Explain your content project
When you put us to work, we'll want to know what your task is. Here's how to spell it out better.
Content editing and authoring are collaborative processes. Your content partner needs to understand your situation – so that they can ensure the content does the job it’s supposed to do, and do it as well as possible.
And understanding your situation is a real challenge for any advisor. As a client, you can help them by going through what might be called "the Spice Girls process": tell them what you want, what you really, really want.
At Shorewalker DMS, we send clients a questionnaire at the start of most jobs, designed to elicit the information we most want about their situation. If your editorial advisor isn't us, they'll probably benefit from knowing this information anyway. So below are the main questions we ask.
If you can't entirely explain what it is you want, don't worry too much. Talk to your editorial consultant; editorial content is a collaboration. Your consultant will probably know that clients often start a project with their editorial aims and challenges still hard to describe. Many of the problems that come to us are ambiguous, complex and kind of hard to even see clearly, let alone solve. (That's one sign you may need an editorial consultant to help you.)
Answers to a few key questions can quickly build a shared understanding of where we need to finish up.
Your website's About Us page – and your published annual report, if you have one – will tell us much of what we need to know about you. But if you can describe a particular mission that this content addresses, that will help too.
Do you have a statement or project brief setting out what you need?
This will help us quickly understand the project.
Your primary objective for this content
If there’s one thing you want audiences to believe after reading this – just one thing – what is it?
Your secondary objective
What if you could have another one or two things they’d believe after reading this?
Do you have a deadline – a date by which the content must be delivered to you?
This will help us (or another firm) to assemble the resources we need to make sure the project gets done on time.
Do you have other compulsory requirements?
Are there any definite requirements for maximum word count, run time, format, aspect ratio or anything else?
Do you have a model for the work that needs doing?
Here we want to see the sort of completed product you want to have. This will serve as a benchmark for the new project.
This completed product may be content that you yourself produced last month. It may be content used by another organisation on the far side of the world. Or it may be something in between these two extremes. But we will be better able to assess your project when we can see what success looks like.
In this section we specify the important groups that will look at your content – we call them "audiences" – and what they might get from the material.
Do we have any data on audience types?
Your content suppliers will be able to provide much better material when they know exactly which people they are writing for.
What actions do you want different audiences to take after reading/skimming browsing the document?
Your content suppliers will be able to provide much better material when they know exactly what effect the material is designed to achieve.
What are the key reasons why the target audiences might look at this material?
When we understand what our audience wants, we can do much better at giving it to them.
How many people are accessing current material on this subject, and how are they accessing it?
If you have any information about content people are already looking at, we'd like to hear about it.
Managing the project
What are we calling this project?
A working title is fine - anything that lets us all refer to this project.
Who will own the project at your end?
Whoever helps you with your content will benefit from having a single main point of contact within your organisation. This person should understand what the business needs, and why. Include two email addresses.
How and where should the content be filed?
Include details of who should receive the content, with email address.
Who will sign off on your project when it's complete?
Whoever provides your content will need to get sign-off for payments. It's best to establish up-front who this will be.