Take your content up a notch, with content sprints
Here’s a secret I’m sharing in my last Humbleteam post for now: a great, focused way to boost your content performance — content sprints.
What are content sprints?
A niche descendant of design sprints, content design and strategy sprints are intensive bursts of focused input on particular priority areas of your content.
How they help startups
They will help you to solve a difficult content problem, implement an aspect of your content strategy or upskill in a particular area, with or without external support.
Sprints are all about momentum and collective focus.
Spending intensive consecutive time as a team on a particular priority area can accomplish much more than the same amount of time spent on content by different individuals on and off alongside day-to-day work.
Length and frequency
A recommended length is 2 weeks: ideal for fitting into typical Agile project schedules at larger organisations. In an in-house training situation, multiple blocks of content sprints often take place consecutively.
But you can find out what works with your regular schedule. Perhaps you’ll decide to dedicate 1 week every quarter year, or 1 intensive day every fortnight.
The important aspect is the focus on a specific angle, during a ring-fenced time period.
A content sprint timetable
Intensive concentration from the whole creative team in one specific area at a time means you can cover a lot in a short time.
Here is a suggested 2-week content sprint timetable for a startup website of about 30 pages with copy, images, products, a purchase journey, brand identity and a specific tone of voice.
Monday: Create content standards.
- style guide
- tone of voice
- content principles
- diversity standards
- accessibility standards
Tuesday: Decide on responsibilities and publishing flow.
- list content owners and subject experts
- decide roles and responsibilities, for example: writing, editing, factcheck, website upload, proofreading, go-live sign off
- map the journey for a piece of content from start (idea) to finish (live)
- ask yourselves what could be more efficient in this process?
Wednesday: Content design training.
- writing for web principles
- how to do user language research
- readability, clear content, accessibility
- content design techniques
Thursday: End-to-end content review.
- map out and gather up content from all stages in a customer’s journey to purchase your product or service, like: advert – web content – confirmation email – delivery texts – product packaging – instructions
- analyse the content: does it all meet your brand identity, tone of voice, style guide and content principles?
- make edits for improvements and consistency
Friday: Digital content design and development.
- design templates for news items, blog posts, e-newsletter
- design social media post content patterns
- revisit a design flow like payment, product subscription or app onboarding
- make content and UX writing improvements based on what you’ve produced and learnt over the last week
Next email: critical web design mistakes to avoid
Monday: Apply standards and get organised.
- organise a category of your website content, like Products
- check the About us page reflects your brand identity, style guide and content principles
- make sure all copy is clear and concise
- review your image library against your new diversity standards
Tuesday: Understand your customers better.
- gather communications and feedback from customer, like emails to customer service, posts tagging your company on Twitter, interaction on other comms channels
- analyse user feedback: positives, recommendations, any confusion, problems and difficulties
- where can you apply what you found out from the customer feedback to improve the experience through content?
Wednesday: SEO deep dive.
- carry out user language research, for example using Google Trends and social listening
- refer to the language used in customer feedback you explored on Tuesday as a source
- update SEO terms in your website content and backend metadata
Thursday: Future content development.
- Ideate, to generate new ideas for your blog, marketing and social content
- Schedule into a content calendar when these campaigns will take place
- Use the publishing process you streamlined in Week 1 to understand how long each campaign will take
- Look through your website content for anything now out of date or irrelevant
- Delete from the system
- Plan a schedule of regular maintenance, add to your content calendar
- Use the roles and responsibilities you identified in Week 1 to assign who does what
The timespend you dedicate to each activity will depend on how much web content you have. What takes a day for a site with 30 pages could take a week for a site with 150 pages. Depending on your site size and the nature of your business, your content sprint could be a whole week spent on organising your image library!
Learning lessons from content sprints
You can improve the usability of your current content, by applying best practice techniques like clear language.
Keep up the good work by committing to regular maintenance and spot checks of your content. Remember, signed off content has a life after live, and its relevancy and accuracy will change over time.
Actions to take today
- Calendar in a content sprint
- Decide your content priority areas
- Shortlist which of those to start with
- Decide who will take part in the sprint