“In a world where content rages out of control, where metadata has lost all meaning, a lone hero comes forth to audit all the things.” Sound like a preview for your worst week ever?
A content audit is often a solo effort — one person’s battle against a mountain of information. Sounds dramatic, but audits are so often about raising the visibility of content problems. The process finally brings to light issues that have been swept under the rug.
It’s not pleasant. It’s natural to want to rip the bandage off as quickly and privately as possible. To fill in the whole spreadsheet and move on. Or even to skip the audit entirely and jump into the “real work.” By doing so, we ignore the opportunity in front of us.
Developing a shared vision
So much of the hard work of content strategy is developing a vision, sharing learning, and building bridges between different parts of the organizations we work with. A content audit offers a great opportunity to begin this process by nurturing a shared context for understanding what is and isn’t working with your content. When you’re building a bridge, the foundation is important. You have to dig deep and find something solid to start from. The bedrock on which to build your content strategy is found in the conversation, not the deliverable.
“The bedrock on which to build your content strategy is found in the conversation, not the deliverable.”
Ironically, as we are having these conversations, as we are working on making new connections and overcoming organizational inertia, we are often using the least collaborative set of tools imaginable.
The right content audit tools
Our tools have a strong influence on the way we work. A siloed inventory and audit tool set begets siloed results. We wanted to change that. From the beginning, Blaze has been designed to support real-time collaboration — whether that means in the same conference room, or spread around the world.
A single version
No more searching for the latest file, you’re always looking at the most recent version. Changes are made by one user are visible to other users instantly.
Structured audit data
Blaze ensures that individuals enter data in a consistent way. There’s no risk that someone will change the columns and create a headache when you try to integrate the data.
Because changes are available instantly, there’s no waiting for a team member or client to review hundreds of items before passing a file back. The process keeps flowing and you can quickly discover when things are going off track.
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Get the collaboration started
Working collaboratively in this way can be uncomfortable and unfamiliar to many organizations. Here are a few existing practices that can help to inform the approach you might take with a collaborative content audit:
On the more reflective side, a writing workshop can facilitate a lot of discussion and be a good starting point for creating a shared understanding of the context for the content. How to Run a Successful Writing Workshop provides some good tips.
The visual counterpart to a writing workshop, design critiques are another longstanding practice for collaborative review of creative work. Design Criticism and the Creative Process provides a nice overview of the technique, which can be applied to content.
Based in Agile software practices, “pairing” is a great way to combine analytical and tactical work, and rapidly share knowledge. Typically two people work together, usually at a single computer, to accomplish a task. See Doing Agile with Pairing for some background on the practice.
Content team of one?
You don’t have to be part of a huge department to make this work. Sit down with a customer service rep, a salesperson, anyone who really knows the audience for your content. Find out if the content you have is answering the right questions. Is it factual, complete, useful? Is the voice and tone appropriate? Discover the gaps that are opportunities for new content.
What’s your experience?
How have you involved others in the content audit process? Share your ideas and experiences in the comments.