Content serves a communication purpose. Communication serves a business purpose. By following the association of purpose, we can determine whether a particular piece of content will support our business or not. We do not always need to wait for performance analytics.
A framework for content validation
The content validation matrix provides a method to test the value of proposed content, against business purpose. This process works for content within any communication channel.
To validate content, we first need to understand the channel’s purpose: why is it included in our organisation’s portfolio? What business goals do we have for it?
A business goal expresses a direction the channel is intended to move the organisation, rather than a specific targets. To be effective, goals must have senior stakeholder buy-in.
Objectives provide the specific counterparts to business goals: what achievement represents measurable progress towards the business goal? Each objective must directly support at least one goal. Each goal must have at least one associated objective.
Activities are end-user actions, which support identified objectives. They identify actions that the audience wants to engage in – as opposed to actions you want the audience to take. Each activity must be validated by user-centric reasons: the user does not act to support your objectives or processes; the user acts out of self-interest.
Each activity must directly support at least one objective. Each objective must have at least one associated activity.
Validating content against the matrix
With the three layers of the content validation matrix defined, we can determine the suitability of any specific piece of content.
Each piece of content can be tested against the matrix. Does it support an end user’s activities? Content that directly supports an activity thereby supports an objective, and consequently a business goal. Content that fails to support an activity is inappropriate for the particular channel.
Whether considering your existing content set, or proposed new content, verify its suitability for the particular channel by referencing it against the content validation matrix.
The content validation matrix can also be used in reverse: by considering the identified activities, you can establish whether you have sufficient and appropriate content to support them. This approach demonstrated both content gaps, and redundant content duplication.
An evolutionary process
The content validation matrix is not a static model. As objectives are attained, they need to be removed from the matrix; some will be replaced. Sometimes, the organisation’s evolution will add new business goals and objectives.
New objectives and activities need new supporting content. Deprecated objectives and activities identify content that is no longer relevant or meaningful (unless the objectives are replaced by new ones supported by the same activities).
The content validation matrix derives from a presentation given by content strategist Rahel Anne Bailie at Content Strategy Applied, in 2012. Rahel had developed the basic model for testing the value of content while working on a platform migration for the City of Vancouver’s web site. The matrix was used to triage existing content: what to keep, what to discard, and what needed reworking.