After last week’s example in which I discussed how Vodafone’s email to customers could have been improved with a little extra time, a reader offered further improvement.

Where I had “Vodafone will correct its billing system on 8 July 2011 to include three types of data usage,” she suggested adding the word “additional” so that the sentence would read:

Vodafone will correct its billing system on 8 July 2011 to include three additional types of data usage.

That single word clarifies the situation a lot more.

One of the reasons we perform user testing in web design is to get someone who has not lived with a website for months to point out something we’ve missed. The same thing happens with content. Having another pair of eyes look over some content is a vital part of a content strategy.

When we build content at Soupgiant, almost nothing leaves the office without at least one other person looking at it. That’s part of our content strategy.

Every blog post is read, redrafted and proofed before publishing. Many of our emails are double-checked and workshopped. We want to make sure that the message going out with our brand on it accurately represents our brand. Sometimes we even cross-check tweets.

This helps in a number of ways. Most importantly it means that every bit of content is clear in its intention. It also, however, means that we’re involved in, and aware of, how the business is represented in the outside world.

In small to medium sized businesses, it’s rarely prudent to run a piece of content through a focus group but it is often easy to get someone else in the organisation to read through something.

For a large organisation, like Vodafone, there are hundreds of people within the office who could have looked at the content of that email and offered suggestions.

This part of content strategy fits into content management and follows two very simple rules:

  1. Somebody must be in charge of approving content before it is released.
  2. The person who created the content cannot be the person approving it.

Sometimes you might find you’re all alone, with no one to check the content and no ability wait until somebody else has a chance to look at it. This always feels weird but it works every time; If your content is written, read it aloud.

When you read something aloud you’re substituting your ears for someone else’s eyes. You will be able to hear long sentences, ambiguities, questionable jargon and anything else that doesn’t fit into your branded message.

Nobody enjoys reworking something they previously thought was finished. It’s tedious and annoying but it’s less tedious and annoying than having your brand associated with a twitter hashtag that ends in “fail”.

About Josh Kinal

Josh makes things on the web easy to use and understand. Sounds simple, but it’s not. His understanding of developing engaging content comes from many years of writing for print and radio. You might have heard him on Boxcutters, his popular weekly podcast about TV or years of appearing on Triple J, Radio National and 3RRR. He also holds a science degree and in 2012 was one of Australia’s few panelists at SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas