DrupalCon Seattle 2019: Manage a large number of content authors while also keeping your sanity

I think we can get started so talk it'll with a few folks ahead of time it sounds like there's a lot of folks have a lot of content authors to manage and so uh looks like a good talk so Who am I and and why should you care why should you listen to me so I work for a company called blue spark or a full service digital agency we do a lot of digital strategy user experience design Drupal development kind of stuff so and me I'm the managing director and my background is in user experience design and experience strategy and it's been the last bit of my career focusing on how you merge kind of business requirements business analysis the mission mission or vision of the organization with kind of a great user experience and thinking even even bigger than that and beyond digital in terms of service design which kind of led us to led me to thinking about operations of a website you know how do you how do you create something that your staff and your team can use to actually engage your audience and drive your mission or your vision forward deliver results on that worked with a variety of clients in various capacities from from Red Hat Indiana University UCLA library and all of these are managing you know fifty to a few hundred content authors right that's even managing a large community they have community contributors for content so it's really fascinating the different challenges that these organizations are facing so before I start probably wondering why I have a quote of Carl C and I kind of want to lay a few like of my philosophical ideas we don't have to go all the way back to the Big Bang but do want to lay a little bit of groundwork about where I'm coming from and where some of these tips might be coming from first off let's talk a little bit about who this talk is for I like to think in terms of the content Stuart the person that is responsible for gathering all the people and and making sure they're producing quality content and in this content steward serves various roles certainly editor being chief among them but project manager particularly for bigger pieces of content they need to get published writer at times therapists certainly but ultimately it's the content stewards job to bribe cajole convince people to publish content for the website not just content because everybody anybody can write content and anybody can write content they they think is good but what you're after is content that engages your audience going to read it honey the content that engages your audience and delivers results on the vision for the website and the mission of your organization because otherwise what's the point in having a website if it's not delivering results so what makes for good stewardship what makes for good stewardship and I think there's just six six traits here and I'm going to quickly go over them because I don't have a lot of time and I want to make sure I get to the meat of the presentation but good stewardship is educating is teaching your content authors what it means to create good content and and coaching them and guiding them and really bringing them along it's championing the idea that your website is there to engage your audience and it's getting out there and and helping people see why they should be doing it I'm getting a little head of myself but it's encouraging people to publish it's you know writing content is a tough thing we've all stared at the blank page and been overwhelmed by that so it's getting out there being the therapist being the cheerleader and getting them to published its supporting them right whenever they have questions whenever they're struggling it's celebrating the success not just with your content writers but also with their managers and it's listening to the challenges they're facing and helping them kind of in helping break down those obstacles so in my mind these are the qualities of good stewardship that whether you're managing a small number of authors a large number of authors whether it's just yourself writing for the website these are these are things that doing common challenges that we face whenever we are particularly whenever we're stewarding content for big websites is this often is not your only job this is just one thing that you're responsible for and it's easy for that to get set aside in favor of other responsibilities that you have I'm guilty of the second one people like to have written you don't want to write you want to have written that makes sense right there's a publish it and forget it mentality so we put everything out there and we put it out there and we we're on to the next thing how is it performing how can we have made it better what can we do to improve it so it's the web it's not a printed material you can go back and change it if things aren't clear if you get feedback on it another big thing particularly I think with when you're dealing with hundreds of people who aren't writers by trade especially if they think they're good writers writing by its nature as a personal thing we think it's an expression of our self and so any kind of criticism of the writing I was often taken as a criticism of them and that's that's very difficult to overcome and it can be very emotional to have those conversations with them I was going to ask what other challenges we have but I thought I was going to have closer to 40 minutes but I only have 30 so I want to keep going but I'd love to hear other challenges that you guys might be facing in your organization if any of those weren't covered afterwards but this brings us to the topic for today's talk which I want to give you 10 tips for managing a multitude of content creators these are tips advice things that I've seen that I've observed in working with the organizations that I've worked with there's no silver bullets snow no magic formula it all takes time and effort and energy and and persistence so number one is easy reference material great a style guide serves as a great reference for when you should have how they should write with a what grade level of writing they should be targeting and you don't have to write these from scratch you don't have to have your own there are lots of really great style guides out there MailChimp has a great style guide that you can say look melt tip is the one that's our starting point here's the link go read that and then you can add to it if you have an intranet or a wiki you can add to it worksheets there are some really great worksheets to break down like okay what's the purpose of the article that I'm writing and my son has one of these a fifth grader and it's like man we should use this for writing online you start with the purpose you know what are your four or five key ideas and you use that as the basis for writing your article and you stick to the key ideas the content life cycle so one of the things we mentioned in the challenges is the publish it and forget it mentality well if we think about the content lifecycle from you know the idea to the draft the reviewing how we had metadata what kind of metadata we should add the publication of it promotion follow-up and in some cases the retiring of the content and we set expectations for each of the stages of the lifecycle that's going to be clear to your to your writers what's expected of them and then checklists checklists are just great there's anybody here question checklist and white checklists are awesome do I need to go into that so just you know clear like a ten point checklist whenever they're going through it did you do this did you do this did you do this great you're done publish it move on but it's not enough to have the material it's not enough to even have written it in a way that's easy for your for your content authors to understand make it easily accessible remove all barriers to publication so so make all your reference material your style guides or worksheets your checklist make all that like when I go to publish right there give it to them in PDF format it's in their email it's in Dropbox it's a printed right there on their desk like they can't turn around without hitting the reference material somehow someway yeah they they will they will no doubt but do but these your jobs are try to try to prevent that see streamlined workflows this is one of the challenges to I think particularly whenever we're designing we think about the challenges and issues and trying to put in constraints in terms of well let's try to make sure that we're actually publishing good content and a lot of that makes sense but we got to be careful not to put too many constraints in place otherwise that would discourages people from writing the content that needs to get published this content still needs to get published we would like to be of a certain quality but as long as it's getting published we can hit a rate to that quality so think about how we streamline our workflows and even think about working outside the content management system have people start writing in Google Docs or some kind of shared content authoring system that's not we're not it's not like a WYSIWYG editor that fills as dry as Drupal's UI sorry Drupal developers it's kind of bad but the great thing about Google Docs too is you can comment you can make suggest changes you there's a month it's a it's a full-on word processor and and you can it's much richer environment for providing feedback focused UI if you do have to stay inside Drupal I think I was talking to some somebody over here like if you have a content author and their job is writing strip away everything else except like just the features that they need and Drupal 8 that will allow your developers to change the admin UI based on the developers role and based on the the role of the author so strongly recommend you're working with your dev team to get them to do that and it'll don't expect it to work the first time you're gonna probably oh I I want to do this what happened to that field or what happened to that feature it's gonna be a little back and forth to get it just right but but if you can streamline and you could simplify stuff that would be a good step for your for your authors another big challenge for writing it's not just the writing is if this is a promoted piece or something you typically have imagery associated with it that's another big roadblock for a lot of folks is they don't like how do you select good imagery so where do I go to find it what's approved what's not approved so making sure they have access they know where media sources they can go to whether it's a videos or what's your policy and publishing YouTube videos stuff like that right like like and make sure it's all centralized in one place with easy links and how do you cite images so if I if I do use Creative Commons image how do I get make sure that that's cited properly never stopped raining so we all think about one boarding we think about that initial training step where we want people to come in there and we're gonna sit and we're gonna talk with them or we're gonna review it we walk through and maybe that's an hour maybe it's 90 minutes and they'll create great you know everything maybe probably not so do the initial onboarding with the new folks then meet with them regularly i've weekly office hours if you have a slack or some kind of chat application be available periodically for that if there are some folks that need extra help them they have questions about how to do stuff if you've ever used calendly or where you can block off like a little bit of time for you know so that people can schedule 15-20 minute conversations with you where they can say hey I have this problem I have this challenge I just want to sit down and brainstorm with you a little bit so you can help me think through this and you can actually you know cut it get some problem cut some problems off at the pass before they develop into bigger issues and then I strongly suggest monthly refresher trainings and and got a sample agenda here where get people to share their appreciations you know the more people feel appreciated for the work that they're doing the more likely they are to continue doing it and to engage with it even more celebrate successes review publish content what was good about it what wasn't so great what they could have done better prepare people ahead of time like you said you know the writing is a personal thing you don't want to spring that on somebody you want to make sure they're comfortable with it and then an open Q&A just to give folks a chance to just ask whatever questions they have and then don't forget to promote the training get it out there let people know make people aware of it just don't like schedule it put it on people's counter and expect them to show up that's not gonna happen does he you know just do you want to get out there you want to make sure they're showing up do what you need to do to get people to show up Dex when and I'm sorry I'm really going through a lot of this stuff pretty quickly but know your staff know the capabilities of your staff what what are they good at what are they not good at don't ask if you're working on promoting you've got it event coming up and you you know don't ask somebody okay can you go out and select some good photos for this for somebody who just doesn't have the eye for it you know so know what their capabilities are and be on the look at so you might know that this person has a tendency to write more academic then what you would like be on the lookout for that and be ready okay you know they're publishing some content this week once it goes up you're ready to give them that feedback or try to get out ahead of that schedule sometime just sit down and review it with them so just think about your staff and think about what they're doing and what their strengths and their weaknesses are and and try to compensate as much as you can for their weaknesses a recruit assistance so you're gonna have people who are really good at what they do and maybe not initially but they develop that over time can you get some folks to you like maybe sit in on some office hours with you or where they're reviewing some content and taking that off your plate now these folks are doing your favors so maybe you get a bring coffee very hot eclis or something because they're making your life a little bit easier but can you find people especially if it's just a one-person show that that's it's just you being the cause the content steward can you find other people on your team that the other authors who are good at their jobs and and kind of used them as a to help train the rest of the staff touched on this a minute ago but celebrate the successes celebrate what's what's working point that out it's so easy particularly as an editor when you're looking at a piece of content to focus you know focus on get the red pen out and strike through everything it's like okay this is what we need to improve or you know okay the traffic to this article that we published that we needed excellent X percent of traffic for but it didn't hit it so easy to focus on the negative and then that just wears people down and discourages them from writing more content celebrate stuff always find stuff to celebrate even you know even if you're you've got to show them an article that's completely read find the one or two pieces in there that that's good that you can compliment them on you can always find something good to compliment people on and that's you got to do that you got to take the time to do that and show appreciation because like you this is but not their only job right in fact this is you know maybe that maybe it's 25 to 50% of your job to kind of be the content steward for them it might be five or ten percent of their job to write the content for the website so so the appreciative and and and encouraging of that another really the I was just about this flip but I want to focus on the fourth point to the more specific you can be in your celebration or your appreciation the better it is received be as specific as you can I do art with the kids at home I volunteer and kind of teach art with with fourth graders it's in a very rewarding experience but every like like you can tell the difference when you say oh that looks great versus wow I really like the shape of that that circle there you've got a really interesting curve to it and it you know it's very different the eyes light up and and we do that as well so the more specific you can be in your complements in your encouragement the better received it will be share results right this is kind of a continuation of celebrate but show people the results that matter to them so not everybody's gonna care about the traffic to a webpage in fact some pages are probably only going to receive four or five hits and that's really all that it's good so so what are the results like what you know maybe you've got some feedback from a user it says I was looking for this information and this was clear and you know I got this and this was really great really appreciate that this content was out there on the website whether it's an anecdote like that whether it's you know whether the it's maybe some people do respond well to metrics where they want to see okay how much traffic is my did my event page get because we're waiting just you know I want to see how many people are going to show up but share the results pass that information on to onto your authors ideally we're not there yet but I would love to see a Drupal dashboard where whenever I'm signed into my I'm looking at my content I can actually see like metrics associated with what's going on whether it's okay traffic or or maybe there's a signup form on there like how many people signed up after they visited so you like be able to identify what the key metrics are for that piece of content and have that show up in my dashboard so I get as the author get immediate validation that my content is successful or it's not and I can go in there and tweak it and fix it right but that faster feedback would be really really helpful automate as much as you can right so so data architecture is one of the great things about Drupal is just how much metadata you can associate with a piece of content from tags to categories to dates all this stuff and so if you can have you know you know okay we know that this event is at this location and it's in this category we know that okay obviously it should show on that up on that locations calendar but maybe it should based on the tags that shows up but it's promoted in other places as well so we can use data architectures just to get it out there and get it promoted very easily so we don't have to do a lot of that by hand use readable comm site pianet these are really great resources they're subscription services but they're really great resources that you can run stuff through and the nice thing about something like readable is that you're taking some of the sting out of the feedback you're not it's not so personal it's like look we set a target readability score of fifth grade sixth grade so those are reasonable and in mr. professor years is a college-level wording and freezing here so we need to kind of bring that down and this is just what it is you just not I'm not criticizing your use of semicolons I think they're brilliant but this is what we have you know you're on to me and then just review the results like bring this up when you go to your weekly meetings with folks like pull like hey look our site readability score is here right or whenever you're reviewing a piece of content talk about what the readability score is but don't just give the feedback to your writers your authors give it to the managers to help them get that promotion help them get that raise right like they're gonna appreciate you so much more appreciate the feedback if they hear it from their manager if their manager goes you know I was talking to Jane the other day and Jane says you're doing great you're killing it with the content I'm so happy to hear that right that who doesn't want to hear that from their boss so so so manage up manage to their boss but not just their boss manage to the executives tell create reports I mean one of the big challenges that if I'm an executive or or a manager you go to google analytics and what do you see I I don't know what I'm looking at I can't make heads or tails of this so create a simple one-page report that you can explain very clearly look this is how our website is being successful and helping drive our mission forward helping our vision for the website this is how we are being successful with the website and here it is very simple very plain and everybody across the organization who's working on the website gets that praise so it's a little benefit from that the other value to that too as you start to feel overworked and overwhelmed which will and you do I know you do that starts to lay the groundwork for getting some help right like you're showing the values strong what's going on you're showing why this is working in why sure they should continue to invest in this and then eventually like okay you love this this is great I'm overwhelmed can I get some help please part-time contract whatever speaking of overwhelming take a break take a break small breaks throughout the day and you go to lunch turn your phone off there's virtually no emergency that's that they can't just wait a little bit this is a marathon it's not a sprint this is gonna be a lot of work to get all this stuff done so you can't just you can't just go go go go go go go another another this was something that I saw this as developer turrent time versus manager time and this is really helpful for me at some point so I kind of tweaked it a little bit so editor time versus focus time so there's stuff that you need to do outside the scope of managing on these authors there's also editing and other stuff you need to do so let's separate that let's say okay you know a couple hours in the mornings I have my office hours and a couple hours I'm gonna be reviewing stuff and editing stuff and then in the afternoons it's all blocked off for me to focus to do other stuff try to create blocks of time so that you can when you need to focus you can when you're interrupted you are because you can't look if you have stuff you need to focus on you can't be inartful it's just you're not it's never gonna get done you're gonna go mad doing it another thing to think about stuff a way to think about things is is this important or is it urgent right and 90 100 percent of the time the urgent is gonna Trump the important so unless you make time block time set aside time make sure the time is blocked and you're focusing you're gonna work on the important work that you have to do instead of the people knocking on your door hey can you help me edit this or fix this or do whatever your important work is never going to get done and that important work might be selecting which style guide you want to use figuring out how dealing with other kinds of content issues or figuring working with the developers to integrate with the readable API or or streamline the UI you know all that stuff has to get done but you're busy and unless you block off time for it it's not so to recap I will go through them again because I've got a minute and a half but I'm sure my slides will be available the 10 tips the key takeaways big you can't do this alone it's a big site lots of content you're not gonna be able to do this alone you need competent and powered staff that's gonna that can help you but to get there it's going to take time it's gonna take time it could first folks it could be a few months for other folks to be a few years but it's just going to take consistent persistent effort I was hoping we'd have time a little more time for questions but but I'm here so if you want to ask questions we can that's it go ahead [Applause] so the question is how often do you see like a core web team that's responsible for developing all the content versus where it's kind of more distributed and it really depends on the size of the organization like if you have you know smaller organizations save less than a hundred people or closer to 50 like you're gonna you might see a smaller web team that's responsible for it rather than kind of having a distribute it also depends on how much content the organization is producing you're responsible for producing like if it's a very singular this is we just have this a little bit of content it's going to be more controlled by marketing whereas say government and you know governments and libraries and just just sheer volume of content that they're producing you know the policies the all that stuff is just it can't be controlled by a central organization so I think a big part of that is just the size of the organization this is a great that is a great question and and really there isn't as the like there's no silver bullets for the first part of the question you know how do you get buy-in from your man from the managers particularly the managers of the content authors I'd sit down and listen to what constraints they might have you know is the person who overworked already and and they can't you know they're worried about how much time they're committing to it they feel like you know that's not necessarily important like what are their concerns listen to them there's a book called people skills that really talks about active listening so and and I find that that kind of process like it helps people feel heard and if they feel heard they in and then then you turn that around and get them to help you come up with solutions okay look I hear you these are all problems but this is what I need help me figure out so so help this so you're enlisting their help to come up with a solution and if they're helping you come up with the solution they have ownership I've buying into the solution and that's you know you still might get pushback and they still might forget that they did that in which case I mean it's still a management he's still going back hey you remember we talked about that this is what you said it's following up an email okay we had that conversation here were your concerns and here was the outcome for that and you know just getting them to agree getting them to agree and encourage public lis to where they have other people that that they've committed to is also helpful another great book to read in addition to the people skills for active listening is influence in just the different ways you can rely on influenced to and well in get to influence their what they're doing what they're saying so and what was the second half of the question yeah so that's great great question I think there's two parts to it one is goals what are the goals of the content and is the content achieving that goals and then that's where – like we talked about what's the readability score that you're after like what you know what are the guidelines that you're following and be able to be able to point to those guidelines to be able to point to that score where it's objective so as much as possible making it objective taking it out of you to be being critical I mean certainly you know if the style guide says you need to use serial commas and they're not using serial commas and if you're not using serial commas what's wrong with you I'm just just saying but right what's the you know so what does a style guide say so make it more objective the other thing too that I think hands down let users in front of the content get them recordings of users trying to understand what does this content mean so whenever you need to do this you know where's the thing is the answer on this page and they're reading through pages and pages of text or like I know it's not here exactly so so get it out of you you're as much as possible you're not the one providing that feedback it's well this is the style guide this is what it says this is the user this is what they're saying this is their readability score this so make it more objective because if it's coming from you it's subjective other questions I think we're great time excellent thanks everybody [Applause]

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