Managing Content for Value, Part 1: Define the Goals Up Front

Define your goals up front so you have a clear signIf you’re managing a content-creation project — especially if you are the person hired to produce the content — it helps to define the goals of your project up front.

Whether you’re a designer, writer, marketing manager, jingle producer, or Flash developer; whether you are working as a freelancer or on the payroll; you are being paid to advance the goals of the organization that is hiring you.

Many projects start out with very nebulous goal definitions. If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard people say “I think we need a blog because everyone else seems to have one.” Then when you create the project, goals get thrown at it afterwards. “Why isn’t my blog generating leads?” Your job at the outset is to take a businesslike approach and firm up some goals.

You may encounter some resistance to goal-setting. Be gentle but firm. “Other projects only succeed when they have clearly defined goals. A content creation project should be no different.”

To set goals, a brainstorming meeting is key. Make sure all decision-makers are involved in the meeting, but not necessarily all stake-holders. Are you creating marketing materials? You’ll need input from the sales team. You should include the leader of that team in the meeting, but not the entire team. Involving too many people in a meeting spends too much human capital and can turn into a free-for-all.

What if a key decision-maker refuses to participate in the meeting? This tells you that the project isn’t really that important to the organization — no matter what your point of contact or immediate supervisor says. At that point you can choose to push back. “The meeting will only take 55 minutes of your time, but without it, we can’t make sure the project will meet the company’s goals.” If this doesn’t work, try to coach your contact on getting the necessary information for you.

The goal for the meeting should be to agree on what problems the company is trying to solve with this project. You should come to the meeting with a list of questions. Our company recently held a meeting where we went through the entire sales process step by step, and then brainstormed what pieces of content would be helpful to the salespeople at each stage.

Good questions to ask at the meeting are:

  • Why do you want to produce this project?
  • Which of your organization’s goals are you trying to promote, or what problems are you trying to solve?
  • How do you expect this project to meet your goals?
  • Are there better ways to meet the goals you have in mind?

This last question is risky. Let’s say you’ve been hired to design a billboard to appear on a major highway, but the client wants to increase sales of a product to people who don’t drive. You desperately want to design the billboard because of the large fee involved. But your client’s goals would be much better served with flyers handed out to subway riders. You will lose your fee if you push the client to think clearly about her business goals. Consider the lost income an investment in your credibility, your relationship with the client, and your career.

After the meeting, circulate a memo to all decision-makers stating what you took away about the client’s goals. Refer to this document often during the content development process. If the project seems to be straying from the goals you originally outlined, get it back on track or get the decision-makers to revisit the goals.

In the next post, we’ll dive into how a few different ways to measure the progress towards the goals you’ve outlined.

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