Want Good Content Strategy? Get Out of the Office

“High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.” ― Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web

Government agencies rely on websites and other online tools with the view of informing, educating and engaging citizens. But how do we know if we’re actually effective in our outreach? What should we put on our websites and how should we say it?

Many government sites are laden with content that receives only a handful of page views. The balance between what users need and what we want them to see, between transparency and user experience, has never been more important. If users can’t find what they need quickly, we become just another inefficient drain on taxpayer dollars.

One need only look to the recent healthcare website launches where numerous states and federal agencies struggled to provide sites with a simple, effective user experience (on top of an actually working architecture). We must learn from these challenges and design resources that communicate citizens’ needs simply and effectively.

This is where content strategy comes into place.

According to Wikipedia, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media. . . . It is recognized as a field in user experience design but also draws interest from adjacent communities such as content management, business analysis, and technical communication.”

So how can I evaluate which approach is best for my organization? Content strategy is an evolving discipline, and schools of thought vary on best practices.

What is most helpful is to get out of the office and talk to people who face the same challenges. And you don’t have to look far to find the perfect resource to make that direct connection: the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW).

NAGW’s 2014 National Conference is devoting an entire day for its Friday Focus to explore content strategy. Along with informative presentations from top representatives in the field, the Friday Focus affords conference attendees opportunities for in depth discussions that generate new points of view for a fresh perspective on the work in front you.

If “content is king” then doesn’t it deserve the royal treatment? Shouldn’t we give it as much attention as other elements of our digital infrastructure? While the debate over what makes good content strategy continues, I’d really encourage folks to take the time to sit down with a group of colleagues and discuss the merits of different approaches. Only then can we truly serve our citizens and help ensure they receive the information they need and want to know.

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Christine M Audano

I’m looking forward to attending the entire 2014 NAGW conference, but especially the Friday Focus session on content strategy. We all “think” we know the best way to display our “government” content, but we all have to admit that sometimes the topics that need to be displayed doesn’t have the pizzazz that will capture someone’s attention. It will be interesting hearing different ways to display content that appeals to our government officials as well as our citizens.

Chris Audano

City of Overland Park, KS

Ryan Drake

One of the biggest issues I’ve run into during my time in the public sector is content. It’s either not enough or way too much! Having your content strategy in place is very important. Looking forward to learning more at the conference.

Carol A. Spencer

This is PERFECT: “If ‘content is king’ then doesn’t it deserve the royal treatment?”

How much time do we spend with clients reworking and rewording the content they give us? I know we spend a lot of time on this, and I doubt we’re different than others. Word choices, voice choices, tone of voice choices all make a difference in the readers interpretation of what we’re trying to say.

I’m looking forward to participating in these discussions at #NAGW2014.

Marc Drummond

Yes, yes, yes!

Curating quality content is an ongoing challenge, but it’s one of the most important things we do.

One of the reasons we changed the name of our organization to the National Association of Government Web Professionals is because we want to make sure that everybody involved with creating government websites can collaborate with each other and share best practices, and that definitely involves the dedicated communications professionals who are a key part of the governance of city, county, state and federal websites.

I’m very much looking forward to the conversations between developers and communicators, designers and those at the forefront of social media.

Can’t wait to see everybody in St. Paul this September!

Katya Wowk

More and more I realize that good web content greatly depends on good content governance. But that’s just one part of good content strategy formula. Definitely looking forward to Kristina Halvorson’s keynote presentation at the 2014 NAGW conference.