Why governmental organisations need content strategy
Especially times of Corona, people are looking for credible information. Governmental organisations should play an important role here — and they need to be identified as a brand. That’s what I learned during my master’s program “Content Strategy” at FH Joanneum. I previously worked for the city of Graz and what I learned at my university pretty makes sense for governmental organisations too.
The city of Graz has 331.359 citizens. That means 331.359 individuals with different information needs — reaching from birth to death — regarding their lives. As a governmental organisation and municipality, you are the first source of information for your citizens. They are looking for reliable, current and trustworthy information in every stage of live.
Where can I register a new place of residence? Where do I get medical help and advice? Which governmental funding can I apply to? There are many questions that may arise for citizens. And: They are expecting to find the appropriate and credible answers on your channels. You can provide those answers? Great! However, that’s only half the story. You clearly have to be identified as the sender of your information and services. Your citizens have to know what you stand for and what they can expect from you. That’s also crucial to a municipality, which doesn’t want to sell services with profit at the first place. Every brand and organization need a clear and unique identity in order to be distinguishable. And yes, you as cities, countries and governmental departments are brands — quite big ones.
How content strategy can help
What has content strategy got to do with all of that? Pretty a lot, when you look at a definition by Margot Bloomstein. She sees content strategy as
“Planning for the creation, aggregation, and governance of content that’s useful, usable, and appropriate in an experience.”
The city of Graz offers lots of services, which are organized in many different municipality departments. The follow a decentralised structure on their website. That means every department hats its own editors, who can publish stuff on the website. However, the city of Graz should be recognized as one brand.
When working on the website, I came to a crucial conclusion: The content isn’t always consistent in its style, tone and voice. The decentralized approach in content production is clearly visible to the external viewer. That shouldn’t be the case. The visitors should have a cohesive and brand-driven look-and-feel when getting in touch with the city of Graz or any other governmental organisation. The solution to a brand-driven cohesive appearance over different online and offline channels is content strategy.
Five steps to brand success
You recognised your own governmental organisation in the last paragraph? You also want to get rid of inconsistencies and start right away? Great! You’ll find now a brief outline of the five basic steps of conducting a content strategy.
Step 1: Message architecture
You can’t and shouldn’t communicate everything. Otherwise, your audience won’t listen to you anymore and won’t get your message. Saying less is saying more! Because of that you have to prioritize what are your core messages and what you want to communicate first.
A message architecture is a set of words or phrases that conveys your organization’s messaging intent, priorities, and goals. However, a message architecture doesn’t tell you which words exactly to use. It’s more about subtext. The message architecture tells you what messages your content should convey and the order of importance of those messages.
Step 2: Content audit
Before considering new content and formats we take a look at our existing content. Through a content audit we measure content against some defined criteria: Is it (still) good, current, appropriate and relevant? Does it align with the needs of our audiences as well as our communication goals and brand values?
Only when we know about our existing content, we can serve the needs of our audience and our organisation better in the future. A content audit reveals the gaps between those needs and our existing content.
Step 3: Content types
After getting a clear insight of what we need through the audit, we can identify specific content types. Those content types address specific communication goals. Not every content type matches every purpose and topic. For example, would an explainer video may work better out to communicate a complex administrative process? Can’t infographics better convey the message behind figures of the budget than pure text?
Again, it’s about prioritization — prioritizing new content types that address specific communication goals. An important aspect here is also reallocation of budget and resources. Whereas some content types may be not that important anymore, because they don’t fulfil your needs, others and new ones will serve your purposes better.
Step 4: Content model
After identifying and proposing specific content types, the question of how to put all that together arises. A content model provides a collection of all content types and their interrelationships. In order to manage your content sustainable, a content model is very valuable. It plays an important role in structuring content and shows you where you can (re)use which content types.
Step 5: Editorial guidelines and calendar
Editorial guidelines ensure a consistent tone and voice over all departments and topics as well as channels. They include common words and preferred nomenclature with approved spelling and spacing. An editorial calendar helps you to plan your content initiatives and publish your content. This core component of a content strategy helps to make more efficient use of the budget.