During our webinar last week, Georgy and I talked about content strategy as change management—how content strategy can provide a framework for making positive changes with your organization. While discussing the current unchanging landscape in higher ed, one issue that topped the list was collaboration.
Really? We’re Still Talking About Silos?
This week, a colleague said in a moment of exasperation, "When will we stop talking about *&#^% silos?"
If you go to any higher ed web conference, you will hear repeatedly how silos are the cause of our problems on the web, including content, marketing, communication, community management, and much more.
Department silos hinder collaboration and our ability to evolve on the web.
Content and communication doesn’t exist within a single department or business unit—it exists in every facet of an organization. If we can’t effectively bridge the gap between silos we will never be able to realize our institution-wide objectives on the web. (Not to mention we’ll have to keep hearing about *&#^% silos.)
Change is Hard
If all we need to do is collaborate, well that seems easy enough. Let’s do it! Unfortunately, like content, collaboration is tougher than it looks.
Maybe you have a monthly interdepartmental meeting or you’re on a committee (or three!)—and at these meetings people share good ideas and people nod and grin. But, if your experience is anything like mine, when people leave these collaborative meetings and return to their daily work little change occurs. People have work they’re charged with and that often trumps any new ideas or requests for help that people have. Collaboration takes time that most of us don’t have.
We don’t make change a priority. And that’s a problem. In the words of George Bernard Shaw: "Progress is impossible without change."
So, how do we change our thinking to adopt a mindset where collaboration trumps isolation in web publishing?
Content Strategy: Change in the Making
The reason so much talk about the modern web leads to content strategy—whether it be UX, IA, or even responsive design—is that content strategy is change management on the web. It forces us to shift our thinking, shift our priorities, and adopt a holistic view of web governance. Here are a few ways I’ve found content strategy helps.
Content strategy forces us to define content and communication goals. You can’t create great content without understanding your organization and user needs. And by defining these we’re able to see more clearly how the content we create supports others’ work, as well as illustrate how and why goals are prioritized. Content goals are only meaningful if content contributors understand how they relate to their work.
Everyone creating content in your organization should be supporting the same broad communication goals. Seeing your goals in the context of the larger picture allows people to realize the benefit of collaboration—as well as identify the opportunities for collaboration.
Roles and responsibilities
Even with an understanding of overarching communication goals, it’s not easy to identify opportunities for collaboration if people don’t understand:
- what do I need to do?
- who is needed to get the work done?
- what resources are needed to get the work done?
Content strategy forces us to define publishing roles and responsibilities. Who is creating content? Who is editing content? Who is approving content?
"Roles and responsibilities" is not a sexy phrase and often has negative connotations. What am I on the hook for now? But the reality is that defined roles and responsibilities make everyone’s work easier because people understand how their work fits into the bigger picture. This allows for greater collaboration, not to mention more efficient workflow and happy employees.
Change takes convincing—whether it be convincing someone else or yourself. It’s hard to open the doors to collaboration without recognizing the benefits. Content measurement helps by assessing web performance against established website goals (aka, KPIs).
By evaluating the success of shared goals you can realize the benefits of collaboration—which stops being an abstract “nice-to-have” and becomes a clearly critical element of publishing on the web.
What ways have you seen content work support collaboration at your institution?