Illustration of content team working together on developing web content

Over the past four years, I’ve been leading an effort to transform our organization’s approach to content. That includes everything from how our team is structured, to how we work, to the content itself.

There are many things that go into a great content strategy. Some of those – CMS, governance, and workflow – get significant airtime. However, I’ve found the most critical factor in delivering a successful content strategy is a high-performing team.

This topic is often overlooked, and it shouldn’t be. As the leader of a high-performing content team, I hope that sharing some of my insights and best practices will help others develop their own teams.

Anchor to your organization’s purpose

At Johnson & Johnson (J&J), purpose is a big deal. J&J’s purpose is to change the trajectory of health for humanity. That’s a tall order and is taken seriously among our thousands of employees across the world. My team creates content to help J&J employees solve problems related to HR, payroll, finance and procurement. We help power the people who are delivering on our purpose.

If our content doesn’t meet our users’ needs, it creates inefficiency, which takes them away from the lab or manufacturing line or out of the operating room. When our content is clear, concise, and accurate, our people quickly get back to work helping patients and healthcare providers.

We anchor to this purpose in everything we do because it connects the work we do to something bigger. Without this purpose, we’re just publishing words on a page.

If your organization doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose, create one. Consider what problem your content is solving, why it’s an important problem to solve and how that connects to your work and the motivation of the team.

Get creative with roles and talent strategy

When we began our transformation journey several years ago, we focused on solving some immediate challenges, but also drew inspiration from where we wanted to be in the future:

  • We needed to drive more consistency in our content and in our execution.
  • We needed a deep understanding of our overall business strategy.
  • We needed the ability to push back and get our stakeholders comfortable with a different approach to content.

This thinking led to the creation of a few critical roles in our team:

  • Content Success (think customer success managers but focused on content): Roles that partner with our stakeholders and users to understand their content needs, assess content performance, and steer the content strategy.
  • Content Standards: Roles that focus on content standards and governance, actively managing and evolving our content standards, while taking steps to ensure we’re following our standards and course correct when we’re not.
  • Content Execution: Squads that specialize in different types of content. We deal with everything from formal process documentation to intranet content, to chatbot content. These are different types of content that require different skills and strengths.

It’s also important to think creatively about sourcing talent. People without content management experience may still be ideal candidates for certain roles. For example, content success roles may be better suited for someone with deep knowledge of the business.

We’ve also had success recruiting from analogous roles in other fields. People with an instructional design background play well across all of our roles. When it comes to content execution roles, we’ve hired people from our contact center, where they gained experience talking with our employees every day and understanding what they need.

Establish and reinforce core behaviors to drive successful outcomes

We’ve established some core behaviors that are critical to the team’s success. These include things like ask why, solve the right problem, improve the right content, take ownership and improvise. These core behaviors focus on things we need to get better at or need to do more of to achieve our goals.

We reinforce these core behaviors as part of our recognition program and talent development discussions. When we recognize someone for great work, we talk specifically about which core behaviors they’re demonstrating.

My personal favorite core behavior is “improvise.” Things are changing so rapidly in our business that our standard processes sometimes fail. When that happens, being able to improvise and make judgment calls in the moment, becomes more important.

Keep the user at the center

When we stay close to our users, it ensures that we’re spending time and energy on the right content (one of our core behaviors). We are lucky to have dedicated experience design professionals at J&J and have had the opportunity to partner with them to help us better understand our users’ needs.

This has been critical to helping us ensure we’re meeting the needs of our users and gives us actionable insights so we can course correct when needed. We’ve also gone through design thinking immersion together as a team, which has helped us develop creative solutions and ensure we’re solving the right problem (another one of our core behaviors).

It’s all about the team

It takes a great team to be successful at this kind of transformation. It takes a team with a growth mindset, willing to try new things and fail and try again.

I want to extend a big thank you to the content team at J&J. While I’m the one writing this article, this is their story, and all credit belongs to them.

About Mike Spenceley

I’ve been working in the content, knowledge management and communications space in some capacity for most of my career. While I don’t describe myself as a content professional, I am a problem seeker and solver who found a niche in the content space. I currently lead a content team at J&J, where I’ve been for the past six years. Before that I spent 10 years at PwC.

About Johnson & Johnson

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe good health is the foundation of vibrant lives, thriving communities and forward progress. That’s why for more than 135 years, we have aimed to keep people well at every age and every stage of life. Today, as the world’s largest, most diversified healthcare products company, we are committed to using our reach and size for good. We strive to improve access and affordability, create healthier communities, and put a healthy mind, body and environment within reach of everyone, everywhere. We are blending our heart, science and ingenuity to profoundly change the trajectory of health for humanity.