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How to use content design for internal comms

How much content do you write, edit, manage or publish each week?

In any internal communication role, content is likely to be a large part of your working world.

Today I have a guest post for you by Joanna Goodwin. Some of you may know Joanna through her work at the Office for National Statistics.

She has also recently joined the team at Content Design London on top of the day job to fuel her passion for accessible and inclusive content. You can follow Content Design London on Twitter @ContentDesignLn and find Joanna on Twitter @JoannaGoodwin3.

If you need help thinking about your channels and content, check out my Introduction to internal communication channels or How to be an internal communicator Online Masterclasses. you can enrol and start learning today.

I’ll hand you over to her…

How to use content design for internal comms

Do you find you often work on content someone inside your organisation has requested, on the platforms and timelines your organisation allows?

If the answer is yes, then content design may help you to adopt a more user centred approach.

Content Design London

What is content design?

Content design is still a fairly new discipline. Sarah Winters (was Richards) first introduced the job title while she was at the Government Digital Service over a decade ago.

In a sentence, Content Design is answering a user’s need in the best way for the user to consume it.

In her book, she said: “Content design is a way of thinking. It’s about using data and evidence to give the audience what they need, at the time they need it and in a way they expect.”

But content design is not just for government bodies, or for digital content.

Content Design as a discipline is getting recognised across industries with LinkedIn listing Content Designer in its top 15 emerging jobs in the UK in 2020.

Facebook and Spotify have also both announced in the past few weeks that they have changed the name of the Content Strategy teams, to Content Design teams.

Content Design

How to apply content design to internal communication

Content Design is a way of thinking. The approach and principles are relevant across online and offline channels.

Rachel Machin, Colleague Communications Manager at Co-op said in her post on the Content Design London blog, “I’d encourage anyone with a job title that has the words ‘communications’ or ‘content’ in it to see what content design is all about”.

Rachel states: “After learning about content design, we’ve:

  • changed the way we create content for our blog based on content design principles
  • run a course for all communications people in our business covering the science of reading on the web, creating content for digital channels, and giving constructive feedback
  • been able to convince stakeholders more easily that we are in fact the experts – by using data and taking them on the journey with us.”

Content Design

There are three key principles when introducing content design into your internal comms:

  1. Don’t start without data or evidence.

  2. Focus on the audience needs.

  3. Give them the content at the time they need it in a way they expect.

Data and evidence

The main difference between many other forms of writing and content design is that content designers start with research.

It can be desk research, usability research, survey insights, expert research, any kind of research really but there has to be data and evidence of what the audience wants and needs.

Content Design

Focus on what the audience needs

In content design, we use user stories or job stories to articulate what we have learnt from the research. This allows us to focus on what the audience is asking for, and allows us to keep checking that the activity is relevant.

When we write content based on well researched user needs it’s automatically answering specific tasks the user has at that point in their journey.

This kind of content helps them move on to the next stage and, ultimately, reach their goal.

At the time they need it, in a way they would expect

The third principle in content design is to understand the user journey, both online and offline, and ensure consistency across channels.

User journeys help us figure out what information is needed exactly at what point and can help with comms planning, scheduling, and the cadence of your communications activity.

Once the journey is understood, and you have a clear idea about the user needs, you can plan your communications activity, creating the right content, for the right channels. At this point, you may decide that written content on your intranet would not meet your user need, but an infographic or an event, for example, may be better to meet the user needs.

Over time, applying these principles to your internal communications will help you to see better results in your activity.

Content Design

Find out more:

Below are some links to blog posts about how they’ve introduced content design into their work:

There are more case studies and examples of content design on the Content Design London blog. The team are also launching a new content design club if you’re interested in learning more, or you can follow CDL on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Post author: Joanna Goodwin.

Thank you Joanna.

I’m curious to know whether you’re using content design in your work. As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or find me on Twitter @AllThingsIC.

Thank you for stopping by,

Rachel.

First published on the All Things IC blog 18 November 2020.

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