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Getting buy-in: Managing content in the trenches

For some of us, content management is merely a matter of dealing with engagement content providers around campus who gleefully edit and publish their own content. There are folks who don’t have it so good. Content can become a hot potato or something that’s viewed as easy to ignore.

If you spend a good part of your day blogging, tweeting and Facebooking on behalf of Ye Olde Alma Mater, it’s easy to forget that there are people struggling daily with figuring out ways to coax people to give a damn about content creation.

Sometimes, the buy-in doesn’t exist and it’s a matter of educating before you can get to the point of knowing what you want to do and how to get there. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to the puzzle. When you’re like me, it’s a bit different. My professional career has been akin to the baseball player who signs with a new team. While there are differences in each place, I remember the first time I switched jobs and realized how similar it felt to what I was doing at my previous school.

I don’t let this lull me into a sense of security, though. Assessing the landscape is a good starting point, but at some point, you need to decide what you’re going to tackle first and establish a plan of attack. Here are some things to keep in mind as you develop it:

1. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your site probably won’t be revamp that quickly either: Sure there will be lots of pages to rewrite, dead copy to replace and perhaps an entire site to revamp from its current state. It’s easy to get consumed by things you want to fix, but it’s more important to prioritize your plan of attack. Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew for your entire team.

2. Content management is really about content ownership: When you’re trying to convince wary people to help you help them with content, you can encounter all kinds of resistance. Some don’t want you involved at all, others don’t want to have anything to do with it.

Add in a bunch of variables like how your CMS is setup and you can see the recipe for disasters embedded here. Ultimately, I like to remind people that they are the subject matter experts of their particular arena and that working together, we can advance their goals better than if we stay in our individual silos camped out. Giving people a sense of ownership while establishing where you come in process is usually the most helpful.

3. Don’t be defensive, it’s (usually) not about you: If you’re inheriting a situation that’s less than pretty politically, design or otherwise; it’s usually rife with the ill effects left behind from whoever you replaced. Don’t take it personal if in the early going, people are less than receptive to your overtures (or you know, demands for help.) It’s not your fault you might have been handed a bad deal, but from the perspective of the end user, none of that matters. Computers are magic machines that make all of these things easy and thus, no matter how much your sitemap may be disarray or the number of times you mutter obscenities to yourself about what someone else might have been doing before you arrived; it’s probably not anyone’s fault. Just go with it and be a rockstar.

4. Educate. Educate. Educate. I had a long conversation with a friend who isn’t even a web person, but a counselor fresh out of grad school at a college. She was asked to give presentations and to do things that she wasn’t told she’d have to do when she was hired. This initially bothered her, because the request was a bit out of her comfort zone. But now? She’s really good at it and it’s her favourite part of the job besides interacting with students. My point? It’s your job to be an advocate everyday for the work you do.

Despite the ubiquity of websites & social media everywhere, if you’re working full-time in a job on the web, you’re doing a job that didn’t exist twenty years ago. (Note: I used to write that line and put ten years ago. Time flies…) People often need to be educated, even if they don’t realize it. To them, it’s either wizardry or child’s play that you get paid for. 

We’re just scratching the surface here. I’m tentatively planning to follow up on this topic through this week, because it’s on my mind. We’ll talk in more detail about these topics in a bit more detail. Naturally if you stumble here and have questions or thoughts, chime in and I’ll attack those topics as we go along.