Senior content strategist Anne Hurley working in a project “war room”

Content Why our Content Strategy team is like ‘Ocean’s Eleven’

To paraphrase part of Paul and Jeff’s mission statement for redefining the agency as Connective DX: “Content—or perhaps content strategy—is not just one thing. The defining characteristic of a successful content group is its ability to connect capabilities and people in new ways to create value for its customers and their business.”

Connective DX Director of Content Strategy Derek Phillips has been at the leading edge of redefining how content and content strategy work in an agency environment. That’s why his team includes members with backgrounds including user experience, paid search/SEO, analytics, project management, marketing, development and content modeling, branding, and yes, even writing and editing.

The traditional siloed approach for digital content wasn’t working for anyone particularly well. Designs were typically created with lorem ipsum, user flows were imagined without thinking of strategic copy that should be found at critical points, and many agencies weren’t invested in optimizing content for maximum impact.

Enter a much richer, more diverse group with different perspectives to add depth to every project.

Why the Connective DX Content Strategy team is like “Ocean’s Eleven”

Derek Phillips, director, content strategy
Background: Leading/forming content strategy teams, identifying business opportunities for clients, marketing/tech

Meghan James, content strategist
Background: project manager, client services, working deeply with content and UX projects

Jim Petillo, content technologist
Background: development, content modeling, content input, CMS management

Anne Hurley, sr. content strategist
Background: editorial, journalist, copywriting, editing, branding, creative strategy, e-commerce

Laura Allen, content strategist
Background: digital marketing, paid search, SEO, marketing and optimization

Melissa Vander Wilt, user experience architect
Background: UX design and architecture

Joe Gut, digital marketing specialist
Background: analytics, search engine, conversion analysis, paid search, lead gen

Kari Olivadotti-Peters, content strategist
Background: copywriting, branding, and content strategy

Diverse backgrounds embrace and uphold the Connective DX spirit

“It’s important to have a ‘T-shaped’ team, in which everyone has a mutual understanding of best practices and approaches, but everyone is bringing a different perspective to achieve the project's goal,” says Derek. “M.J. [Meghan] has an uncanny understanding of governance, structure, process—all of which help the content creation process. Melissa looks at the entire experience of the content—how it’s organized, its infrastructure, and where things make sense and where they don’t. And so on with the other members of the team. Each has a level of expertise in a different piece of the customer perspective.

“And while it plays to the different needs a client has, it is actually easier to staff projects that way since we can 'cast' people for the project that fits their skills, versus throwing bodies at work.”

Derek says the integrated content approach has made its way into the Connective DX sales process. “When a client comes to us with different [development systems] and challenges there, we can offer Jim’s expertise. And the sooner we get someone like him involved in a content process, the more efficient and better it will be for the project and the client, and the client’s customers.”

And there are other advantages to such a diverse team (paging George Clooney).

Promo photo for Ocean’s Eleven, the star-studded 2001 movie from Warner Bros. Studios
“I feel like we’re like Ocean’s Eleven,” says User Experience Architect Melissa Vander Wilt. “We’re all here for the same reason. In the Ocean’s case, it was for a heist; for us, it’s to deliver excellent content strategy. But each of us brings our individual expertise,” just like in the movie.

© 2001 Warner Bros. Studios

Then there’s the personal growth angle.

“I feel like I do better work when I get input from Laura or Lars or Anne or Derek,” Melissa says. “And especially Ryan [Summers, Experience Analytics lead], who’s showed me how content isn’t about the discrete pieces, but how they intersect and work together.”

The Content Strategy team maps out a plan

On one current project, we’ve been engaged to analyze and make recommendations for the user experience in the client’s various sales and marketing funnels. First we needed to identify them—so Laura, Melissa, Lars von Sneidern from Optimization and Tom Bennett from Digital Experience Strategy, and I gathered in the war room to physically map out what we could learn from paid ads, search, social media, email funnels and, of course, the client’s main website pages.

By bringing in the perspective at every step of where a user was coming from and what she encountered once she got there, we were each able to evaluate against the user’s persona and her identified needs if each step on each journey was optimized for her.

This ended up using quite a bit of wall space and a few hundred Post-It notes, but we all felt energized by finding out where opportunities lay for our client, from each of our different perspectives.

The output and the results are far greater than what each of the individual team members put into it. If the end product reflects the best contributions from everyone, focused on a client’s customer experience—well, that’s a lot more valuable than a few hundred million bucks from a Vegas heist.

Or pretty darn close.

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