readability describes how easy or difficult it is to read and understand information. Readable content is familiar and invisible. You read it and don’t notice the words at all. You just end up with a strong sense of the message and the personality or brand behind the message. You don’t have to think, interpret, or decipher. You just sort of absorb the information, quickly and easily.

Why bother?

In case you need a few reasons beyond, “It’s the right thing to do”, check these out:
  • The average North American adult reads at a grade 8 level.
  • Consumers will not read web content that is difficult for them to understand.
  • There are an increasing number of regulations and laws to ensure that public-facing legal, medical, and government information is easy to read.
  • It’s becoming competitively critical to speak clearly and directly to your customers. If you snooze on this one, you’ll lose.

How do you know if your content is readable?

Integrate good content practices into your writing and editing cycles, and test your assumptions.

1.  Check your writing mechanics

There are some basic rules of readable content. Ask yourself these questions as you conduct your first round of editing:
  • Do you mostly use an active voice? Use passive voice only when it serves a particular purpose.
  • Do you use first and second person point-of-view whenever possible?
  • Do you use consistent terminology? Don’t vary terms for variety sakes.
  • Are your sentences short? Say, no more than twenty words per sentence?
  • Are your paragraphs short? About 3 or 4 sentences per paragraph, max?
  • Do you use serial commas?
  • Do you use mostly simple sentence structures?
  • Do you follow conventional rules of grammar (unless you have good reason not to)? 
2.  Check your information design

Since you’re editing for mechanics anyway, check this stuff too:

  • Do you use lots of headings? Preferably short, descriptive ones.
  • Are you presenting information in a way that makes it easier to scan? Maybe a bullet list, or a table, or an illustration, or a graph? Or something else. Just don’t automatically default to narrative text because you have no imagination.
  • Is your page (or paragraph, or sentence) loaded with too much information?
  • Does your information have a logical and natural flow that your audience will understand?
  • Is there enough white space around and between the text?
  • Is your type big enough so people don’t have to squint to read it? Typically, 10 pt for a general audience or 12 pt if your audience is over 45 or under 16 years old.
  • Is your typeface legible? Sans serif fonts usually work well for online body text. 
3.  Use readability formulas

Readability formulas have their limitations, but they’re an effective way to identify possible problems early in the content creation cycle. They’re also a great way to show “before and after” improvement statistics. Here are two of the most common and easy-to-use readability formulas. You can set up Microsoft Word to run these formulas when you run your spelling check:

  • Flesch Reading Ease: This formula takes into account the number of words in each sentence, and the number of syllables in each word. It gives you a score from 0-100, where 100 is extremely simple and 0 is extremely complex. The Plain Language Institute suggests that a score of 80 or higher is considered to be plain language. In web writing for a general consumer audience, we aim for 60 or above. This article scores 61.0 on the Flesch Reading Ease scale.
  • Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: This formula takes Flesch Reading Ease results and translates them into North American school grade level equivalents. Remember that the average North American reads at a grade 8 level? That’s where your web writing should be, unless you have clear research about your audience that says otherwise. This article is written at a grade 7.6 level. 
4.  Most importantly, test with your audience!

Seriously, do not skip this step. You’ll be amazed at how effective this is in letting you know what’s really going on with your content. Find 6 or more people within your customer demographic to read through your web content. Ask them to find key information and then pay attention to how long it takes them and what they look at and read as they find their way to the target content. Then, ask them just a few questions to gauge their understanding of key concepts and get a feel for how they experienced the content. Nothing is better than putting real content and real customers together, and seeing what happens!

Now you know how to make your content readable, learn how to make your content useful!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

40 web-writing lessons I learned from tech-writing

Most web writers come from different backgrounds. They may have trained in marketing, or journalism, or English literature, or a hundred other things. We each bring our unique experiences, passions, and skills to the way we communicate online. I consider myself very lucky to have a background in technical communications.

Here are some of the things that I learned as a tech-writer that help make me a really great web-writer.

1. Think in 3D. Consider access and departure points.
2. Consider how the information will be used.
3. Predict frustration points and eliminate them.
4. Write clearly.
5. Write consistently.
6. Use short sentences.
7. “Show”, rather than “tell”.
8. Provide context up front.
9. Use graphics and illustrations.
10. Follow rules and industry standards.
11. Break the rules when it helps you to communicate better.
12. Consider ways to help your audience find what they need.
13. Less is more. Except when it’s not enough. Learn the difference.
14. Embrace technology. You need it, so you need to understand it.
15. Know your audience.
16. Know your business drivers.
17. Have clear communication goals.
18. Make sure your goals focus on your audience.
19. Find ways to test your product’s success.
20. Be creative through the constraints.
21. Learn from other disciplines.
22. Break information into small chunks.
23. Think about different ways the chunks can fit together.
24. Layer information.
25. Use lists and tables.
26. Don’t vary word choices just to add variety.
27. Write descriptive headings.
28. Make sure the information hierarchy is visually obvious.
29. Design your information.
30. Learn how and when to use different information design techniques.
31. Write meaningful links.
32. Review and edit everything before it’s published.
33. If in doubt, write for a global audience.
34. Become best friends with your dictionary and style-guide.
35. Hone your project management skills.
36. Never sacrifice quality.
37. Deliver to deadline. Even if it’s not perfect.
38. Edit ruthlessly.
39. Polish your writing and editing skills. Never stop.
40. Find a great mentor, if you can. Thanks, Jerome!

Please add to this list, or create your own using your past experiences!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Small business owner? 5 Tips for getting a low-cost, high-value content strategy

It’s hard work to secure a budget for content, let alone content strategy. For small business owners, there may be less hassle to get the budget, but there’s also less budget to get. How can you make sure that your small content budget covers the content strategy activities needed to make sure your content is effective?

  1. Make sure your content or design budget has some room for content strategy, research, planning, and design. We can work with “low cost”, but “no cost” will send your content into the world completely unprepared.

  2. Cut costs by eliminating formal reports. Small business owners really don’t get much value from what usability expert Steve Krug refers to as “the big honking report”. Reports are time-consuming to write and expensive. Forget about them. You’re better off actively communicating with your content strategist. Share working notes, spreadsheets, doodles, and ideas. Talk to each other! Write everything down, but don’t worry about getting a polished presentation report.
  3. Get involved! With a limited budget, your content strategist will appreciate a helping hand. Gather up any existing customer or competitive research you have. If you don’t have any, go get some. Define your core brand messages. Think about what you want your customers to do on your site. Make sure you are super-duper clear on your specific business goals and customer needs and motivations. Then share this with your content strategist. Discuss it, shape it, evolve it, test it. Sit in on customer testing.

  4. Use quick-and-dirty guerrilla testing methods. Every design or content budget should include a content strategy component, and content strategy should always include testing. This is the only way that you’ll be able to prove the success of your content. There are tons of different ways to test different things but here’s a couple ways you can test quickly, easily, and for next-to-nothing.

    Customer validation testing:

    Surveys. Validate any assumptions that you made about your customers. Work with your content strategist to define customer goals, motivations, and demographics. Get your content strategist to put together a short survey that you can distribute to past clients or anyone else who fits your customer profile. Your understanding of your customers will skyrocket when you start listening to them.

    Benchmark testing, before and after your content strategy is implemented:

    Web metrics. If you don’t currently have web analytic software, set up Google Analytics (free) and get a snapshot of your web traffic and performance prior to redesign. Go into as much detail as your budget and expertise allows. Then compare these benchmark metrics to post-launch metrics at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.

    One-On-One Customer testing. Always do customer testing of some sort. If necessary, sit in a busy coffee shop and offer people who vaguely resemble your customers a free latte for spending 15 minutes to help you out. Or hang out where your customers are, and offer them... something, anything that makes sense and that you can afford.

    Get somebody who knows what they’re doing (your content strategist or usability expert) to put together the test scenarios and conduct the tests. You stay to watch and learn. You may want to run perception testing, key task testing, readability testing, or any combination of these, depending on your research goals. There are lots “right” ways to test, but always remember: Any customer testing is WAY better than no testing.

  5. Be open-minded! Your content strategist will probably come back to you with some new ideas on how to develop, distribute, or manage your content. If they’re good at what they do, those ideas will somehow fit into your budget and timeline, and will reinforce your business goals and your customer needs. You’ll probably know, deep down, that their content strategy makes really good business sense. But you may find yourself panicking, thinking, “Whoa. Hey, I didn’t mean I wanted to change everything.” What you’ll really mean is, “Do I really have to pack in my brochure-ware site and get with the 21st century?” If you want to keep doing business online, the answer is probably yes.

At least you have a sound content strategy to guide you on your journey!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Kind of Content Are You Serving?

What kind of content are you trying to serve to your customers?
And what does it say about you?

2 New Ways to Think About Content

We all know that content creates the web experience. So let’s go beyond that. If you think of content as any scripted business communication, the opportunities for impacting business strategy and customer experience increase. Customers will experience your content either directly, or indirectly through your employees.

Customer/Content Touch-Points

Here are some common ways in which customers interact not just with your business, but with your content:
  • Being welcomed as they enter your business (Think, “Good afternoon, welcome to Burger Bonanza where we make big beautiful burgers, my name is Nancy Natterbox, what can I get for you today?).
  • Listening to customer service or sales reps go through their spiel.
  • Listening to, and interacting with, voice messages or recordings.
  • Filling out application or membership forms. And sometimes more forms. And more forms.
  • Reading follow-up e-mails.
  • Reading your service contract.
  • Reading your privacy and policy statements, guarantees, and disclaimers.
  • Reading reminder notices.
  • Reviewing invoices and statements. 
  • Reading print newsletters, brochures, or articles.
  • Completing surveys.

Employee/Content Touch-Points that Impact Customer Experience

Your customer’s experience is also directly impacted by how your employees interact with the content that you provide to them. Here are some ways in which your employees interact with content that can make a massive difference to the customer experience:
  • Reading from scripts.
  • Going through checklists.
  • Filling out print or online forms.
  • Getting face-to-face training, or reading training materials.
  • Searching for information on the intranet.
  • Referring to policies or procedures.
Take a moment to think about all of these different content touch-points in your business. What other content touch-points do you have? Do they all work together to create a consistently great customer experience? Do they effectively convey the same core values and brand messaging? Do they provide an effective and efficient tool for both customers and employees?

If you’re like most businesses, you’ve just identified a huge opportunity to strengthen your customer experience strategy simply by improving your content. Some tools that are particularly helpful to get you started are journey mapping and content assessments. More about those later!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where does your organization fit in the content process maturity model?

Almost every organization creates content, but only a few value their content enough to invest in it. Which, of course, creates a Catch 22: Not valuing your content creates content of no value.

Where does your organization fit in this maturity model? And what are your excuses for not climbing higher up the quality-content ladder?

I’ve adapted the table below from JoAnn Hackos’s “Information Process Maturity Model”. If you’d like a more in-depth look at this model, or almost anything to do with document product and project management, I highly recommend her excellent book, Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People.

Thanks for the inspiration, JoAnn!

(If the image below is too small to read, just click on it and then enlarge the image.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

How to add content activities to your UCD process

Are you part of a UCD or Customer Experience team that's recently had a eureka moment and realized that you need to pay attention to content? You know that quality content needs to be part of your process if you're ever going to create really great customer experiences, but what does that look like?

Here's a simple diagram that shows various content-related activities that can be done throughout the various project stages. Some of them reflect traditional UCD activities, just be sure to include a content component in each of them!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Writers need businesses backing them up!

There are really only two reasons why professional writers write crappy web copy: they’re either not the right person for the job, or they don’t have the business support that they need. If you’re a business decision-maker, this is good news—both of these things are in your control. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about hiring the right writer. Today I’m going to show you how to provide the support that writers need to do their job really well.

Just follow these 5 tips for success:

1. Develop and use a writing style guide
Having an effective, usable, corporate style guide is critical when you want a consistent tone and voice, consistent terminology and phrasing, and brand-focused content. A style guide raises quality and reduces costs by eliminating the constant changes and choices around specific wording and phrasing details. It enhances creativity by focusing the writer on creating compelling content within brand and usability constraints. It also makes it possible to have a team of writers, or multiple consecutive writers, write for one product or one company with one voice. I’ll write more about what makes a great style guide later.

2. Engage the writer early and often
Please, please, please, don’t leave the writer out of the loop until all of the research, design, and preliminary testing is done! A writer cannot contribute their expertise in information design, customer focus, or almost anything beyond grammar if you provide them with a fill-in-the blanks activity two seconds before release. Grammar is important, but it’s seriously not enough to compete in today’s online world. Find a writer who has great ideas about content that go beyond basic web writing. What can they contribute to content design, research, testing, marketing, or usability? Find that person, and then engage them early and often.

3. Make sure that content is a recognized part of all project stages and processes
This is similar to the item above, but reflects the need for content requirements and contributions to be a recognized part of every project stage. There should be someone with specialized content knowledge who ensures that the product is being designed and developed in a way that allows for the most useful and usable content possible.

4. Invest time and money in content
Sure, free content is readily available. You could write it, or the product manager, or designer, or your receptionist. You could leave it to the end, and then quickly fill in those content gaps. But its worth will be equal to your investment—pretty much zero. Good content costs money and it takes time. It needs drafting, revising, editing, and testing. And then more of the same. Good content means paying a professional writer who has specific expertise. The good news is that your investment in content will pay off. In increased sales, customer conversions, customer engagement, customer loyalty, improved branding, competitive positioning... you get the picture.

5. Let go, and trust in your processes and people
This is sometimes the toughest thing for business people to do. Everybody has an opinion about writing, because everybody writes. But if you have the right writers, and the right processes to support them, you need to let go and trust in their expertise. You still need to pay attention to content, just be sure that your personal opinion isn’t responsible for major changes in the direction of the content. In fact, nobody’s personal opinion should be responsible for major changes. Pay attention to your writer, use personas as a tool to stay focused, and continually confirm or adjust the effectiveness of content through customer testing and analytics.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Real Feel-Good Online Experience

I love great online experiences. I never expect them, because they're almost non-existent. I'm more used to frustration and roadblocks. But every once in a while a great experience jumps out and surprises me and gives me a big fat smile. I was so happy with my purchase of the book Rework, and my experiences leading up to it, that I have to share it with you. It's a terrific example of great content, after great content, after great content... all working together to create a great customer experience.

Good content #1: Social relevance and intrigue

I read a tweet from Copyblogger recommending the book Rework, from 37signals. In less than 140 characters, I was captured by two persuasive messages: 1) Somebody else (like me) enjoyed a specific product, and 2) he commented on how much he liked Rework's web page, which made me curious enough to actually go look at it.

Good content #2: Product positioning

A big image of the book. On the cover: A great but concise testimonial from a well-known name, and an interesting graphic. I keep going. Back cover: Interesting, controversial, concise, clever. Definitely keep going. I see three YouTube videos, which I watch one by one. And I'm completely sold! The movies convey the basice theme of the book, and I get a sense that the authors are smart, clever, funny, articulate, and a bit irreverent. AND they're talking about something that interests me! I love it. I see the table of contents (in this case "essays") which confirms my first impression. I want to buy this book.

Good content #3: Super-slick, 1-click shopping with almost invisible upselling

Cut over to Amazon (In the USA you can do this directly by clicking on the book's image). I'm not a big consumer. I rarely shop unless my kids clothes are two sizes too small or it's Christmas. But I do admit to a certain fondness for books. Some call it an addiction, but that's just semantics. At any rate, I have an Amazon account with 1-click shopping set up, so literally all I have to do is select the book and click to purchase. But I like to watch my dollars so I check out the price before I buy. Very reasonable! So reasonable, in fact, that I need to add another book to get free shipping. No problem, there's always a good selection of books sitting in my Amazon wish list. Easy, easy, easy. I don't need to dig out my credit card. I don't need to spend time finding another book to purchase. There is not a single thing to distract me from my decision to buy, and buy right now.

So, who wins?

Everyone. Copyblogger wins because I talk about him, retweet his tweet, link to him in my blog. 37signals wins because I bought their book Rework, and am talking about it. And Amazon wins because not only did I buy Rework from them, I added another book to the order! And I win, because I'm happy that everything just worked to support me. I never felt like I was being sold anything at any point along the way. I was being shown something that I would enjoy, and was provided with a quick and easy way to buy it.

Was this just random good luck? No. It was a result of well-designed, effective, strategic content that provided me with an effortless experience. Someone else did all the work so I didn't have to.

Now, I just have to wait to enjoy the book.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hiring the Right Writer

You already know that it’s more effective and cost-efficient to hire a professional writer to develop your business copy than, say, getting the product manager or designer to do it. But how can you make sure that your content investment pays off? And why do so many professional writers do a lousy job of getting your message across?

Well, the good news is that bad writing is not necessarily the writer’s fault—it may very well be yours. That’s good because it means that great writing is within your control.

Many businesses hire writers because somebody tells them the writer is good or they read something the writer wrote, and liked it. This is a bad approach. There are way too many different types of writers, with different styles and skill-sets, writing for different audiences and business purposes. What’s divine in one instance is deadly in another.

Here are 6 steps to help you hire the write writer:

1. Don’t rely on their title

Writers use many different terms to describe their role: copywriter, web writer, technical writer, marketing writer, SEO writer, and content developer are a few of the most common. But these all mean different things to different people. The title is pretty much irrelevant. Ignore it.

2. Ask for writing samples that demonstrate familiarity with your project type

Just because somebody has written great marketing content on a website doesn’t mean that they have the skills to write user-interface text for your web application. An article writer who was trained in print media may not know how to effectively adapt their skills online, and an ad writer may make a mess of your e-newsletter.

The audience is also important. The skills needed to write for Mr. and Mrs. Everybody is very different than those needed to write for software developers, or the youth market, or research scientists. Is your writer experienced in speaking to your target audience in a natural and compelling way?

Look for strong writing samples that reflect a similar purpose, audience, and communication channel to your project.

3. Make sure they have sufficient subject matter knowledge or good research skills

Many businesses rely on writers to “create” rather than just “write” content. But writers need to get their information from somewhere. Be sure to hire a writer that has demonstrated a solid understanding of the subject, or has excellent research skills. Even if you’re providing all of the content, a writer who has research experience knows how to ask the right questions and can identify and strengthen weak areas in your content.

4. Choose somebody with the appropriate level of experience

If you have a good understanding of the writing requirements, only require one specific type of writing, and have a strong writer’s support system, then a junior writer may be appropriate. Look for a writer who is articulate and eager, has an adaptable writing style, and at least some experience in your specific type of project. It’s ok if this experience was gained through a school project or volunteer work. It’s essential that they know how to ask relevant questions and follow direction and the systems you have in place. I’ll talk about more how you can support your writers next week.

If you do not have a good support process in place, or if you need a writer to develop content for different purposes across multiple communication channels, then you need an experienced writer. Look for a writer who can clearly explain how their writing approach will be different in each context and the processes that they follow.

5. Choose a writer who can articulate and defend their writing choices

With every sentence we write, we make a series of choices. During the interview process, ask the writer to explain why they made the choices that they did, both in terms of language and information design. Listen to see if you think their points are valid in speaking about your business to your target audience. If the project is online, can they explain why their content is easy-to-use and easy-to-read? Can they explain why their content is compelling and effective?

6. Verify the quality of their writing

Get an expert’s opinion of the quality of the applicant’s writing. This is often easiest when you ask each shortlisted candidate to complete a brief writing assignment. This way, you can directly compare writing styles and techniques based on a writing sample relevant to your project. If you don’t have the necessary background to effectively evaluate the quality of the writing, hire a professional editor to provide feedback. For many people, mediocre writing may appear to be great. But the impact of mediocrity on your business can be huge.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Content Strategy: Sitting at the Customer Experience Table

Content Strategy is in its infancy as a recognized discipline and, like infants everywhere, is often overlooked. We’re still in the process of figuring out how we communicate our value and skills to ourselves let alone our clients. But people are starting to take notice, so we really need to ask ourselves: “Who do we want to be when we grow up?”

We all know the importance of first impressions. We’re in the unique position of being able to significantly impact how the business community views content strategy as a discipline. Because they’re only just starting to notice we exist. Think about that for a minute—it’s really, really cool!

As a new discipline, we have a responsibility to take our own advice and think strategically. We only have one chance to create our first impression in the business world.

Looking beyond the details

Too often we fall into the trap of carrying out our work in a tactical way. We educate clients about the need for improved processes, content testing, and editorial calendars. We focus on content audits, content design, and content management systems. We talk about web content, mobile content, structured content, and social media. These are great things—they’re the tools, technologies, and methodologies that we rely on to do our job. But, if these things are only tools, who are we as content strategists?

We need to step back and really articulate why we do what we do. Not how, but why. Why do we care about plain language so much? People don’t go to websites to find plain language any more than they go to them to experience the navigation. Why do people consume social media content like they’re starving? It certainly isn’t because they love the quality of the prose they find there. Why do so many people still pick up the phone hoping to talk to a knowledgeable and friendly support person?

At the most basic level, these things are successful because they make customers feel good.

Content strategy is customer experience

Every successful piece of content creates a positive experience for the person who interacts with it. You may have a brilliant piece of writing, efficiently developed through streamlined processes and targeted to a specific audience—but if it doesn’t contribute to the customer having a good experience with your client’s company, then it’s not successful.

The “strategy” in content strategy needs to reflect our focus on contributing to, and even driving, the overall customer experience. Even when we only implement a single element of the content strategy, such as web content or content process improvement, we need to know how it fits into the bigger picture and who the other players are. And we want to help shape that bigger picture whenever possible. It’s not just about unifying and improving content to create an effective website, or mobile application, or whatever. That’s content strategy for a project. We can aim even higher.

We can also contribute to the overall communication strategy and articulate content needs not just for online channels, but for print materials, face-to-face contact, phone support, corporate communications—basically, for every customer touch point. Because it’s the combined effect of every touch point that creates the customer experience. And that’s content strategy for a business.

The business community is realizing that the quality of customer experience is quickly becoming the leading differentiator that provides competitive advantage. And content is at the very core of customer experience.

Integrate, collaborate, and contribute

Currently, user-centred design (UCD) teams are beginning to fill the screaming demand for improved customer experiences. And they’re making tremendous headway. But the vast majority of these UCD teams do not have the necessary content-related skills or experience to even identify the current issues with content, let alone provide strategic advice on how to include content in the overall experience strategy. So content continues to be ignored.

Just when content strategy is becoming grown up enough to sit at the web design table, the UCD teams are moving to the customer experience table! This time, we need to invite ourselves to dinner before the meal is served. We’ll be welcome, because we’re bringing something that’s new and needed. By combining our content skills with traditional UCD skills, we can finally impact all communication channels, organizational silos, and customer touch points to create a truly holistic, consistent, and effective customer experience.

So, while most of our actual content-strategy work may relate to one particular channel, or audience segment, or project stage, we need to retain a very clear focus on what it’s all about. And that’s creating great experiences for our clients’ customers, and making sure that our clients know that that’s what we bring to the table – not just audits, and metrics, and copy, but experiences.

If we position ourselves as an integral part of the customer-experience team, rather than focusing on isolated content elements or communication channels, then businesses will view us in that way. We can grow up knowing that we are an accepted contributor to a core business strategy. Which is exactly where we need to be.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Multi-Faceted Content Strategy

I’m trying to figure out how we, as content strategists, can articulate what we do. As a starting place, I’m listing all of the things I can think of that are sometimes part of our job. Content strategy is an evolution and convergence of a number of different disciplines, so we do a lot of things.

If content strategy is a niche discipline within experience design (and I believe it is), then will we see even more niche-disciplines within content strategy? Will we need to know the basics of all of these items, and have in-depth knowledge of some? How can we package these skills and areas of expertise into easily defined marketable services?

Please share your thoughts, or add to this list!

• A/B testing
• Blogging
• Branding
• Business analysis
• Change management
• Competitive analysis
• Content audits
• Content best-practices
• Content convergence
• Content curation
• Content management
• Content mapping
• Content reviews
• Conversations
• Copy writing
• Corporate communications
• Customer experience
• Customer research
• Editing
• Editorial strategy
• Globalization
• Information architecture
• Information design
• Journey mapping
• Localization
• Marketing
• Multimedia
• Plain language
• Presentations
• Process analysis
• Process definition
• Project management
• Publishing
• Report writing
• Search engine optimization
• Social media strategy
• Storytelling
• Structured writing
• Style guides
• Subject matter research
• Task analysis
• Technical writing
• Technology analysis
• Translation
• Usability testing
• User interface (UI)writing
• User-centred design (UCD)
• Web writing
• Whew!