Content Strategies to Prevent Future Government ROT
The push to remove Redundant, Outdated and Trivial (ROT) content on government websites has allowed departments and agencies to reconsider what content is needed by different audiences, and how those audiences want that content delivered. We’ve observed productive discussions across the National Capital Region over the past year on the purpose of the web channel and how it can both help users do the tasks they come to website to do and departments promote their new initiatives and programs.
ROT exercises however are often framed as a project and not a way of doing business. This creates the risk of falling back into an old pattern, which is publishing content that is of little value to users and/or doesn’t successfully increase awareness or engagement with government priorities. We’ve seen one department undergo a comprehensive content “pruning” two years ago, only to have their content holdings balloon by 246%, a mere 24 months later.
A major contributor to the persistence of ROT is the lack of anything that helps us determine what should and shouldn’t be published. This is a content strategy. Content strategies define:
- What goes on the web and why
- Which content aligns with which tasks
- How web content should be presented and structured
- How to balance user needs with organizational priorities
- Who makes decisions on the web
- How content will be optimized for findability and promotion
- How web performance is measured
An effective content strategy requires involvement by a multi-disciplinary team comprised of communications and information management specialists, senior and program management and IT. In a Government of Canada context, the strategy should align with these success-centric drivers:
- Program Alignment Architectures (PAA)
- Strategic business plans
- Enterprise business architectures
- Content standards
- User research (identifying tasks and demographic data)
- Communications plans for web campaigns
This admittedly is not a small effort, but it is one that can be incrementally developed as time and resources allow. A work plan that incorporates one or two elements can be managed on a quarterly basis. Using this phased approach, the elements that support smart decision making for the online presence can build over time and improve outcomes that are valued by the organization.
April 2013: Why does this matter now?
We know the Government of Canada is consolidating into a single government website but we don’t know much more than that at this time. This leaves departments wondering if they should do anything at all. A content strategy approach is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for the future in the absence of knowing exactly how things will play out. On the one hand, if there are delays to the consolidation exercise, you have put some foundational pieces in place to improve the user experience for your audiences. On the other hand, if things move quickly, you have a precise understanding of what you and yours users need out of the web.
Denise Eisner is a Senior Consultant in the Government Service Excellence practice.