Content skills you can implement from day 1

Guest author, , Content design, Opinion

This guest blog post is written by Holly Jones. She is a consultant who specialises in digital content, brand and customer experience.

My focus has always been on long-form digital content, with an emphasis on brand building and content strategy. To me, good content is about telling stories, sharing insights and tips, and using data in content to build consumer confidence. I’ve dabbled in UX writing, but my core focus has always been in the content marketing space.

I was struggling to layer UX thinking and customer-first thinking with long-form content planning. I wanted to find a way to tighten an article’s focus, help a writer identify a stronger purpose, and deliver an outcome more closely aligned to an identified customer need. I knew there was a connection point I wanted to articulate but wasn’t sure how to get there. The 2-day Content Design course captured my attention as it seemed to be the missing piece of my thinking.

This course gave me the tools and guidance I need to see how content design could be implemented as a new way of thinking for our teams and used as a guide for future content creation.

Helping improve content output – on a global scale

I see content design as a core discipline of delivering quality digital content to your audience. Following the key principles mean you must focus your writing and put the customer first. It results in concise copy that makes the reader’s life easier – an aim most digital content professionals can agree on.

I’ve been working in digital content for over 15 years, so while this is a new way of thinking for me, it has connected a lot of what I’ve learnt along the way. Content design is a concept that’s simple to follow (when you learn it via this course), and one that can benefit a business straight away.

It’s a way of thinking that’s fully aligned with improved customer outcomes. And it’s something that’s applicable to all digital writers – including UX, UI, and editorial. The course I was part of had all of those taking part, at varied levels of experience, and I benefited from seeing people’s case studies and problems.

Content design should be embraced by businesses who want to lead.

If your business embraces content design principles before your competitors, then you can be the brand that lifts customer expectations of content.

It wasn’t that long ago that the term ‘content marketing’ was new. It was relatively misunderstood and ignored by some businesses, who didn’t see how this style of writing could connect to potential and existing customers and generate leads.

Content marketing outputs took longer than banners or MRECs to create, and brands worried people wouldn’t care about long form opinions and tips from them. In fact, for many businesses it’s still a new and unchartered area of digital content. But the results are clear, and well documented online.

Content design is a newer discipline but offers equal value to a business. It provides a set of principles to follow, which focus – and therefore improve – your content outcomes for the user/customer. While it will take longer to produce a piece of quality content, it will mean what you produce has purpose to your external audience – as opposed to just pleasing internal stakeholders.

While content marketing certainly has its roots in the USA, its principles have been embraced on a global scale. The same is happening for content design. While the roots are in the UK, the course, learnings and term itself, are increasingly common in conversations I see on LinkedIn, from industry peers and from external partners I work with.

Content design is fast becoming a global guide to how content is delivered.

Global standards are rising

The course I was part of had a diverse mix of industries, which was good to see. Alignment in what quality and best practice is, across sectors, is one-way writers and strategists can create better outcomes for users on a global scale. Especially useful if you work for a global brand.

If content creators around the world continue to embrace content design as the new norm, then consumers can raise their expectations of what good content is, and what it should deliver them.

Content Design skills can benefit all digital content writers

I learned a lot from this course – both new and refresher learnings.

One key point was a reminder that good digital content creators are problem solvers. Maybe problem solvers first, writers second. Content design principles give a framework for both.

If you look at content assets from a strategic perspective, content is only created when it answers a need (business and/or consumer). That’s what this course is about. It’s not about how to create assets that creatively challenge the norm, it’s about creating functional, well thought out content which serves a specific need.

Author of Content Strategy for the Web, Kristina Halvorson, describes the course founder Sarah Richards as a ‘consummate problem solver’. This explains why the course can break down a new concept for a diverse group and make it so simple to grasp.

As Sarah herself says in her book, Content Design, ‘instead of saying ‘How shall I write this?’, you say “What content will best meet this need?’’ Content design principles teach you to look at the need, and then the words. And if you can nail that, it’s foolproof.

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