Anne Caborn

How To Get Your Mobile Content Strategy Into Tip Top Shape

5 December 2016, Anne Caborn

Mobile Content Strategy
We all know that mobile content delivery now rules the digital roost, but adapting your content process to the new landscape isn’t just a question of size and shape, but how your idea generation, content creation, sign-off and even C-suite buy-in, adapt in harmony.

Users (and the content landscape they inhabit) are evolving at breath-taking speed. This isn’t just about size/length and shape of your content, or the media queries that define what goes where on the device and screen size. It’s about how users think about and react to content,and laugh if you want to, the intimate (and immediate) nature of the user/mobile interface.

Take the recent furore around fake news. Back in the days when we engaged with digital content on desktops or laptops, fake news was around but was less of an issue.

This was because its ability to be shared and go viral was much less. It was not welded to the palm of our hands in the way our mobile tends to be (and viral is as much about opportunity as intent). Trust also has a potentially greater role in the dynamic these days, as the mobile has made sharing/publishing a much more peer-to-peer activity, and trust is important in peer relationships.

We have forged extremely strong relationships via, and with, our mobile devices. An illustration of this is how dependent we have become on good mobile reception and access to wi-fi when we’re out and about. In a survey published this month, the iPass Mobile Professional Report 2016, analysed some of the biggest connectivity trends affecting mobile professionals in the U.S. and Europe. Some 40% of its sample said wi-fi was more important to them than sex, chocolate or alcohol.

In their recent white paper on mobile, Bijou Commerce talk about “contextual relevance and intention” rather than just “user need”. The mobile and the data gathering evolution means we can know so much more about customers and uses. And what we don’t know we can infer from the larger data sets that are out there. Knowledge and trust go hand in hand.

So, what does all this mean for your content strategy model?

Certainly, your model needs to be more responsive, but that means responsive to users rather than just to screen size. Mobile is a more personal interface, and therefore trust, as highlighted above, is an extremely vital part of the dynamic. If Phase I was responsive design , then Phase 2 is more user empathetic.

Take the evolving area of electronic payments. Viewed from a Phase 1 perspective, this is very much about operating systems, encryption and app development. From a Phase 2 perspective it’s about trust.

E.g. User: Do I trust this bank interface to keep my financial data safe? Bank: If things go wrong, which they will sometimes do, how quickly do we alert customers and help them limit the damage from being hacked etc?

A lot of the negative impact resulting from data breaches recently, can be put down to how clear and fast organisations have been in coming clean about the breach.

Including Phase 2 in your modelling

Chances are, whatever documents or strategy you use to support it, your content process – which held you in good stead during Phase 1, looked something like this:

Content brainstorm (what content, where, why)> Define, brief & confirm timescale and success measures> Content creation & delivery> Approval> Publish> Monitor & learn> End/archive or continuous improvement

Phase 2 should also include something this:

User brainstorm (who, how, when – the journey)> Define user actions & emotive states along the journey> Map against content & delivery (what content, where, why)> Monitor & learn…

Journey mapping & emotional states

A critical tool in all this is user journey mapping. If this is an area where you are less than familiar, I would recommend Kate Ivey-Williams’ article on UK Government Digital Service blog.

Most of us are used to journey mapping as a way of tracking user actions against a website, email or social media programme, using Google Analytics, opens, clicks, ‘likes’ etc to define the journey and then verifying the results.

But a journey is also a series of emotional states. Back in the 80’s, a guy called Robert Plutchik defined emotional states under 8 headings – joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, and disgust. Using Plutchik’s model is a good place to start when mapping emotions onto user journeys and ensures that emotions are being described in an agreed way by those involved in the content mapping process.

Which brings me back to content modelling. Here’s another way of thinking about Phases 1 and its companion piece, Phase 2.

Content process and user process

The traditional tools, processes, and documents that inform our content strategy are very content-focussed. Adding in the emotional perspective allows us to refine content and outcomes still further. For example, is a user journey which results in a purchase a success, if the user ends the journey feeling angered by the clunky process, or disgusted by the absence of personal service?

They may have bought from us purely on price or availability, but it is the anger and disgust which they are more likely to (passionately) communicate to their peers, and which will have the most lasting impact on our brand.

The final stage is to map our increased understanding of what the user is going through emotionally back onto our content creation model, and the documents, processes, and methodologies that will support that process.

For example, you may not have personas for your audience, or they may have been developed some time ago (even before mobile became such a hot topic). Simple persona sketching in a brainstorming session can turn user statistics into real people, which will allow you to better explore the emotional side of their interactions with you.

A simple stick figure will suffice as a starting point – I offer a useful template in the handouts on my Content Strategy course with Emarketeers and which is designed to explore this emotional side.


You can then map your user onto a given journey

  • Steps: Stages on a journey eg receive an email, go to website, search for a product…
  • Time: Approximate time to complete the step against a total journey time.
  • Action: Action required or desired at that stage eg click on a link, enter term in search box…
  • Emotion: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger, disgust.


For example, take a step in the online process:


Mapping against existing documents, processes and methodologies

Armed with your understanding of the content and user process for a given interaction, and your grasp of the emotions in play, you can then map the whole thing against existing documents, processes and methodologies.

For example, user surveys to decide which are the most important features to highlight in your web content when launching a new product, or updating a content style guide to include a section on “How to be friendly while still being brief”.

ALL projects should include a washout session about what went right, what went wrong and what you would change next time round, and some form of simple document capturing who did what, so that the process can be repeated more easily next time round.

The example below is illustrative rather than exhaustive and what you model and include will depend on the actual project.


(If you are less familiar with some of the supporting documents, processes, and methodologies listed you can find more information in about a lot of them from my previous blog post: 5 content strategy deliverables.)

Ta dah!

What should result is a model for a given project, mapped against deliverables and any supporting requirements – such as the need to carry out a content audit or update/refine, (and, please the God) shorten an existing approval process. And with the user firmly front and centre.

The whole process can provoke interesting insights. For example, how content is broken down to aid comprehension pinch points on the part of the user. A prime example of this is not listing instructions at the start of a process – such as form filling – but ensuring the relevant instructions are accessible at relevant points within the form, and that forms can be bookmarked and restarted to allow people to check details, such as car mileage or carbon emission details, start and end dates of credit cards etc.

Sign off processes may benefit from review as final versions of some content may be dependent on live user testing right at the end of the process. Your C-suite may need some… re-education, as user satisfaction and customer sales figures may not correlate. Better they leave impressed and hopefully return to buy another day.

A companion post on Mobile & Trust can be found on my website.

This post was written by Anne Caborn who delivers Emarketeers’ Digital Content Strategy Training Course