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Archive for October 2009

How to Make Friends and Influence Content Life-cycle

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If you like to imagine a typical Content Manager as a lonely geek, perpetually glued to his or her computer screen and furiously typing, I am afraid you are up for some disappointment. There are a lot of soft skills involved in content management: being good at building relationships is hardly the less desirable.

How so?

We already talked about conceiving a sustainable content life-cycle and setting up the most cost-effective processes. One of the most sensitive steps in this task is identifying key players. Don’t be fooled by the business jargon. Behind every “key player”, or content owner, there’s a person. More often than not, they already have their job, with deadlines and meetings and what else. Odds are, their new status of “key player” will be considered as the umpteenth nuisance.

In the best case scenario, managers are excited about their department being involved in the new process. And maybe the “key player” is happy to contribute as well. But, hey, I’m Italian, wishful thinking is not part of my DNA. So let’s consider a different scenario: happy manager, unhappy “key player”.
Make no mistake: an unhappy key player means your well-conceived plan will stall at some point. And that’s something you, Content Manager, will be held responsible for.

Here are some tips to avoid the stall:

  • Be proactive When identifying key players, be involved and name names. Which ones? People you worked with already, people on the same wave lenght, people who know something about communication. And make sure to contact them beforehand, to share your intentions, so they don’t feel trapped by another (unpaid) burden.
  • Promote the position You don’t have to lie: being part of the process is both time and energy consuming. Never, ever, try to sell it as something different. But try to highlight the pros: a nice break from the routine, an interesting task, the chance to see their job acknowledged on an individual basis and not as a team member.
  • Talk to their managers It is vital to gain support from the management. It is vital that managers acknowledge the role of their key players, and the responsibility that comes with it. So, promote the position with them too. They have to be willing to invest some man/hours to see the benefits of having their department achievements constantly and consistently communicated.
  • Ease their burden… You may have set up an amazing automated process, but sometimes daily issues get in the way. Be ready to be flexible, when you see that one of the key players is under a lot of pressure. If you don’t get your content on the CMS, you can always be briefed during a coffee-break, and write it yourself. A team is a team, even when it crosses departments.
  • … but don’t take it all on yourself On the other hand, if your flexibility is often required, we have a pattern, Houston. And not a good one. Set your boundaries first, and if they are not respected, look for another key player.
  • Make it entertaining I do have a secret to make this work: everybody has dreamt at some point to be a journalist. Well, create your magazine. Be the editor-in-chief. Have your correspondents. Tip them. Let them tip you. Research together. Listen to their scoops.
  • Give them training, give them tools Try to set up some in-house training in the early stages, gather your key players together, and explain them the process. All of it. Let them see how it works, and why their contribution is important. Try to educate them about the deliverables. Let them see how their content will be worked and reshaped. And then hand them templates that will ease their job as correspondents.
  • Don’t let them feel alone Nothing is more disheartening than being left alone with a new task, so give a lot of feedback. And don’t keep distinct lines of communications between you and the key players: let them talk to each other. Good ideas bounce in a network, and not in a straight line.

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Written by Paola

October 16, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in managing content