Whether you’re at an agency that serves a variety of industries or in-house working on a native app, the skills, tools, and mind of a product content strategist are in high demand. And as user experience and customer retention become KPIs for product and engineering teams in addition to UI/UX and content teams, the need for excellent content continues to grow.
Whether your company has already made content a priority or not, the ability to optimize product copy nonetheless affects the creation of your content.
Remember that you’re solving user problems, not company problems
As a content strategist, you’re planning, designing, and editing content for the person who actually uses the product. Think for a moment about who that person is as they walk down the street, work at their job, or sit at home. It’s their problems that should be at the top of your mind.
A question to always come back to is, ‘What problem am I solving for?’ If your answer is something along the lines of ‘I want people to use more features in the app,’ that’s not a user problem, that’s a company problem. Reframe your thinking so it puts the user at the forefront.
Know your “typical user” – then reach beyond them
Having a strong sense of who you’re creating content for is crucial. Maybe your audience is comprised of international travellers who only stay at five-star hotels, or perhaps your target market is young, urban people looking to make some fast money with a second job. In many cases, your audience could be incredibly broad. As in, everyone.
If your product is meant to truly serve everyone with internet access, you want to be sure it actually can. With that in mind, design for inclusivity. Find where you think your audience stops, then keep going. Consider an audience’s reading levels, disabilities, and how their minds process information. Let inclusion be your guide.
There’s a lot of professional juggling going on when you’re a content strategist. From a numbers standpoint, we’re not typically the team in the company with the biggest headcount. You can always look within your own company to find help in better serving your content and to have them better understand what it is you do, too.
This means looking beyond that one group of designers you’re always talking to, as you all probably have a fairly good idea of each others’ contributions. The marketing team is a great place to start, as they tend to be quite data-driven. Ask them about the last round of A/B testing that they did – did the button you created with the exclamation point perform better, or did the button without punctuation convert more users?
People who work in website architecture care about how the human brain interacts with technology, and the strategy of how text fits in with their design would probably be very interesting to them. Those who specialize in regional and local translations of your product are of great help as well. You may need to make your CTAs much shorter if the content ends up being truncated after translating from English to German, or English to Hindi.
Avoid being the last stop on the design team
Being part of the design experience greatly informs how you plan your content, so whenever possible, integrate yourself into the team early on in the design process. You could have the designers that you work with invite you to any meetings they are invited to. This doesn’t mean that you have to attend every single one, but it sends the message that what you create happens congruently with what they create. It could also cut down on playing catch up or scrambling to create content if a designer forgets to communicate something to you.
Don’t let standards be scapegoats
As someone who owns content strategy on your team or at a larger company, you most likely have content standards that everything you create should abide by, like rules around capitalization, OK vs Okay, and things like that. You also might get a fair amount of pushback from time to time, from PMs, engineers, and designers, who unknowingly want to skirt these standards. ‘Why can’t you just say this?’ they suggest. ‘Why does it have to be this way?’ they ask.
It’s in your best interest to avoid answering with a simple, “It’s not in our content standards.”
How come? A “that’s-just-the-way-it-is” type of reply may shut down the argument but it doesn’t help you much in the long run. It can make content strategy seem inscrutable, governed by rules that only you are the gatekeeper of. Instead, take this opportunity to create a teaching moment. You can say something like, “We have this standard around sentence case for body text because capitalizing every word in the sentence takes 50% longer for the user to read and slows down their experience.”
Letting designers, developers, and other team members in on the whys behind the company’s content standards also legitimizes your role and can help with them buying into your ideas at some point in the future. By all means, use your content standards, but don’t let them answer every question for you.