Can content strategy be agile?

How we adapted our approach for agility

  • By Kathy Wagner
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  • Feb 6 2015
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  • Categories: Articles

I’ve been challenged lately to think about agility and content strategy. Agile content, yes, absolutely I get that. But agile content strategy? Not so much. But I was challenged to convince both an agency client and large corporate client that we can do “agile content strategy”. Which we don’t.

Photo Credit: Franck Vervial via Compfight cc

It was a fantastic exercise, and really stretched how I think about approaching projects for this kind of client. Here’s what we did:

We educated clients about why much of content strategy is, and should be, methodical

We can (and do) take baby steps, incremental approaches, pilot projects, sub-projects, all sorts of ways to slice and dice content strategy projects into bite-sized chunks. The bite-sized chunks are designed to build on each other, but I wouldn’t consider them agile.¬†Fundamentally, we create frameworks that content teams can use to create strategic, effective content in an agile way¬† (if that’s what’s required). Those frameworks need to be built on solid research and a full understanding of business, audience, content, and content team needs. And, in my experience, that just works better when a thoughtful and methodical approach is taken. Which takes time.

We took the time to really understand what their agile needs are, and what they mean by that

Like so many other terms in our industry, agility means different things to different people and organizations. In this case, they wanted a vendor who can be quick and reactive in preparing content (structure and substance) for testing. Content that tests well would inform quick updates to the website.

Now, I consider that content concepting (rather than content strategy), which can certainly be done quickly and align with a team’s agile work environment. As we’re huge believers in content testing, that’s right up our alley and we could easily say yes.

We designed two work streams, and set clear expectations

While I was happy that we could accommodate their agile request, I needed to communicate that early content concepts would be built more on best practices and preliminary assumptions than on a solid strategy. At the same time that we were contributing to their agile content testing team, we would begin another workstream focusing on defining a content strategy framework, including a governance plan, in a more methodical way. As we gained insights, we would bring them into the test content. This gave us a fantastic opportunity to validate user experience and content assumptions and create a stronger content strategy.

So, in the end… it was win-win. They got their immediate needs met and were able to see improvements to the content quickly, while still taking a long-term approach to defining a framework that would allow their team to continue to create strategic content in an agile environment over time.

Have you had any experiences with agile content strategy?