Stop CMS Selection Until You've Filled This Role

David Korff
Recurring Services Manager

When it comes to selecting and implementing a new content management system (CMS), it’s important to look beyond the technical components that dominate the selection process. While there is plenty to design and develop around the CMS, these technicalities tend to overshadow the main point of the application – managing content.

While we’ll meet with marketing as well as IT owners of a given CMS project, having a content strategist on staff helps the selection and implementation process run smoother. It’s the content strategists job to be the subject matter expert on all things content – from creation, to establishing tone and style standards, to configuring the tools and business processes that make publishing possible. As such, a content strategist becomes invaluable throughout the project lifecycle, including during CMS selection, customization, and in ensuring successful long-term adoption of the tool.

We recently wrapped up a CMS implementation project with a client that didn’t (initially) have a content strategist on staff. Only after realizing how this gap increased the workload and demand on other members of the client’s project team did a content strategist get introduced. This brought with it a steep learning curve: a new employee starting a new role at a new company using new software. Having this content strategist role filled prior to the start of the project would have helped to ensure a smoother CMS implementation.

Before CMS Selection: Knowing Where You Are Today

Before beginning to look for an application to support the organization’s website, having a content strategist will help the organization better understand how the current CMS is used and how needs with the tool may have changed. Each CMS has a different way of structuring content, and when you can understand your organization’s unique content footprint, you’ll be better able to distinguish what type of CMS application will best support your organization.

At the onset of any CMS project, a content strategist may be tasked with completing an inventory of the volume and variety of content, images, and assets in use. This can help to inform an early set of technical requirements and begin to map out the supporting processes for content creation and publication. As part of an initial audit, the content strategist may meet with other content stakeholders to determine who is responsible for what content, how the content is currently managed, as well as any content structures and models that are currently supported. Immersing a content strategist in the selection process by laying this groundwork will pay dividends as the project goes from selection through development and into production.

During CMS Implementation: Understanding CMS Features and How They Support the Organization

After selection of the CMS, a content strategist will continue to play an important role in building out the chosen CMS solution. It is incredibly insightful for a content strategist to sit down with visual designers to assist in developing concepts for templates and content models. Having the organization’s content strategy represented during the User Experience Design phase helps UX designers create strategic templates that better support the way content managers work. The content strategist’s role is essential in understanding how the CMS will need to function for content managers to best produce structured and meaningful content for their external audiences.

When it comes to working with a development team to implement a new CMS, a content strategist’s clear understanding of what the application offers is essential. As the project moves through the development process, a content strategist with a strong understanding of the organization’s needs as well as the capabilities of the CMS becomes much more effective at supporting the specifications and technical requirements process used to guide development resources.

After Launch: Leading Teams Toward Success

A content strategist plays an important role in sustaining the CMS solution post-launch by creating a plan to enforce governance of the platform’s best practices and use, conducting trainings on the CMS, and staying current on product roadmaps.

A strong plan requires detailed materials and guides to direct the team in trainings. These manuals should define the proper use of the tool and content creation with how-to guides, including guidelines on proper voice and tone, image sizes, formats, and other assets that are within various templates and content blocks in the CMS. As the one charged with maintaining this new system, it will be important to make sure content teams understand the standards and best practices for maintaining and updating content in the CMS. Having a content and CMS application expert is key to creating efficient documentation to support the organization, as they will best understand the tool and how it is used to support the organization’s content strategy.

Incorporating a content strategist throughout the lifecycle of a CMS project guarantees smooth and seamless implementation. If questions or concerns arise regarding the CMS, a content strategist is the first person you should turn to. And, if/when your questions and concerns don’t come with answers, it’s a pretty good bet a content strategist is a role worth filling on your web marketing team.

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