8 Easy Steps To Design an Effective Internal Content Strategy [Templates Included]
Are you looking for a way to ensure that your business is using content effectively? Content strategy is key to the success of any internal documentation. It involves setting goals, understanding your target audience, and deciding which types of content are the most effective way to reach them. With the right approach, you can create a content strategy that delivers results time and time again. In part one of this series, we discussed the challenges with content documentation and 5 ways to fix them. Today, we’ll walk through 8 easy steps to design an effective internal content strategy. We also provide templates and examples for you to get you started.
Why Your Company Needs an Internal Content Strategy
Creating a successful internal content strategy is essential for any business that wants to increase adoption and retention of its documentation. An internal content strategy offers a framework to ensure all content is consistent and up-to-date, and allows you to identify the types of content that are most effective for your employees. Additionally, an internal content strategy allows you to avoid creating a “black hole” full of stale, disorganized content, and instead save time and frustration by creating the content your team actually needs.
By following these 8 easy steps, you can create an effective internal content strategy that helps boost adoption of your internal processes:
1. Evaluate your audience, their needs, and crucial processes
2. Develop a plan
3. Design your system and content
4. Create relevant content
5. Gather feedback from key stakeholders
6. Communicate and train end users
7. Make it a habit
8. Keep it fresh
Step 1: Evaluate Your Audience’s Needs
The most challenging part in creating an internal content strategy is knowing where to start. Instead of overwhelming yourself with every single piece of content that might need to be created in the future, take an agile approach to content strategy that enables a crawl, walk, run approach to documentation. Start small by outlining the basic process, policies, or information that someone needs to understand.. For an accurate forecast on what content you need to create first, consider the following questions.
- Who is your audience?
- Who are we building content for?
- What are their priorities and goals?
- Who are the SMEs for those teams?
- What is our current state of content?
- Where do answers live today?
- What do people like or dislike about current content?
- Who owns the content?
- What are our most pressing needs?
- Where are users spending their time?
- What are the most critical processes to master for success?
- What are users expected to be able to do first?
- What key processes cause the most confusion?
- What changes do we have coming up? E.g., product launches or new tools.
So, how do you gather the answers to these questions? Perform a needs analysis.
Here are some simple ways to identify needs:
Step 2: Develop a plan
Creating content can easily be overwhelming if you try to do too much at once. Remember, taking a crawl, walk, run approach to content creation helps prevent being overwhelmed and allows you to get your content out to your team in a reasonable timeline.
Once you have a better understanding of the needs of your key audience, build a content map to easily visualize the content that needs to be created for each team, tool, or process. Get your content map template here.
Before you create this content, audit your existing content. You may be surprised to know much of the content you need already exists and might just need an update. Get your content audit template here.
Prioritize your project and create realistic expectations with key stakeholders with a content roadmap. For example, you may start with creating content around the basic information your team needs to know once they first log in to key tools, then work your way up to workflow training, followed by workflow optimization, and then, an extensive process, such as CPQ rollout.
Map out your roadmap then use the example project timeline below as a reference. Use this template to create your own.
Step 3: Design
Step three is when you start getting into the nitty gritty by creating the design of your content system as well as the content itself.
Create a system design that is easy to manage. Consider the following:
- Access: Grant access to content based on teams, their roles, and their permissions within each system
- Organization: Decide how the content is broken down and organized. How will a new user get introduced to it?
- Location and related content: What content lives in the system vs. what content is linked out to?
Design content that’s easy to consume. Part one of this blog series dives deeper into best practices for internal documentation. As a reminder: effective content is:
- Agile – Per Atlassian, agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches
- Chunked – Content chunking is when you break down content into bite-sized chunks for easy access and iteration. This is why Spekit Speks are so effective Speks enable you to quickly deliver value, collect feedback, and communicate changes for maximum viewership.
- Easy to find – Naming conventions, folders, and proper communication are all tactics you can employ to ensure employees can find the content that they need, quickly.
- Crowdsourced – Leverage Subject matter experts, front line managers, Support, champions, and leadership within your organization to ensure content is accurate and succinct.
- Contextual – Traditional training is occasional and delivered outside employee workflows, typically made for a general audience, and often takes a lengthy and formal approach. Unlike traditional approaches, contextual, or just-in-time, learning is consistent, bite-sized, personalized, frequently reinforced, and presented in the flow of work when and where it’s needed
When designing your content, keep ease of use in mind. Use:
- Naming conventions: Help people quickly recognize which content is for which teams, content type, application, or tools.
- Templates: Create consistent content structures any contributor can adhere to, making it easier to create subsequent content.
- Short form content: Use bullets or short sentences vs. long text to increase viewership.
- Use imagery or emojis: Iconography and emojis bring your content to life and make it more visually appealing.
- Links to other resources: Remember, keep content chunked and easy to search by using links that allow users to only see the content they need, when they need it.
Step 4: Build content
Next, you’ll actually build your content (yay!). Your organization may use Google Docs, Notion, or another Content Management System to store your content. While these tools can be effective, they can make content harder to maintain, access, and share
With Spekit, creating content is as easy as four simple steps. We provide free, pre-built training content so you can start enabling your team in minutes on the most popular tools. You can then transfer this content into Spekit in minutes, bulk assign content based on areas of ownership, and assign this content to your experts.
Step 5: Gather feedback
Tap into the expertise of others on your team to keep content aligned and accurate. Here are a few ways to gather feedback efficiently:
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT) sessions
- Manager round tables
- Champions board
- Content request form
- Content request email
- Set up slack channels for specific needs
Step 6: Communicate and Train
Effective content strategy requires change enablement. Developing an effective content strategy isn’t just about having the right content; it also requires having the right processes in place to ensure changes can be enabled. Change enablement is the key to creating an effective content strategy that will help your business stay ahead of the curve.
These can be big changes that occur at a low frequency but have higher organizational impact (e.g., rolling out a new tool like CPQ) or micro changes that occur at a high frequency but have a lower organizational impact (e.g., a new field in Salesforce).
To effectively communicate change to teams, design a repeatable process. Developing a repeatable and documented change enablement process reduces surprises and eases the friction of change. We recommend creating a “change enablement playbook” with T-shirt sizing for differently sized process changes (S, M, L, XL) and associated communication and training playbooks for each.
For example, a new tool rollout (e.g., CPQ) may be an XL-size change management effort. As such, your change enablement process might involve several email communications leading up to the change to drive awareness, a message from leadership at your department’s all-hands, a formal UAT process, several training webinars, and office hours along with documentation and training — including reinforcement. However, if the change is simply adding a new required field to your Opportunity, it may fall in your Small (S) category. For S changes employees may expect just a written communication and a training video.
When creating your playbook, keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind:
- Do send a regular release email that’s easy to find, e.g.,. 🚀Salesforce Release on 12/01/2021 – New Opportunity fields
- Do have a set schedule e.g., ‘Bi-weekly Wednesday AM Change Communications’ or Thursday afternoon office hours
- Don’t send an update to every channel every time you make a change
Step 7: Make it a habit
To increase adoption of the internal documentation you’re creating, help your employees build the habit.
- Respond to repetitive questions with a link to the article. If you don’t have a piece of content to address common questions, make a note to create it in the near future
- Create designated Slack or Teams channels or email groups for various types of questions. For example:
- Use content request forms or email to understand the type of content people actually want to see
- Reinforce new content in weekly trainings and leadership communications
Step 8: Keep it fresh
Lastly, keep your content fresh. The last thing you want is to let the content you’ve worked so hard to create grow stale. There are a few things you can do to ensure that your content stays fresh and engaging.
On a monthly cadence, review top searches and analytics to understand what content is being used, which topics are resonating with users, and identify any gaps.
On a quarterly cadence, create a needs analysis and perform content audits to better inform your next round of content.