Meghan Bates shares her Agile Content Conference experience

Agile content


I’m not going to lie to you; I was kind of dreading the thought of going to a conference. My Negative Nelly attitude wasn’t based upon the topic at hand (Agile content) but rather the fact that it took place on a Monday and Mondays are rubbish.

I had to take an early morning train to London which entailed an act of God to get my husband and kids organised beforehand. And then there’s the networking angle associated with these things that always makes me feel like I’m on an awkward first date minus the alcohol.

Monday morning came and I’m pleased to say it wasn’t raining, the trains cooperated (as did the husband and kids), and while networking was still painful (my crux to bear and not attributed to the people there) the conference was great.

I arrived at Sadler’s Wells after a nice walk through Farringdon welcomed by a piping hot cup of tea and all was once again right in my world.

So here are some highlights from the day:

The Agile Content Conference kicked off with a talk from co-organiser Jonathan Kahn. It centred on getting beyond arguing with stakeholders to finding a common ground and ultimately a solution.

Key takeaway:
Try taking the focus off why stakeholders don’t understand your point of view and focus on why we need to work together to see the same reality. Techniques for this include user-testing and pair-writing to find things that work well for all….the solution is often somewhere in the middle of what people’s realities are.

Next up was a content strategist from Facebook named Erica Hoerl whose case study featured her experience working on Facebook Messenger.

Key takeaway:
Be part of the team (in Erica’s case her team at Facebook Messenger is HUGE) and people will have a better understanding of what you’re trying to achieve when you invite them along the journey with you.  And by doing so you’re more likely to create “content advocates.”

I also was pleased to realise that the ways of working we have in RSA Digital don’t sound too far off from an intrinsically agile company such as Facebook, that’s pretty cool!

Bringing video journalism and digital content together was Alex Watson a product manager at BBC news. One of the primary goals from his case study was changing the way that video is shot from horizontal to vertical for a mobile video app he worked on for the BBC.

Key takeaway:
The digital team at the BBC is mixed in with the rest of the BBC staff across sites to create multi-disciplinary teams. One of Alex’s goals was to make sure business needs and objectives were aligned to integrate content and user experience. Perhaps the best bit of advice I garnered from his talk was the importance of solving fewer problems but doing them better. Remembering that your first iteration is just that and you can keep on refining in future releases.

Sarah Richards from the Content Design Centre put together a great mini-workshop centred around content design techniques.

Key takeaway:
As content writers we’re experts in content and communication but we need to remember that the people we’re working with are experts in what they do too. We need to put our expertise aside (that old adage of checking your attitude at the door) but keep our goals (which are often common) in mind when working with stakeholders. It’s not what team you’re on!

Research can take many forms and doesn’t always need to be typical user testing. Go online and research various groups about your topic. Better yet, try doing so with stakeholders so you can discover together. Pop into a coffee shop and ask random strangers (yikes!) And remember when researching; if you don’t find something new then do it again.

So despite my initial trepidation, the Agile Content Conference was totally worth my while. I’m looking forward to putting into play techniques that I’ve learned and may even throw a ‘lunch and learn’ with co-workers to illustrate the benefits of peer writing. Now if we can just get the networking side of things down to the pub, I’ll be a total Suzie Sunshine.

If you’re interested in joining our content team here at RSA Digital, get in touch!