Agile Methodologies for Content Creation: Takeaways

For the next three days MarketerGizmo is at the Intelligent Content Conference in beautiful (and chilly!) San Francisco. Our Content Marketer and Marketing Manager are attending workshops, panels, and events to learn as much as possible and then pass it on to our readers.

Today’s workshop: Agile Methodologies for Content Creation, led by Yoon Chung of Visa, and formerly of Rosetta Stone and Paypal.

His focus is on agile execution and methodologies, which intrigued us because there are very few people out there talking about the on-the-ground implementation of agile marketing.

Here are the most pertinent and exciting nuggets of knowledge, from both the content and management perspectives, from this fascinating 6-hour knowledge fest. (You’ll see more in depth analysis of all these topics in the coming days and weeks here on MarketerGizmo.)

Content Marketer Takeaways:

Keep Velocity Moving with WIP Limits

WIP (Work in Progress) limits are vital. This means that you must set, and adhere to, a limit on the amount of projects can be in each stage of content production at any one time.

If you determine that to keep the flow moving you can only have three pieces in production, two being edited, and two in review, stick to those numbers. Then if you look at your board and see that you’ve got a video, two articles, and a SlideShare all “review,” there is a bottleneck at that point of your content creation process.

Whatever is happening during the review process is hindering your velocity and needs to be addressed.

I can’t wait to start breaking content down in this way as a more accurate sprint tracking mechanism.

Don’t Overload Your Sprint. Use Run Rates.

A run rate is how much your content team can handle at any one time. We didn’t go over the precise formula for calculating it, but it’s a pretty common sense metric (and one that’s probably highly dependant on the expertise of your various team members).

In general agile terms, the size of user stories determines how much of the run rate they’ll eat up; this applies to content creation but not as strictly.

Knowing your run rate will let you accurately gauge how much your team can handle, reduce stress, and increase the likelihood of success for each sprint. All big wins.

Find a Content Champion. Bonus If It’s the Project Manager.

If content is being ignored during the sprint planning process, get in good with the project manager, or another content champion.

If you feel marginalized and/or undervalued, evaluate what level of influence you have within other teams (e.g. development, UX) and how you can increase and leverage it. The important point is that you need to get content incorporated completely into the sprint process.

For some this may not mean during the kickoff, but during much more general, “We’re thinking about doing a project like…” discussions. Relationships among other teams are vital for ensuring that content is being pulled in at this point.

Rough Content and Rough Design

Agile processes often hinge on getting just enough planning done so that you can get started. This may mean you need to establish a rough content strategy up front, which will be just enough content to provide a content framework that partners with the RDUF (Rough Design Up Front) that usability folks are likely going to be using.

Marketing Manager Takeaways

Agile For Life

Agile is a way of life, not a set of standardized processes. You can’t just set it up and it’s done; it has to be examined and worked on. All of the agile tenets are guidelines, not rules.

The process helps us to iterate, and you have to do the same thing to the process itslef. Agile marketing is truly a long-term investment (Yoon says the average integration takes 1-3 years!).

I loved the suggestion about establishing what is profane and what is sacred, meaning  things we always and never do as a team so there is a shared language and shared understanding.

“Agile is like teenage sex: everyone wants to do it, many say they’re doing it, only some actually are, and very few are doing it right.”

Changes to the Retrospective Process

Yoon suggested doing a pre-mortem rather than a retrospective, because it lets you solve problems before they are part of the next sprint. Lily, his co-presenter, suggested rephrasing our  “start, stop, continue” framework into “I like, I wish, I wonder.” We are totally doing that next week.

Shutting Down Problems Before They Start

Some development teams suggest addressing the problems of incorporating content into the agile sprint process by having content run one sprint ahead of development. The thinking is that then content has more lead time, can get reviewed, and still be ready to release alongside the product.

The problem is that they are writing about things that don’t exist yet, and then they accumulate tech debt (changes to the product during the development process that aren’t reflected in their writing).

We haven’t had this particular problem, but I can see how it would crop up very quickly. We encounter it when features get a UI improvement, and it can really derail things if we’re not prepared.

Other Interesting Ideas

  • We should challenge all web content, especially if everyone is parroting the same things.
  • I’m definitely going to use the past/future technique. During this exercise we talked to another person about an experience during which they felt successful. Some people talked about their professional life, while others talked about sports or education.
  • The point was that you could listen to their story, identify 1-2 word themes, and then replicate those types of experiences with the person to establish an emotional connection.
  • Yoon suggested using it to find and maintain a content champion, but I can see it working with the people I manage. Who doesn’t want to feel successful and remember times of positive emotion?

Coming Up This Week

Tomorrow we’re going to be covering the following topics, so stay tuned!

  • Developing a Framework for Intelligent Content: Intelligent content is digital, data-driven, and dynamic. We will explore the need for intelligent content in the Experience Age.
  • Neuroscience of Presentation: The Science of Making Your Story Memorable: Content has become intelligent. But what if it’s forgettable? We learn 3 brain science principles to apply to content to make it unforgettable.
  • Connecting Content Strategy with Intelligent Content: Content strategy is the map between your current and future content needs. Adding an intelligent content approach results in a better customer experience, improved conversions, reduced risks, and more sales
  • Where’s Waldo: The Hidden Value of Transactional Content: Transactional content lies hidden in lines of code and intermingles with other content. We’ll learn about how transactional content has an effect on the quality of a person’s experience with a brand.
  • The Non-Terrifying Intro to Semantic Content: We learn to understand the when and why to leverage semantic content concepts and how to start mastering the tools of the new web.
  • The Long and Short of Content: Strategies for Intelligent Content Planning: What is the ideal length of content? We get advice on determining content length, as well as techniques for using social media channels to disrupt and engage your target audience.
  • Localizing English Language Content for Different English Speaking People: At Intuit, knowing the difference between VAT, GST, W2, T4 and getting them right counts. This sessions will share how we manage the nuances of English variants, what we’ve learned, and what we’re doing next to deliver best in class products.
  • Simple Ways to Massively Increase Your Content Marketing Effectiveness: Not all content is created equally or is equally effective. Learn how to scale your content output and effectiveness by producing high, medium, and low effort categories of content.

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Andrea Fryrear
About the Author:

Andrea Fryrear

Andrea loves to dissect marketing buzzwords and fads looking for the pearls of wisdom at their cores. Her favorite topic is agile marketing, which she believes holds the key to a more fulfilling (and less stressful) marketing career for individuals and a more powerful marketing department for business. When not scrutinizing the latest agile methodologies, Andrea can be found on the volleyball court, at the park with her two delightful kids, or baking “calorie-free” cookies. Connect with her on Twitter @AndreaFryrear, or on LinkedIn.

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