Six Communication Practices for a Stress-Free Content Migration
Your company’s decided that a content migration is happening, and it’s your job to lead the charge or to at least perform an integral role ensuring everything runs smoothly. First order of business? Book a weekly massage and a daily yoga class. You’re going to need a side of stress relief to go along with the content migration that’s on order.
Although they can be a tricky business and you’ll definitely have to ply some shark-infested waters (refer back to the first order of business), content migrations can actually be quite manageable if you set expectations early and often and communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Clearly Communicate the Why
I can’t stress enough the importance of understanding the “why” behind what you are doing and being able to craft messaging for your company, vendors, clients, etc. that helps every person involved or affected understand the reason for and importance of the content migration. This first communication step is important because it creates a foundation from which to work.
If stakeholders, from executives to front-line staff, aren’t provided a reason for why this content migration is important, how it affects them and why they should care, you’ll more than likely be met with roadblocks at every turn and unable to move as quickly as you would like. Why? Because most people essentially hate change. Unless provided with evidence to the contrary, they believe that doing things the way they’ve always done them is easier, better, cheaper, etc. than the alternative, even when they don’t fully understand the alternative.
To craft your message, put yourself in the shoes of various employees or supply chain folks and answer the question “what’s in it for me?” This will help you identify specific items that will benefit from the migration, such as saving people time and money, creating additional revenue and brand loyalty and expanding the corporate footprint. If you can find one universal item that people dislike about your current system that the migration solves, use that as a hook to get people interested.
- Establish a Regular Pattern of Communication
Approach communications about the content migration, including the “why,” as a multi-part mini series. You may regularly have to recap old messages, provide the “why” again with different wording and repeating things you’ve already covered. Don’t assume people are reading your emails, digesting everything you are saying or even paying attention in meetings. Start with a “one and done” approach, and you’ll be cooked faster than an egg on a hot griddle. Think about the communication process as one that’s recursive, not linear. Repetition is your friend, and circling back to provide answers you’ve already provided and re-communicating key points you’ve already communicated is vital to people buying in and participating for the long haul.
Come up with a reasonable (you don’t want to over communicate to the point of annoyance) time table for sending communications to different audience types. For example, top brass might need a monthly overview and veeps directly overseeing the project might require weekly recaps, but director and manager level folks knee-deep in the process might need daily scrum sessions and requisite follow-up communications.
- Understand You’ll be Communicating to Different Audiences
Depending on your particular situation, you may need to communicate to different audiences at the same time. You might have internal employee communications that need to go out along with communications to vendors, your supply chain or end consumers who will be affected by your content migration. You want to carefully think about who needs to get what information when and keep a calendar of when communications need to go out to those audiences. The calendar will change, so be prepared to consult and update it regularly.
- Keep Communications Streamlined and Need-to-Know
Like tightrope walking? Get your balancing pole, because you’ll need it here. You need to find the right level of communication for each audience. Provide too much information and soon you’ll have people rolling their eyes at your long-windedness or freaking out because what you’re telling them feels overwhelming. Provide too little information, and people get suspicious and the rumor mill starts churning. Give each audience the information they need to keep the process moving and to do business until the next planned communication.
Above all, ensure that you craft just the right communications for end consumers affected by any content migration changes. Don kid gloves before your fingers hit the keys. You definitely don’t want to jeopardize revenue or cause undue ship jumping. Examples of when you might need to communicate with consumers during a content migration? System outages or downtime, changes to a site’s user interface or features that make purchasing faster and easier. You get the picture. Stick with simple, positive messages.
- Use a Variety of Communication Styles and Venues
Don’t just rely on lengthy emails to communicate your message. Think in terms of variety, in both style and venue. Use email, in-person meetings, seemingly impromptu drop-bys to key people at key times, pdfs, infographics, social media, intranet, your website, etc. Depending on who you are communicating too, be it in-house staff, supply chain vendors, clients or end consumers, you’ll need to choose a mix of communication types in a mix of venues to get your message across. Remember, people have different learning styles. Some like pictures; some like words. A mix of words, pictures, pie charts, graphs, timelines, etc. will help you communicate most effectively.
- Set Expectations Early and Often
Setting expectations gets all parties on the same page or at least close to the same page. Since there are a lot of parties involved in a content migration, it’s important to think through potential trouble spots to start a dialogue and an understanding around those items. Continue to revise and update expectations throughout the life of the project. Major items to set expectations around usually include:
- Vendors – including pricing, expenses, travel and billing
- Roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and project owners
- Communication and reporting
- Change of scope, goal shifts and change orders
- Security and log-ins
- Workarounds that aren’t ideal but are necessary due to legacy technology and other existing infrastructure
When setting expectations, it’s important to strive for an environment of mutual respect and compromise. At various times, there will be “competing” entities, and you can’t expect to get 100% of what you want every time. Internally, the sales team may prevail with their agenda at times, while at other times the content team or software engineering group might need a “win.”
As the client of a content management agency, don’t be a bully, expecting vendors to give away their products and services and not charge for change orders if the scope creeps or the goals change. On the other hand, ask your agency questions and hold them accountable for both their recommendations and pricing structure. Ensure you have experienced and professional sales people and content migration account managers who can take your project from start to finish.
If you take the time to actively map out your communication calendar and include these six communication practices when creating your content migration project plan, you’ll be well on your way to ditching daily yoga for a celebration pint at your local taproom. Ok, maybe keep the yoga and add the pint!