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Define Your Message with a Language Architecture

June 13th, 2018

A common challenge for content strategists involves the implementation of strategy at the level of content production. At a certain point, content strategists have refined voice and tone to represent faithfully the organization’s identity. They’ve built an information architecture deeply informed by a user experience design. They’ve created several content and governance models that follow the user’s journey to ensure that each part of the digital experience fulfills its purpose. They’ve even mapped knowledge flows in the organization to get a sense of how content production would elevate organizational capabilities. In light of all of this, the question persists: what does one actually write?

Those who have developed content will know how easily the writing process can depart from a strategic vision. In order to better align protocol with strategy, we’ve developed a tool that we call a language architecture.

A language architecture is a framework that organizes the business’s overarching message into granular concepts. These concepts are distributed and contextualized across the information architecture and aligned with user experience. It provides the expressive skin to the function of your experience. The framework answers questions like: what concept would define the unique philosophy of your organization, and what other concept would convey that philosophy in action elsewhere in the experience? What concepts define the value of your product or service? Where should those concepts be highlighted in the experience? These concepts can be as abstract or concrete as you want them to be. The hard work lies in defining these concepts in the context of the business and articulating how they create meaning for relevant audiences.

Bridging information architecture to voice and tone, a language architecture ensures that the value proposition of the organization is fully fleshed out. And the concepts in the language architecture work together to ensure that the messaging throughout a digital experience is cohesive without being repetitive. Because of its scope, it is intimately tied to the requirements of the business.

Two major levels make up the language architecture and roughly map onto the information architecture: horizontal concepts and vertical concepts.

Horizontal concepts can emerge throughout the experience because they dominantly define who the organization is and what it offers. For LDS, horizontal concepts would include “digital transformation,” “new ways of work,” or “experience strategy and design.” These concepts pervade our points of view, define our contribution to the industry, and require definition and elaboration every time we invoke them.

Vertical concepts are contained under discrete landing pages and their lower level pages. This conceptual containment ensures, for example, that the business’s philosophy is 1) clearly established where it should be, and 2) doesn’t bleed into other areas of the experience unintentionally. It also ensures that while each lower-level page within a given vertical has a discreet function, it also has discreet concepts to populate content areas and align to page function. For LDS, a vertical concept would be Content ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial) – a concept integral to the Content Strategy Studio but one that ought not to invade the higher-level strategic points of view.

Each concept block on the horizontal and vertical levels displays the following:

  1. the concept name
  2. its definition within the context of the organization
  3. an illustrative example of the concept in use with the experience.

The language architecture provides a channel for clear expression of the organization’s key differentiating characteristics.

Failing to implement high-quality content can undermine even the most well-defined experience goals. In contrast, compelling, aligned content ensures that a digital experience delivers on its goals, both for users and for the business. A language architecture provides a systematic way to get this right.

Crafting Enterprise Content for Influence

October 24th, 2017

As organizations work to build the capabilities of their digital workforces and transform their cultures, influence-based enterprise content is taking on a more significant role. Unlike transactional or process-focused content, influence-based content aims to drive behavior change. It’s the difference between using instructional content to get employees to complete a task and providing content that addresses employees in their specific context within the business.

Amidst these organizational transformations, employee expectations for engaging, digital-first experiences continue to evolve. Companies that fail to create influence-based content risk undermining their business goals. Driving employees to make the strides that grow a digital organization requires content that changes mindsets and behaviors. A dedicated focus on such content can help to advance numerous organizational goals including cultural assimilation, increased engagement, employee alignment, and communicating desired actions and behaviors.

But before they can hope to influence behavior change in employees, businesses should understand the elements that make content influential.

The right content for the right context

Enterprise content that sparks meaningful behavior change meets its audiences in the right context. For instance, messaging about career development might vary for employees in different roles.

In identifying the right context for your content, it’s important to consider several factors to foreground the employee perspective and personalize messaging.

  • Audience
  • Timing
  • Nature of the message
  • Channel for the message

Is an email announcement the best venue for communicating a company’s new cultural philosophy, or would a virtual town hall Q&A resonate more with the audience? Focusing on the above elements helps to identify the context that’s ripe for the influential content that powers organizational change.

Benefits of influence-based content

Approached systematically, influence-based content can play a vital role in transforming organizational culture. Successful influential content translates a company’s cultural philosophy into actionable ideas. Influence-based content also empowers employees to take action that supports business innovation, reinforcing that the best ideas don’t have to come from the top down. Empowered employees feel a greater connection and commitment to an organization, which helps align them to the future state.

Designing your content ecosystem

Crafting and distributing enterprise content that drives change begins with designing a content ecosystem that enables a business to get a 30,000-foot view of its massive stores of content. Companies still struggle to organize and deploy their existing content to drive change. Moreover, an inadequate content ecosystem thwarts an organization’s ability to create new influential content. Before a business can create such content, it needs to establish the appropriate infrastructure. To build a content ecosystem for influence, organizations must focus on four elements.

Integrate technology and content.

Audiences inside the enterprise increasingly expect digital experiences at work to match those they see in the consumer space. They want content surfaced for them that’s relevant, useful, and engaging. As such, any content ecosystem built for influence needs to integrate technology and content to drive techniques like personalization. Here, the importance of identifying or establishing context becomes clear. Understanding the context for content increases the ability of that content to resonate with the employee audience.

Equip influencers across your organization.

Influencers can come from all levels of an organization. In fact, some of a business’s most influential individuals won’t be in leadership positions. These informal leaders can help to drive change because they have access to a range of networks across an organization. Part of building a successful influence-based content ecosystem is enabling influencers to create and disseminate relevant content. A business may want to train such leaders to create or curate content by providing specific tools to help them do so. Building a network of key influencers broadens the sources for influential content and instills the idea that such content doesn’t have to come from leadership.

Craft a strategy for developing influenced-based content.

Formulating a strategy for developing influential content is key to ensuring it yields results. For instance, establishing a regular cadence and providing clear messaging from leadership about organizational vision and mission helps to build credibility with employee audiences. Enterprise-wide goals and initiatives will necessarily come from organizational positioning, so it’s vital that communication about these topics resonates with audiences across an organization. Such content would avoid jargon and address audiences in everyday language that invites them into a conversation about the business and their place in it. Building a framework for influential content might also include elements like a content calendar that assigns key influencers to communicate regularly on specific themes.

Measure content effectiveness.

What does success look like for influence-based content? The answer to this question will vary based on your business’s needs. But your content ecosystem won’t be complete unless it includes a way to measure content effectiveness. As executives increasingly make data-driven decisions, being able to show the why and the how of content success is vital. For example, if an organization wants to use content to increase employee self-service for a task like requesting time off, a useful measure of the success of that content might be reduced calls to the business’s call center. Establishing the means to measure content effectiveness avoids wasted time and resources and helps to provide direction for future content efforts.


Creating the influence-based content that advances digital organizations is no one-off proposition. Businesses looking to develop and strengthen their digital workforces must take a systematic approach to building a content ecosystem for influence. This means integrating content with technology to maximize its impact, leveraging key influencers within organizations, establishing a clear content strategy to build credibility with employee audiences, and measuring content effectiveness to provide direction for new content. By building a sound content ecosystem, companies can meet business needs while also increasing employee commitment.

Our Power to Shape a Field: Notes from Confab Central 2017

July 17th, 2017

This year marks an exciting time for content strategists. Not only is the field of Content Strategy coalescing around a brilliant, engaged community of Learning Workers. It’s also emerging full-force at the height of digital transformation.

The energy was striking at this year’s Confab Central in Minneapolis, where hundreds of people gathered to obsess collectively over how you see your digital world. Everyone at this conference shared a strong sense of budding responsibility: that content strategists play a key part in determining the new digital realities in which we interact and connect.

Businesses are coming to realize content as a major business asset. Content can also be the greatest impediment to success if it lacks the right talent and resources to optimize maintenance, design, and above all, strategy.

Workshop with Kristina Halvorson

On the first day, I attended a workshop led by Kristina Halvorson, who spent much of the time drilling into us the importance of strategy behind Content Strategy. Strategy is what differentiates us from content marketing or communications. Strategy is what will align your content with business goals. And strategy requires both foresight and analysis, both birds-eye and detailed views of the ecosystem (the people, the capabilities, the needs of a business). The key to Content Strategy success isn’t through sifting written material in some kind of isolated vacuum. The key comes from productive engagement with and deep knowledge about the right stakeholders. Content Strategy is an important space for the Learning Worker within your organization because of the systemic knowledge the role requires.

Above all, the content strategist can synthesize for digital ecosystems the internal language that circulates in and defines a business. Internal language is the stuff of your content: it defines your vision, goals, culture, and yes, strategy. Content strategists can convey consistently the desired tone and voice of a business. Through an analysis of that language, we can determine your organization’s strength and gaps, as well as identify its differentiating characteristic.

Halvorson’s workshop introduced one theme that resonated throughout the conference. Many speakers acknowledged productively that the definition of Content Strategy is under debate. That the field is still coalescing offers a promising opportunity for businesses. A field evolves through energetic conversation, revision, and refining. The speakers and the engaged audience were determining the field in the moment of each presentation, based on individual experience, successes, failures, and experiments.

Themes from the Field

The first keynote by Anne Handley characterized another major theme of the conference: the importance of empathy, user research, and social media data. Her talk agrees with others that would follow: that predetermined user personas, ready-made stories, and trendy but rushed innovation potentially impede your strategy. Remedy that by talking to people often. That way, you can reevaluate the story you want to tell and the language you want to use to tell it.

Other themes dominated the breakout sessions on the second and third day. Among them was structure. Structural analysis of organizations lead to better structured content, to smoother communication and collaboration across (sometimes necessary) silos, and to a view of content relationships, not just categories. Most importantly, fixed structure isn’t something to impose on content: structure is specific to every organization and it must remain flexible and organic.

The theme of centralization ran through the sessions in different ways. Many speakers elaborated on how strong Content Strategy centralizes and aligns content creation and maintenance throughout the organization. Centralization of Content Strategy efforts helps minimize content ROT and the hoarding that produces it. Centralization also makes the content principles and guidelines work hard, not workers. That way, working environments can retain flexibility.

The last theme of Confab Central was how Content Strategy revolves around human connection. In a memorable keynote address, LeVar Burton’s personal journey toward literacy advocacy reminded us of the stakes behind Content Strategy. His hugely successful 2015 Reading Rainbow kick starter and reboot redefines literacy as digital literacy and critical thinking. He emphasized how stories move relationships, and that the digital realm brings to bear new modes of storytelling.

Burton’s insights about the digital revolution in education has deep implications for Learning Workers. Device agnostic, advanced systems of learning will be learner-driven – a promising path for the adaptable employee experience. In a world of digital transformation, content matters deeply to how we will relate to one another and share knowledge. Content tells a story. And the story in which you invite user participation determines how business gets done. Businesses are in the face of an opportunity to help crystallize a field, and they have access to the talent it takes to shape it.

How to Be an LDS Content Strategist

May 1st, 2016


Lessons Learned from Spoiled Milk

March 1st, 2016

Have you ever poured yourself a glass of milk that’s past its expiration date? One sip of spoiled milk can make you regret not clearing your refrigerator of outdated food sooner. But did you know that redundant, outdated, and trivial (ROT) content on your website can have the same effect? It can spoil the experience for your users.

Getting Rid of the ROT

Like the expiration date on a milk container, content needs to be checked regularly to make sure that it’s not past its prime. Although new content is often added, content owners are less likely to review and remove older content. By performing a ROT analysis on your site, you can get a good start on identifying content that is no longer fresh, purposeful, or relevant.

For websites with hundreds or thousands of pages and assets, redundant, outdated and trivial content can make your site even larger than it needs to be, and make it harder for users to find information. Employees now expect a consumer-grade experience inside the enterprise, and for the most part, the consumer world has conditioned them to expect new and updated content all the time. When they continuously find outdated or irrelevant information, or if your content doesn’t support their business needs, it can diminish the trust and credibility that users have with your site.

Future-State Readiness

The regular performance of a ROT analysis can also help you prepare your content for the future so that you can adapt more quickly to consumer-driven experiences, such as mobile and omni-channel. Adhering to a content strategy that includes ongoing ROT analysis paves the way for a better enterprise future-state – without the bad taste of expired milk.

At Logical Design Solutions, we provide robust content strategies that keep your content fresh and ROT-free.

Content Without Borders: Writing for a Global Audience

January 27th, 2016

In today’s global economy, companies need to deliver HR information and services to all their employees, no matter where they are located.

But making sure that employees can find and understand what they read is not always easy. Translating content from English into multiple languages can be costly and time consuming.

If your site has hundreds or thousands of pages and resources, where do you begin?

Develop a content strategy

You need to start by planning your global content strategy long before you write any content. International sites usually require local variations to accommodate cultural and language differences.

Understanding the difference between localization and internationalization is an important first step.

  • Localization is the process of adapting or changing site content for different countries or regions. The process of localization can be as basic as translating text to the local language, or can require unique design, text, and images for each location.
  • Internationalization is the process of preparing your site for localization. Internationalization may require changes to the design and technical structure of the site, such as font support, site architecture, layout, and other elements.

By making changes for internationalism in the initial stages of the project, it will be easier to localize your site later.

Plan for translated content

For many companies, HR content is a mix of global information intended for all employees, and local information that is specific to a country, region, or group.

Decisions about which content to localize will depend on the company and employee needs.

  • Key resources such as the main navigation, company-wide programs, global policies, and leadership messages are likely candidates for localization and translation as these are used by all employees.
  • Legal requirements may also play a role in decisions to translate, as is the case for companies with employees in Canada that need to provide content in both French and English.
  • Local policies and benefits information targeted to specific countries are frequently available in the local language only. However, if your global HR resources are located in the U.S., you might consider publishing content in both the local language and English.

Time, resources, costs, and business requirements may determine whether or not you translate other types of content, such as data pulled from external sources, or policies with a limited audience.

Prepare for localization

To prepare your content for internationalization and localization, and to improve the quality of your translated content, focus on changes that result in clear, concise, and unambiguous content.

Some guidelines are as follows:

Add extra space. One of the challenges for global sites is to make sure that translated content fits into the design and layout, no matter what language. Asian fonts, such as Chinese and Japanese, may also require more vertical space. By allowing for text expansion, your designs can more easily support other languages.

Keep it simple. Your content is easier to translate and can better accommodate cultural differences in style and tone when you write using simple language. Short sentences, common words, and strong verbs can also result in lower translation costs as there are fewer words.

Avoid ambiguity. Even if your content is clear and concise, be aware that some common words, phrases and sentence structures don’t translate well to other languages. For example, partial sentences used to introduce lists can be difficult to translate as the order of words may be different in other languages.

Recognize cultural differences. Jargon, slang, and idioms are especially difficult to translate, and local or regional references may have different meanings in other countries. Images and color are important elements of design and communications, but can be perceived very differently in other cultures. For example, red means life in some countries, and death or danger in others.

At Logical Design Solutions, we understand the added complexity of creating content for a global site that is meaningful to local audiences. We consider that a critical reason why our enterprise clients need to have a well-considered global content strategy.

The Case for Structured Content

December 17th, 2015

Structured Content Matters

You check the news on your desktop. You review company policies on your laptop. You browse products on your tablet. You check the weather on your phone. At home, at work, and on the go the way you interact with content is becoming increasingly diverse. You expect seamlessness in your experiences. You expect information delivered how and when you need it. You expect adaptive content.

The challenge every organization faces is how to deliver the right content, to the right people, at the right time. A responsive design is good, but it isn’t enough. Achieving true flexibility in content design, adaptive content, requires structured content — information organized in a predictable way. Structured content, coupled with tools that can take advantage of that structure, lends itself to strategic, intelligent uses.

Blobs and Chunks

Content strategy industry leader Karen McGrane refers to “blobs” and “chunks” when talking about content. In order to create seamless experiences we must move away from “content blobs” — unstructured content — and move towards “content chunks” — structured content. Without structured content, we can’t have adaptive content.

Blobs – large fields of text — tend to be a by-product of most content management systems and web production tools that rely on WYSIWYG editors. While handy for content publishers, content created in this way is constrained by the page format, is not device agnostic, and lacks opportunities for content reuse. It cannot adapt. It may look good on a web page, but chances are that’s the extent of its value. This one-size-fits-all approach to content design no longer works.

Chunks, on the other hand, are discreet pieces of content that, when combined in different ways, create unique content experiences. Content structure is more than just individual paragraphs – it’s a strategy. A structured content strategy considers factors such as content reuse, device and platform usage, audience variability, content maintenance issues, and more. Once the strategy is established, content models are created to support a structured content design. This process is iterative and involves a team of cross-functional expertise, including content strategists, UX designers, architects, and engineers.

What can structure do for me?

The benefits of structured content are many. As stated above, it makes content flexible. When content is structured into chunks, the discreet content pieces can be combined in different ways, for different devices, contexts, and audiences. Because it’s easier to create, manage, and deliver, it can reduce costs. (Although structured content takes a lot of up-front time and work, the payoff comes later when efficiencies in publishing and content reuse are realized.) Structure unifies content, regardless of who is writing it. This is important as most organizations rely on content authors who work individually, across divisions, and are often producing content secondary to their primary jobs.

Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

While most organizations have a long way to go in realizing a structured content environment, there are many opportunities to move in the right direction. Opportunities to take outdated, poorly presented, difficult to use content and make it better. Consider, for instance, life events – getting married, having or adopting a baby, getting divorced, retiring. Each scenario requires different information, e.g., an introduction, a list of “things to do”, various (and sometimes numerous) supporting documents, a related transactional system. While the information will be different, these elements are the things the scenarios have in common. This is an opportunity to apply structure, to see the content in “chunks”, define those chunks, and apply this new structure across all life events. In doing so, your content will be more adaptive, more accessible to all users.

Yes, it’s a lot of work, but given the changing demographics of the workforce, planning today how your content could be used in the future is also liberating – and users expect it.

Adaptive Content in the Enterprise: Challenges & Opportunities

November 23rd, 2015

As responsive design enables omni-channel experiences that redefine what “being connected” might feel like, the potential for information to circulate across devices in newly effective ways is enormous.

Adaptive content – content that is independent of its presentation and works across a spectrum of screens and platforms – now forms the juncture of innovative technology and smart content management. For content strategists, this means that structured content, content reuse, and content governance have become pillars of responsive design.

Inside the enterprise, however, content creators still lean on desktop as the primary (or even only) gateway to information. They’ve stuck to desktop publishing tactics, which produce copy that works on just one screen size and isn’t meaningful when a user strays from her PC. This raises a thorny question: in our omni-channel world, why does “enterprise portal” so often mean intranet-only and desktop-dependent?

The answer isn’t simple, but one primary factor is the difficulty of creating – not to mention maintaining – adaptive content inside the enterprise. HR content, for example, is text-heavy, voluminous, highly variable, and legally consequential. E-commerce brands and news sites are quick to “create once, publish everywhere” because they can typically do so from scratch, creating structured content that adapts to a variety of screen sizes, platforms, and interactions using a top-down approach that governs content models and their implementation.

Inside the enterprise, things are a little different. Bottom-up content approaches are typically entrenched and can’t be jettisoned without substantial operational and compliance-related consequences. Sometimes, many content owners are involved, dispersed across countries, languages, and areas of the business. “Legs and regs” make adapting or truncating content for different devices infeasible. Transactional systems and third-party sites may be deeply integrated within the portal experience, and those might not be ready for responsive yet.

One other consideration: an enterprise portal can comprise tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of thousands of assets, making it very resource-intensive to implement a brand-new content strategy.

Where many businesses balk, we choose to embrace the content constraints of intranet portals as opportunities for innovation. Our approach, always evolving, is to leverage adaptive content strategies to make it easy for users to find the information they need most, while deploying creative tactics to improve findability for resources that aren’t responsive-ready. For example, policies and legal caveats might not make good adaptable content, whatever our technology might enable – but the summary information, process support, and applicability criteria that make them meaningful often does.

Some transactions can’t be supported in a responsive context just yet, but we can provide adaptable content that points users to the tools they need to complete a task. By supporting responsive design where it’s most effective, our content strategy engages and empowers employees while maintaining the integrity of content across new channels and platforms.

To us, effective content strategy means more than cleaving to industry best practices. By pursuing a deep understanding of the business, a creative approach to adaptive content, and empathy with user needs and expectations, we adapt the best innovations in content strategy to the unique requirements of the enterprise.

The Dream of a Search-Based Employee Portal

October 13th, 2015

HR content that works for the people

HR content. Just the idea of it can make your head nod with drowsiness. But the LDS Content team sees dazzling opportunity where others see dead weight.

Imagine this: You’re a knowledge worker at Acme Corporation, manufacturer of cutting edge gizmos. As the technology lead for a high-visibility and aggressive new product soon to be released, you’re under a great deal of stress. Once you meet your deadline, you’d like to take some time off, maybe even a sabbatical, but your memory’s a bit fuzzy about Acme’s policies on time off and leaves, because – well, who pays attention to any of that until you need it?

No worries. You just open up a new browser window, which brings you to the home page of AcME!, the company’s HR portal. There you see … internal news stories? No. Company announcements? Nope. Featured links to lower-level pages or sections? Not a one. Instead, there’s a vast field of white and, at its center, a simple question – “What are you looking for today?” – perched atop a search input field.

You type: Sabbatical. You click Search. Before you can even think of reaching for the phone to call the HR Help Desk, you see the following:

You will be eligible for a sabbatical in 8 months and 3 days.

Below that, you read the following explanation:

After five years of service with Acme Corporation, you are eligible for 4 weeks of time off with pay. Your sabbatical time away is intended to provide you with a break from the intensity of your work and allow you to recharge and pursue areas of interest to you: family, education, travel, hobbies, or other pursuits.

Learn more:

Acme Sabbatical Policy

To the right of this information, you see a handful of questions (with associated answers) commonly asked about Sabbaticals, including, “Do my benefits continue during a sabbatical?” and “How do I request a sabbatical?” There are links to blog posts and other testimonials from Acme employees who are on or just returning from sabbaticals, and you realize that you personally know one of the returnees and make a mental note to reach out. Finally, there’s a “Chat Now” option that launches a live chat session with a knowledgeable HR representative.

What more could you ask for, really? You received, instantly, the most relevant and critical information about the Search term you entered, along with the most pertinent and helpful resources.

So, yes, we all agree that this experience is not just way cool but a monumental improvement over the typical corporate HR portal. Now, we need to ask: how can such an experience of HR content – typically an area not known for providing engaging and relevant information – be enabled?

The answer, of course, is both simple and complex. The simplicity lies in the fact that such experiences are available to all of us on any half-decent ecommerce site – Amazon, Etsy, Gap, you name it. These elegant solutions are achieved through a combination of structured content and metadata, along with smart personalization, recommendations, and a host of other capabilities.

The complexity lurks within the enterprise context of HR content, where “legacy” content – the thousands of pages and tens of thousands of documents that accumulate over the life span of an HR portal – await and, often, overwhelm the courageous soul who dares to confront it.

Along with the matter of volume, there is a vast multitude of political, operational, and budgetary considerations that can pose seemingly insurmountable roadblocks to any vision of structured, data-driven HR content.

And yet, at LDS, we believe that highly structured, intelligently personalized content is a fundamental element of our omnichannel future. We also believe that “some is better than none.”

So we scan for opportunities to advance our solutions – a meticulously tagged learning resource library for one client, an adaptive set of management best practices for another – and provide the appropriate knowledge, guidance, and support to ensure success on the ground. So that, one day soon, it will seem only natural to pick up your nearest digital device and find, at the HR access point, the simple question:

“What are you looking for today?”

In the meantime, you can look for upcoming LDS Content blogs that detail the approaches and practices that help our clients deliver to their employees the most nimble, lightweight, and meaningful HR content imaginable.

Contact us if you’d like to hear more about the omni-channel future.