Getting familiar with content processes
Processes help content teams operate efficiently to create consistent, impactful content. This series presents an introduction to processes and how they are constructed.
Content strategists put a lot of weight on words. It’s to be expected, because we know the importance of choosing words that are clear, specific, and informative.
When it comes to giving names to content processes, words matter.
Only use active verbs and singular nouns
In their book, Workflow Modeling: Tools for Process Improvement and Applications Development, Alec Sharp and Patrick McDermott point out the danger of using “mushy” verbs when naming processes by quoting David Letterman: “The post office today handled 500 million pieces of mail. They didn’t deliver them – just handled them.”
The problem with “handle” and other “mushy” verbs – manage, coordinate, etc. – is that they are non-specific, whereas active verbs like “create” and “translate” refer to singular activities and a specific point in time.
These active verbs are paired with a singular noun to create a process name. You know when you’ve got a good one when you can flip the construction and it make sense. So “deliver mail” can be restated as “mail is delivered” while “mail is handled” just sounds weird.
In the context of a content world, “manage content” might seem like a reasonable process. After all, content people are managing content all the time, right?
But “manage” is another one of those mushy verbs. What does it mean to “manage” content? When we use that word, we are really referring to the entire suite of activities we do with content.
Instead, try “create,” “edit,” “review,” or “measure”. When we restate those phrases, there is no doubt about what we’re doing:
- Content is created.
- Content is edited.
- Content is reviewed.
- Content is measured.
This naming convention will help you identify the content processes that are in use at your organization and will ensure that content teams and stakeholders have an understanding of what those processes are for.
Knowing when a process ends can be tricky. While some processes can be very long and involved, you need to be careful that you don’t string multiple processes together into a single process when it should actually be a series of linked processes.
The “token” helps with this. I’ll explain what that is in the next article on content processes.