3 Years ago I posted an article about content called "Your client is not a copywriter" and all the points are still valid today. What changed in the last 3 years is that now we have "content strategy" and everybody talks about content. Content strategy is an abstract concept about copy, photography, graphical elements and the guidelines to keep these elements consistent over time and aligned to the communication strategy. But does the client actually understand us, when we talk to him about content?
We just assume a client knows what content is
In client services we often assume that the client knows about the creative business as much as he knows about his own business - and sometimes they let us think they do.
Most clients business is not to produce content, in fact it is the business of writers, photographers, musicians, videographers, artists, designers, ... also known as content creators. The business of our client is accounting, making coffee, build machines, ... you name it, that's their "core", this are the things they know about.
It's not in their core business to know if they have user focused, high quality content. Even worse, they will most probably not have the competence to know where to get or produce new content if they realize that they have no content.
Content Strategy is not only a buzzword
Educating our client about what content is, is in my opinion the most important part of content strategy. It is actually one of the first things we should do when talking about the project - because it will affect our proposal.
There are many great blogs and podcasts about content strategy out there, so I will not go into much detail. It's a great tool, and you don't need a dedicated person with that role for small projects, as long as it's part of the process.
A quick recommendation is the Content Talks Podcast where you can get a great insight into what content can be and how to educate your client about it.
Get the content before we start
Even if you don't want to dig into content strategy - ask for all the content even before doing the proposal. If you find that to extreme, introduce an initial step in your process called "content audit" - a billable step where you ask for the content before you start working on the project.
In either way we have in an early stage the possibility to get back to the client if the content hasn't the desired quality or if parts are missing. Document the communication about this as it is important not only for planing the schedule for the project, but also if a deadline fails because the content is not ready.
Go ahead and take control
After the content audit it's time to do proper content strategy, lining out guidelines and take control over the production of the content. I will say that 90% of the time a project will end up in a success when the responsibility for the content lies in the hand of the agency/creative side - we know what content will get the results and we push for quality.
Build up a vendor network
Networking for me means to build a list of vendors/partners I can contact for specific projects. You should have a couple of trusted "preferred" vendors and some for special needs. It's a common in the print design world as you have to deal with printers, media etc. but I still see many freelance designers lacking a trusted network of professionals they can reach out to if they need to.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In the end it all boils down to recognize strengths and weaknesses, our client weakness could be our strong point - and our weaknesses can be overcome by partners. The result will be the famous "win win" situation, where ideally everybody wins - our clients customers, our client, we and our partners, isn't that something to aspire to?