Fashion Content Strategy: The Art of the Content Audit

Brand marketing runs on content. Do you know where all your content lives?

Brand marketing runs on content. Do you know where all your content lives?

When it comes to digital, fashion and luxury brands are typically focused on marketing vision and messaging. While telling the right story to the right audience in a way that is true to your brand ethos is obviously key, how many stories is your brand telling/selling at the same time across channels? Do you know where all your brand content lives?

How many different kinds of content do you have? How is all this content managed? Who is in charge of updating it? Do you have clear publishing and editorial processes mapped to each of your content channels? Do you know if your content has significant gaps or redundancies? Do you have a sustainable, documented plan for content to be created, updated, and archived over time?

If you can’t answer all these questions, don’t panic. You’re not alone. Most brands find these questions challenging. Answering these questions forms the building blocks for one of the most important early stages of the content strategy process: the content audit.

Content Management

It is no understatement to say that knowledge management is a big deal in every industry, particularly fashion and luxury. Thinking about where your content lives, how it is curated, and to whom it is targeted are critical elements to ensuring your brand vision is communicated consistently and effectively across the digital landscape.

Content is everywhere. Unfortunately for many brands, content management remains a bit of the Wild West: their content is incredibly diffuse, often managed by different departments, and not centrally tracked, all to service an “omni-channel” strategy to stay current in the digital marketplace.

I put “omni-channel” in quotes to underscore its ridiculousness. Even multi-national brands do not need to be on every platform, unless it adds value to what they are trying to do. Indeed, not every platform is appropriate for every brand. More importantly, brands need to create a plan and a process by which to manage, regulate, and track their content across platforms in order to make sure that they are producing meaningful work.

Content Headaches

Content management can be a challenge on both a small and a large scale. You may have major issues without realizing you actually have them. Understanding what content you have and how it is currently being managed are the first steps to creating better and more efficient processes.

Here is a quick example to illustrate a common problem:

Six years ago, a luxury agency hired me to create a multi-part survey in Survey Monkey. I received some survey questions via email from my main contact. The next day, she sent me additional questions via Box. A few days later, I received more information via WeTransfer, only from someone else on the team. It was up to me to put it all together. Suffice to say, it was a content management nightmare.

Add to this disaster the fact that the responsive, multi-step survey my client wanted was by no means straightforward to assemble given Survey Monkey’s set up back in the day. Even the platform’s own help desk found what I had been asked to do a bit of a head scratcher. Unfortunately, what I encountered is pretty typical.

Thinking to the granular level of how your brand content is created and communicated, especially between a low-level staffer and a freelancer, is not something for which most marketing directors have time. Yet, the lack of strategy or at least consistent guidelines for handling different kinds of content can wreak havoc not only within your organization; but also it has the potential to dilute your brand messaging and affect sales.

Getting Started

Unlike an IRS audit, a content audit is generally a positive process of self-discovery for most brands. It does take time and effort, which is why most organizations choose to go with outside consultants to conduct this level of inventory and analysis.

Yet, as a content strategist, I always encourage my clients to begin the audit process with an initial self-assessment. A simple content audit involves the following:

  • List your content channels, including both internal and external platforms and document repositories;

  • Describe what types of content your brand produces;

  • Identify your content stakeholders and producers;

  • Document existing processes for creating and updating content; and

  • Write down your target audiences and how they may differ by channel.

Self-assessment is one of the most difficult but important steps a brand can take when it comes to content. To this day, many brands still leave pretty critical processes, like curating social media content or transferring documents to freelancers and media representatives, down to pretty junior people with minimal guidance or oversight.

I prefer to do the above simple content audit in a workshop or facilitated dialogue setting, as it allows me the chance to help clients through each step, encouraging them to communicate with each other, particularly between departments, as much as possible. Like resolving an argument, sometimes an outsider can be useful to guide you through the audit steps.

A Tailored Plan

The simple content audit reveals the shape of the deep content audit, providing a sense of an organization’s priorities and challenges. The deep content audit is similar to the simple one, only it deep-dives into a brand’s content, documenting every last piece of content down to the level of individual articles, documents, images, and other media across your website and social platforms. If you’re doing a content migration, it gets even trickier, as your inventory includes links and metadata. I’ve even had clients catalogue content headers to track inconsistencies between social media and blog posts.

Whether you decide to go simple or dive deep, taking the time to audit your content can reveal a lot about your existing content and help you determine what needs to be refined, streamlined, or replaced.