In my role one of the outputs that I was expected to create was a revised Web Strategy, which at first I was more than happy to do, I wrote the previous one so it wasn’t really an issue to simply refresh it in line with current priorities and national drivers.
However once I got going I started to notice a difference in the conversations I was having with people and more importantly the conversations with people about “the web”.
The big shifts were primarily about what people think “the web” actually is?
Some people naturally thought it was a single website and in particular the councils website, others were clearly thinking more about “the web” as a platform for service delivery and transformation and others were thinking it was an online repository for information about the council and a few other definitions as well which in their own way were right. It is in fact all of those things and of course more…but this was certainly not the view when I wrote the last strategy.
I’m fortunate that a number of the areas above have their own strategies and are embedding “the web” directly into those strategies, so it makes it easier to simply work out what aspects we actually haven’t got a plan or strategy for. For example we have an ICT Strategy, Access Strategy, Information Strategy and we are currently producing a new Communications Strategy.
In my previous role I lead on a piece of work which was essentially an ICT focused Web Strategy, the main objectives of it are to refresh the web architecture to make it fit for purpose and also reduce costs through the provision of common solutions. This is (in my humble opinion) a web strategy as it focuses on the web as a platform from which other things can be developed and provided, after all that is what the web is – a platform.
With the other strategies all pretty much extending the remit and scope of the previous web strategy – either a spark of genius on my part to lay foundations, or it failed to meet anyone’s objectives ! – I along with a few others asked ourselves what are we trying to produce and should we produce anything at all.
This was when I remembered a conversation with Sarah Lay from Derbyshire County Council who produced a Content Strategy as part of her studies – so I contacted Sarah and whilst she was unable to share her work at this point in time she was able to provide some pointers and her justification for producing a content strategy.
This conversation and an afternoon searching the web reading articles, blog posts, research and anything related to content strategy I decided that we were missing the most important strategy - a Content Strategy < obvious now but we simply hadn’t considered it.
The realisation hit me like a flashback as I went through the approach, expected outputs and benefits at a high level and sure enough, the reason for our current failures in our web technology and platform, our content, online services and even our online democracy offering all came down to the lack of a content strategy.
We haven’t been asking what we want our content to do, we have been asking what we want our website to do and this is the reason we haven’t fully embraced Social Media as well as why some people don’t see the value…when you come at it from a content perspective you can see a variety of benefits and added value with content.
Now I’m still working on the details but broadly a Content Strategy will help the council in the following ways:
- Specifying the key themes and messages in line with the Communications Strategy.
- Providing a clear purpose for all content.
- Conducting a content gap analysis and specifying the structure of content.
- Ensuring the councils content is accessible, reusable, shared, open* and linked*.
- Ensuring that appropriate metadata frameworks, retention, review and content life cycles and related content attributes are in place and content is properly managed.
- Measuring and evaluating the success of our content.