Better content, less content

Libby Varcoe

Producing and maintaining content can be expensive and complicated. New content strategy guidance helps streamline processes, reduce risk and put government content to work.

A text tile with the words Do the hard work to make it simple and the DTA logo in the bottom right corner.

Information designed around the people who use it can be the quickest win for improving a service. But how this content fits into the bigger picture, gets maintained,  removed and signed off, can also make or break it. We did some research last year into the opportunities for government content which is worth reading.

Content strategy for government

To help government teams create information that’s designed around what people need to know, improve complicated sign-off processes and find more cost-effective ways to handle content, we worked with some of the top digital content specialists in the Australian Public Service to create content strategy guidance for all Australian Government agencies.

This work is based on research and input from over 40 government organisations and includes tested approaches to the common issues we all struggle with — from removing content to using metrics to improve things and gain support. It’s practical, insightful and strategic. And it’s yours.  

Why is a content strategy useful?

A content strategy sets the foundation for how we create, structure and govern information. Without a content strategy, the information we produce runs the risk of not aligning with our organisation’s objectives, repeating itself, being fragmented and varying in quality. Not surprisingly, information then appears confusing to the very people we need to use and understand it.

‘Strategising’ your content comes with many wins including:

  • reducing the cost of production
  • taking pressure off other channels
  • more efficient ways of working
  • raising the bar on quality
  • clarity on who’s responsible and accountable
  • aligning content with your agency’s purpose and goals
  • making sure all content meets people’s needs.

The high cost of getting content wrong

Research shows that 50% of the people using government services have difficulty finding information online. Of those, 24% resort to making a telephone call.

And this comes with a price. A 2015 study shows the average cost of a telephone call is $6.60. This compares to 40c for an online transaction (and $12.79 for a postal transaction and $16.90 for a face-to face visit).

The Department of Health’s Highgear team is working on improved consumer content in partnership with our content strategy team. They found the cost to produce a complicated page of content could be reduced from more than $13,500 to just over $8,000. How? By using user research and analysis, creating user-centred content, and by following more streamlined production and governance processes.

When you add it all up, investing in a content strategy makes good business sense. As does making sure it is implemented and updated as agency goals and user needs shift around.

It also has enormous potential to improve the way people interact with government information.

Not just for content specialists

This guidance is for decision makers and the people who produce the content — leads, doers and specialists. It has a strong focus on getting senior management buy-in and helps decision-makers understand the value of investing in and endorsing a content strategy across the organisation. It also includes practical tools and templates for getting the work done.

A fantastic cross-government team effort

Special thanks to our content specialist co-leads from the Departments of Agriculture, Attorney General, Education, Employment, Health, Human Services, Finance, Industry, Home Affairs and Prime Minister and Cabinet. As well as our colleagues in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Tax Office, National Archives and our wonderful working group who gave their time to attend workshops, provide feedback and test the content. This guidance wouldn’t exist without you.

Get started today

Use the new content strategy guidance to put your strategy together. You can build out your strategy by working through each section or dip into sections that match your priorities. New guidance will be added regularly over the next few months and you can join our content community to get a heads up when it is published.

Libby Varcoe is a content director at the DTA.