If you’re reading this it’s because you like content.  And more specifically, because you want to know how at RSA we set the standards for content strategy, design and creation.

So let’s jump right in:

Key principles

Before we start any work, we reference our fundamentals, and ask some key questions. Here’s a checklist:

Context

Context is key – not only to understand why your work is needed, but to understand what the current user journey looks like already.

  • What is the background for the work?
  • Where will the content sit within the customer journey?
  • What will the user see before and after your content?
  • How will people get to your content?

Purpose & success measures

It’s important to understand why content is needed, and what metrics you’re trying to drive.  With richer content, find out what the business or marketing objectives are.  This will help you understand what kind of content you’re creating.  Some questions to ask:

  • How will this content be used – will it be seeded out through other channels?
  • What does success look like?  Are there key metrics we can use?

Find out what you want your users to think, feel or do.  Do you want to:

  • Educate or inform
  • Sell or promote
  • Reassure or help
  • Guide to a task
  • Inspiring or excite?

With functional content it will probably have to serve multiple purposes.

This will also help you understand the direction you want your users to take after reading your content.  Ensure you know what you want their next action to be.

Customer

Who is your audience?  To ensure your content is appropriate for them you’ll need to know:

  • Your target market along with any key insights we have about them
  • What the brand tone of voice guidelines are – are they comprehensive enough?
  • What do your existing customer communications look like?  We need to be consistent with them

If you can, have a look at forums or other websites with a similar target audience to see how they speak and how they like to be spoken to.

Stakeholders

Who are your key stakeholders and what are they expecting you to deliver?

Format

Does your content need to be words? You may find it easier to communicate in other ways, such as:

  • Video
  • Diagrams or infographics
  • Images

Consider how to say what you need to say in the simplest way possible, but be aware of any limitations you might have, such as design or developer resource. Don’t be afraid to speak to your UX or design colleagues to help with this.

Quality & governance

We have a tiered process, so some small changes can be made without review, whilst others need to be reviewed by product, underwriting, and regulatory approvals.  At the very least we peer review work to ensure a second pair of eyes.

Regulatory approvals give a time limit for content so it may need to be re-reviewed when we reach the expiry date.  We keep a log of these dates to ensure content is re-reviewed intermittently.

Practicalities

Are there any considerations for your work?  These might include:

  • Platform, website or device (think mobile-first)
  • Space or character limits (it’s even better if you can influence the design)
  • Do you need supporting images?
  • Do you need analytics tags?
  • Are your URLs and metadata correct?
  • Is there a timeline or deadline you need to work to, what’s driving the deadline?

How we write

Now we’ve done the groundwork and you have a brief, let’s look at some ground rules for content creation.

Of course we have specific tone of voice guidelines for our brands.  Find out what they are before you start your work.  You can view the MORE TH>N guidelines here.

General guidance

In addition to your tone of voice, and if you don’t have one to work with, bear in mind the following:

Simplicity

Keep your sentences short, and use simple language. Aim for sentences less than 25 words as research shows comprehension starts to drop above 25 words. Ensure your format is easy to read, think about:

  • Headers and subheaders
  • Bullet points
  • Snippets of text

Bite-sized chunks

Where there is a lot of information to communicate about a product we prefer to use progressive disclosure. This means tiering content and revealing it in stages, as it’s relevant to the user. For more about this and some examples see the content design guidelines for ux writing.

Avoid jargon

Write how your users would speak. This means avoiding insurance jargon and sticking to high frequency words. For example, use:

  • Continue (not proceed)
  • Buy (not purchase)
  • Price (not premium)

Be human

Most of all, be human. By this we mean:

  • Be friendly (not abrupt)
  • Start on a positive, for example don’t start a sentence with ‘we won’t…’ or ‘unfortunately..’
  • Write in the active, for example, ‘we will send you’, instead of ‘you will be sent’

User test

With your customer insight and analytics you should have a good idea of how your content is designed to meet user needs. However you can never test your content enough. Here’s how we commonly test content at RSA Digital:

  • Guerrilla testing – such as just asking someone outside our team to read something to check it makes sense
  • Lab testing – in a formal setting with a moderator
  • Web tools such as heatmaps
  • A/B tests to test one version vs another
  • Analytics – which should reflect your target measures, see above

The user experience and analytics members of your scrum team can help with this.

Useful resources

Here’s some further reading: