Interview with Springload Content Director – Ruth Hendry.
It can be difficult to get buy-in for valuable content work, and Ruth knows this challenge well. She’s the Content Director for a large digital agency, so we wanted to find out how she communicates the value of content to different clients. She talks about how digital is meaningless without content, the importance of demonstrating change through content, and how data can help your cause.
Ruth Hendry is the Content Director at Springload, an NZ-based digital agency. She’s a content strategist, mother-of-two, and self-proclaimed data nerd. Springload have just become a certified B Corp, showing their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Nice mahi.
What is the role of content in the digital space?
Digital is a vehicle to deliver content, whether that be in the context of a website, mobile app or Playstation game. Digital is meaningless without the content it provides, and the role of content becomes increasingly important as new developments such as voice technology become mainstream.
Do you think content is undervalued in the digital space?
Content roles are perceived similarly to how UX and user research roles were perceived a few years ago. It’s a growing discipline, and organisations are starting to realise the value of content.
People think that everyone can write, while coding and visual design are seen as difficult skills to master. The reality is that not everyone can write for digital, and the skills of planning, writing and creating user-focussed content is undervalued.
Springload is forward-thinking in appointing a Director of Content, what inspired this?
Springload value the people your products are trying to serve, and that’s when the value of content becomes apparent. They’re an early-adopter in New Zealand, whereas the UK and Australia are ahead of the curve overseas.
How do you communicate the importance of content to your clients?
This can be a challenge! We demonstrate the value for clients and show the changes that can be achieved, sometimes with Lanalytics blog posts (LG – not a plant, promise). We get the client involved in the process. Sometimes the client wants to create the content themselves and that’s fine, in that case we’ll make sure that our UX person supports them to ensure that it’s user-focussed.
We don’t start the design process without a content model, as design serves content and not the other way around. Most clients know they need an information architecture (IA), so it’s easy to explain why they need a content model by relating it to the IA.
What’s the first thing you do when reviewing a new project?
A client will release an RFP (Request For Proposal) and Springload will meet with them to get a sense of what the business is trying to achieve, and understand where they’re at digitally. Understanding their purpose and goals are fundamental.
Then we get together as a cross-disciplinary team to discuss Springload’s offering – it’s so important to get different perspectives. We’ll also look at the broader impact within Aotearoa and how the project will improve the lives of people.
Not every client has the budget, time or internal drive to create a content strategy. We sometimes need to be pragmatic and start by proposing a style guide, or a better understanding of customers to meet their goals. We can help clients incrementally by carving up a list of deliverables, and providing recommendations post go-live. We don’t have to fix everything right away.
I find it’s a case of educating my clients as we go with data work, to show them how valuable the right insights can be. Is that the case with content?
Yes, we get more buy-in as we go. It’s an educational journey, clients gain trust in us and can see why our work is important. At the start a lot of the terms we use are vague and unknown, and digital agencies can appear intimidating. People can think that we’ll tell them they’re doing everything wrong, and be really demanding. We show them that we’re there to work with them and support them.
How is data an integral part of a content strategy?
Data is an integral part of human-centred design process, including both qualitative and quantitative data. We’re continually iterating based on data and testing hypotheses with data.
How is data best used to support content strategy?
It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. There are two main ways that we use data.
One is when we’ve got a hypothesis which can manifest as something like an assumption about our customers, or wireframes that we want to test. We use data to test the hypothesis, and do this continually throughout the process.
Another way to use data is to explore the current state of something, and to do this we use a range of qualitative and quantitative data. We usually get initial insights from the quantitative data, and then use qualitative data to validate these.
Our experience is that qualitative and quantitative data are best used to support each other.