We first got to know Festo at an event organized by the German Bundesverband Industrie Kommunikation (BVIK). The leading provider of automation technology and technical education and training, which successfully promotes innovation and technology in 176 countries worldwide, had up to that point relied only rarely on external consultants and agencies. In cooperation with die firma, the company now wanted to develop a comprehensive content strategy to secure its positioning as an innovation leader in the long term.
A perfect match: Content strategy and agile methods
Festo holds huge amounts of exciting content: When it comes to networking, industry 4.0, and digital technologies, the company is at the forefront, and accordingly has a lot to talk about. So the challenge was to evaluate the existing content and create a strategic framework with appropriate structures to use this content effectively for the positioning of the company.
For this task, we used Kristina Halvorson’s strategic approach. Her "Content Strategy for the Web" is the undisputed standard work on the subject. We combined Halvarson's concept with agile methods - because they are effective not only for technical tasks such as web development, but also for strategic projects. To keep projects on track, teams in agile processes proceed step by step to be able to react quickly to new insights. Since Festo first had to clarify what impact the strategy would have on the overall organization, adjustments to the course would be necessary again and again. A structured series of workshops for knowledge transfer was a good basis for the use of agile approaches.
At Festo, we carried out all the various stages in the development of a content strategy:
Festo has large amounts of content, distributed across numerous channels. The content had to be reviewed and inventoried.
This was followed by an evaluation of the content. Some was no longer relevant, and new content had to be created instead.
Personas and audience profiles
Who are the target audiences, and what are their needs? We identified ten personas with specific content requirements. To create the personas, we used configurators from the innovation company Ideo and refined their profiles for our purposes.
A content strategy is an important tool for positioning and requires relevant brand values and messages as a basis. If you don't have good "homework" to fall back on here, you will have to do it yourself. In the case of Festo, we looked at the "why" and sharpened the brand positioning: Why does the company do what it does?
The core story conveys the brand essence in the form of a guiding narrative. It is particularly beneficial for content strategy: Specific topics, themes and stories can be derived from it and then flexibly played out across the various channels and pages.
Core messages can easily be generated from the core story. They are a concrete expression of the core story as well as a guideline for the editorial process. One of Festo core messages: “Helping companies comply with regulations more easily and efficiently.”
Definition of topics
The core messages and the needs of the target groups result in specific topics that structure the existing content systematically and provide orientation in the creation of new content. The main aim here is to keep content development and preparation efficient by identifying overlapping target group needs and making them visible in a matrix. In this way, priorities can be created and synergy effects leveraged.
Helpful tool for organizational development
A successful content strategy is also very much an issue of organizational development: In order to distribute content efficiently and in a target-oriented way, the organization needs to evolve and create suitable editorial workflows. According to Kristina Halvorson, content itself is only 50% of the strategy - the other half deals with people, workflows and policies.
Especially on the topic of organizational development, there was a great demand for consulting at Festo. For example, handling content requires numerous tasks and roles, such as copywriter, senior editor, content strategist, and subject matter expert. New planning tools had to be introduced and release processes defined.
Content strategy delivers website concept right away
The website concept was developed alongside the strategy. After all, the content strategy provides a solid framework, parts of which would have been required for the website redesign anyway. A good content strategy even goes one step further: For Festo, we developed a content model that allows, among other things, the rapid categorisation and distribution of content.
It describes the relationships between the various content types and thus provides helpful orientation for the navigation and interaction concept. We gained the following insights for the website:
Plan the website starting from content centres and identify formal similarities in the structures
Use content properties such as keywords (tags) for semi-automated content linking (curation)
Integrate product descriptions into the overall content model
Transfer formal similarities into structural templates for page types
Example internal structures – Internationalisation
Each page can serve several perspectives, e.g. for internationalisation.
- Additional navigation in one country only
- Links to other countries
- Possibility to maintain and translate content together, with the option to localise
Example internal structures – Complexity
Different requirements for the content from user's perspective
- Not creating a separate page for each requirement / perspective, but combination for different needs
- Start with little complexity, then go into more detail
- Provide helpful additional information in relevant context
Example internal structures – User groups
Different requirements for the content from the user's point of view
- Option to create unique content for specific target groups
- Possibility to serve different target groups on one page, keeping the number of individual pages within limits
- The arrangement of content can be used to guide perception: Who should see what? At which position?
Getting the strategy on the road
After its completion, the content strategy served as a basis for a total of six three-week sprints, in which we transferred existing content into a new page structure. Newly designed web modules and existing content were integrated. To do this, we worked on the client's site in the various units. Together with subject matter experts, we created detailed briefings for the efficient creation of content.
The challenge: Where and how can content be deployed, with which new modules? What are the most important messages and functions of these modules? And what is the interactive context of these modules in relation to other modules or other subsequent pages?
The individual briefings contain objectives tailored to the prioritised persona and allocations to the individual service areas of the company. As an example, this is the briefing sheet for "Electrical automation" (excerpt):
Content type: Product positioning
Content performance: Electrical automation as part of Festo’s technology-neutral automation technology
Content objectives: Establish Festo as a supplier of integrated automation solutions. Focus of argumentation >> Festo also automates electrically. Festo flexibly combines electrical and pneumatic automation technology.
Call-to-action: Initiate callback, distribute information among customers (share)
A total of twelve pages goes into great detail - modules, image selection and sources, keywording, main and secondary keywords, headings, etc., all embedded in a specific structure. The content sources for the individual modules are included in the briefing, helping copywriters to work smoothly afterwards. It therefore had to be clear where the data - images, graphics, documents, etc. - was located and how it could be accessed.
We also systematically worked on the topic of SEO. From an SEO perspective, precisely matched keyword combinations and word clouds developed from these served as a basis for copywriters.
At the same time, the sitemap was created. It transfers the comprehensive content strategy into a concrete structure - including all relevant specifications - from which the actual content can be quickly created.
The workshops were very well thought out didactically and extremely productive. As a result, we achieved our goals very efficiently, and the view from the outside was also a great help.
At the end of this process, we had completed an exciting project in which we developed and implemented a comprehensive content strategy from A to Z. Our conclusion: tackling comprehensive content projects strategically right from the start is worthwhile in every respect. Content strategy increases the quality and sustainability of communication measures in the long term, and companies also benefit from organisational development.