Finding the Right Problem to Solve

So you want to solve your content problems. Don't just dive in! Slow down and take time for a situation analysis.

Often, clients will call us knowing that they have big content problems, but aren’t sure where to start. This is always an exciting conversation to have—yeah, I’m weird like that—because it means a company has the opportunity to find and solve problems that will lead to sustainable solutions, versus the band-aid fixes we’re often stuck with. (See what I did there? Stuck? I crack myself up.)  

The thing is, the day-to-day pain points we struggle with are often only problem symptoms. What core issues are at the root of these content challenges? What are the key obstacles to taking advantage of great opportunities? These are your problem causes, and we discover them through the first (and, for me, the most exciting) phase of content strategy: the situation analysis. 

In content strategy, the situation analysis focuses on a company’s content ecosystem, which is comprised of several different factors:

  • Business goals
  • Customer needs and expectations
  • Stakeholder needs and expectations
  • Brand platform
  • Content production processes
  • Technology environment
  • Competitor content activities
  • Content assets

You’ll notice that these are all typically part of any discovery and research process. However, for the content strategist, there are specific questions to ask and connections to be made that have a direct impact on future content value. For example:

  • Do we need to find new ways to engage our customers … or are we just publishing what we think they should care about (versus what they actually want)?
  • Do we need new content to compete in organic search … or do we just need to optimize what we already have?
  • Is it our workflow that’s causing content inconsistencies … or is it that our content editors aren’t empowered to say “no” to stakeholder requests?
  • Do we need a new homepage … or do we need to dive into our “long tail” of content pages?
  • Will increasing our content production improve our content marketing results … or do we need to figure out how to clearly differentiate our editorial mission?

As former Apple engineer Dave Evans said, "Before you do problem solving, you have to do problem finding. You have to ask, ‘What's the right thing to be working on?’” This is the secret superpower of the content strategy: identifying the right content challenges to solve. Bring the content strategist to the table early and often, and you’ll avoid the content problems that rear their ugly heads in the eleventh hour of any project.

It’s often useful to engage a third party to conduct a situation analysis, as they’re able to bring true objectivity to the work. It’s also nice to hear that your problems aren’t new or unique from someone who’s seen it all. You are not alone! (There, there. Let’s hug.) 

Brain Traffic has been rooting out content problem causes for 15 years, so if you’d like a new perspective on things, get in touch. We’d love to help.

Kristina Halvorson is CEO of Brain Traffic, founder of Confab Events, and coauthor of Content Strategy for the Web

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