Thoughts on creating great user experiences, content and web sites

Content Strategy for One: Starting from Scratch

The great thing about working for a startup is that you get to start from scratch. When you’re the only Communications Specialist/Technical Writer/Content Strategist at a company who doesn’t even have a website yet for their flagship product, you get to make those early and important decisions. Who doesn’t dream of doing it “right” like you always wished you could?

Knowledge is power, isn’t it? So my first step was to learn from the wisdom of others. As a writer, this means I started reading:

I enjoyed all these books. Ate them up, really. Cheered after  particularly good points. Felt empowered that someone had finally articulated the nuance, skill and structure required to go beyond just writing to making great content do great things.

Then, I turned the last page. And I was back to reality. No team to help execute those great ideas. Barely anyone to bounce ideas off of. Just me at the keyboard, with my experience, skills, instinct, and having the guts to start from scratch, facing a “content strategy for one.”

At a startup, you stand alone, the stakes are high, and people are depending on you to be the voice of their hard work. Get it wrong and you may never get a second chance to make a first impression to potential customers and investors

So, after day one of staring at that blank page in fear, how did I move forward?

First off, I counted my blessings. No sifting through reams of legacy web pages, sorting out who owns what, what stays and what gets chucked. No trying to change the habits of a company’s lifetime. No complicated politics and expensive budget distractions.

Just me, my skills, a nose for strategy and a gift for words.

Right off the bat, it was pretty obvious that many of the lofty ideas I conjured up in my reading frenzy just wouldn’t work for my situation. It didn’t even seem right to call them by their names.

My “content audit” amounted to reading about 20 web pages (yes, I followed advice and did NOT skip Chapter 5).  Alignment amounted to getting hired for the job and the vague request to have “a website” and “write some product documentation.” We had few customers, less time. So how was I supposed to create a strategy out of this?

It seemed to me that I’d wasted all this time learning how to build the perfect lifeboat when I really needed was a to just swim. All the plans, books and how-tos in the world make no difference when it’s sink or swim.

Thank goodness for Shelly Bowen’s Magic Layer advice:

My suggestion is to climb on one of those diving boards — those gems of knowledge you know to be true — and dive in from there. Just make it up.

That’s pretty much where I’ve been the last two months. I’m not faking it and I’m not disorganized. But, I don’t have documented analysis, much quantifiable research or a very detailed plan.

Still, I think my content strategy is on track.

Want to find out whether I’m doing it right? I hope to write more about it in the coming weeks. I want to tell you about how one lone “writer” at a startup can go from nothing and come up with a realistic content strategy to help a small business succeed. Hope you’ll be listening.

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