When it comes to almost any content-related project – from website builds through to campaigns – workshops are a vital piece of the puzzle.
Workshops can take many forms, but their main goal is to inject strategic thinking into a project, ultimately defining different parameters related to that project. This could be defining roles within teams, timelines, audiences, tone of voice, channels used in a campaign – all the nuts and bolts of a project can be addressed in a workshop.
At Avion, we run workshops for most of our projects. At the very least, they help us as content strategists and creators in understanding a client and their project. But workshops invariably help bring different people from the same organisation together and offer them the space and time to really assess how they view their offering and how they want to approach a project.
In this short guide, we’ll run through what a workshop looks like from a content agency’s perspective, who might need one and what they achieve.
What is a content strategy workshop?
No one strategy workshop is the same, as they respond to the needs of a project.
Take for example the differences between a new website for a startup business and a refresh of an existing website for a business that’s been around for 50 years. For the startup, a strategy workshop (or series of workshops) will need to spend more time on defining how to communicate the core value proposition of the brand and who its audience personas/segments are. A brand of 50 years might have a very clear idea of these things, and can instead spend less time on these and more time on the nuts and bolts of refreshing a website.
This is why it’s always helpful to seek outside support, like from an agency such as ours, to define the parameters of your workshop. You might not be able to see the wood from the trees, and a fresh set of eyes can help you identify what you need and what sort of strategy workshop will set out a clear plan for your project.
Beyond this, there are two main things to remember when setting up a strategy workshop:
1. Ideally, your workshop participants will be from all areas of your business
Marketing, sales, customer-facing and executive. The more varied the perspectives in the room, the higher the likelihood for lively discussion and genuinely imaginative problem solving.
Balance is important. Depending on the goals of the workshop, you may choose to include some team members in the activity over others. For example, if the workshop goal is to define your customer personas, you may include more client-facing team members. If you’re looking to define your new website’s Information Architecture (IA), you may need more UX-inclined people in the room.
2. You need structure for success
A workshop goes very quickly, so you need a plan of attack to maximise the time you have together with your key stakeholders. Each facilitator will structure their strategy workshops differently. At Avion, we like to work directly with our clients to better understand their goals first. From there, we then plan the workshop activities to match these high-level outcomes.
Do you need a strategy workshop?
Yes! Okay, maybe we’re a bit zealous about workshops, but we can pretty much bet you a workshop is what you need if you’re reading this.
A workshop is another name for a ‘meeting’ but it has the sole purpose of helping facilitate creative thought amongst people. A meeting might be taken over by stronger personalities or it can lack direction and guidelines, but a workshop provides stronger frameworks for collaborative brainstorming. It’s not the time to necessarily be outlining delivery dates – this can wait for a 15-minute catch up meeting. It’s a chance to throw ideas against a board and see what sticks.
If you’re wondering if you’re at a stage where you need a strategy workshop, we most often run them for our clients who are:
refreshing an existing website – with a strong focus on consolidating
building a website or brand identify for a new company
trying to define a content marketing strategy, from newsletters and blogs through to social media and activations
trying to come to a unified understanding across many stakeholders within a business – this can relate to many aspects of a business
What do content strategy workshops achieve?
1. Create clear expectations
A strategy workshop can help create a unified understanding of a brand’s approach to its content, which gives everyone something to measure against in the future. For example, if a strategy workshop defines three core audience personas/segments, then all activities (campaigns, social media, blogs, newsletters, website copy, events) in the future can be measured against how effectively they reach those audiences.
Strategy workshops can be held periodically, such as one per year or biannually – reassessing the outcomes of previous workshops, analysing the results of agreed approaches and strategies and then either sticking to these or reworking aspects that didn’t work.
2. Define and live by your ‘why’
More often than not, we’re all intently focused on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of our everyday. You may be accustomed to hearing things similar to “How are we going to work with sales on that?” or “What is the ROI on this activity?” – but how many times a day do you stop and ask the underlying question: “WHY are we doing this?”
A sense of curiosity and questioning needs space and time to come to light – this is what a workshop can provide. Until you can clearly and confidently articulate your ‘why’, you’ll continue to get stuck in the busy work of your ‘how’ and ‘what’. This is probably our number one reason why we love facilitating workshops – it gives participants the chance to discover or revisit their important ‘why’.
We know from experience that your strategy is only as strong as the foundation it’s laid upon. There’s no stronger strategy than one that communicates the ‘why’.
3. Break down communication silos
Whether you work in a small team or a large organisation, communication silos can form pretty quickly. Once they do, it’s hard to break them down.
Key signs of this are:
Senior stakeholders aren’t across developments happening within groups or teams. Major projects may appear to be moving ahead, but the larger strategy behind them is unclear.
Inter-departmental communication is vague. While projects are being completed on-time in one department, the next is distinctly unprepared to pick up the ball and run with it.
One-way communication is predominant. Communication from top-down is regular and flowing, but reciprocal feedback from the bottom-up is limited.
One way to start making cracks in these communication walls is to actively promote an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing. How? Through a workshop!
Depending on the focus of the workshop, it can assist with:
Redefining your values and core purpose. Clarity around these elements ensures everyone understands your business’ core vision and goals.
Encouraging interdepartmental knowledge sharing, which helps campaigns and projects succeed.
Developing better, more streamlined processes that teams will actually use. Remember, it’s not worth investing in a new tool or software if your teams aren’t using it to communicate effectively.
Similar to defining your ‘why’, checking in on your communication silos should be something you do regularly. Dismantling your silos is one thing, keeping the flow of information and feedback going requires constant upkeep.
4. Open the door to new ideas
For new ideas to flow with ease, the first step is to define the goal of the workshop. Are you gathered to redefine your business values? Do you need to audit your content to decide what to keep, consolidate or bin? Or, are you looking to overhaul your content strategy from the ground up?
Whatever the communication issue is, make sure you can clearly define the problem so a solution can be created to address it.
We pride ourselves on our ability to create bespoke workshops that work with you to achieve your individual business goals.
We’ve planned and facilitated workshops for international education industry leaders, nationwide not-for-profits, federal and state government agencies, and start-ups. As experienced workshop planners and facilitators, we bring our years of expertise and learnings in the field to your content. We’ll work with you as another partner in collaboration, helping you reach your big, audacious goals quicker than you thought possible.
So, if you’ve got the urge to get a workshop going in your business, we can’t wait to hear from you! Contact us today and let us start planning the perfect workshop to kick your content goals into gear.