Content principles

These principles underpin all our content and the way that we work to produce content. We keep them in mind when planning, creating, delivering and maintaining content.

1. Have a clear purpose

Making sure that all our content has a reason for being and a clear aim means that it plays a strategic role and helps us achieve our goals.

What does this mean in practice?

At the point of conceiving the content, make sure that there are answers to these four questions:

  1. What’s the strategic aim of the content?
  2. Who is the content for?
  3. What do we want people to do after reading/viewing the content?
  4. How will this help us achieve what we’re trying to do?

2. Put the user first/focus on the audience

Knowing our users and having an understanding of their situation, behaviours, attitudes, problems and goals is crucial to creating effective content.

Encouraging people to get involved and empowering them with useful and interesting content helps us to build a community.

Using language and frames of understanding that work for our audience means that we don’t alienate people.

What does this mean in practice?

Be clear about who you’re trying to reach with your content and how it will be received by your audiences. Whenever possible, talk to your target audiences, or refer to existing evidence about what they want and need. Put yourself in the shoes of people outside the organisation and ask yourself: will they find this interesting or useful?

3. Choose quality over quantity

Paying attention to detail and creating thoughtful, well-designed content is worth the time and effort.

Investing in quality makes our content more effective and more sustainable. It means we can look after it properly and deliver a first-rate experience to our users.

What does this mean in practice?

When planning and creating website content, factor in enough time to make it accessible, accurate, beautiful, consistent and coherent. Also, consider its entire life-cycle: How often will it need to be updated? At what point should it be retired?

4. Include the right people for the right reasons

We are most efficient when everyone who touches our content does so for a good reason. Content by committee results in substandard content.

What does this mean in practice?

Follow the agreed, appropriate workflow for the type of content you’re creating. Draw on people with the right skills at the relevant point: subject matter experts fact-check; editors edit.

5. Teamwork makes the Dreamwork

Working collaboratively helps us to create the most effective content. This is made possible through clear, honest communication and a recognition of expertise.

What does this mean in practice?

Work across teams and trust and empower each other. You will rarely be the only person producing content on an issue or campaign. Identify colleagues who are working on the same things. Collaborate to make sure you don’t double up – and respect each other’s expertise.

6. Test, iterate and learn

A culture of content innovation means testing things out, learning from the results and making improvements based on the evidence.

Trying new things and having processes to measure, learn and improve helps us to reach new heights.

What does this mean in practice?

We split-test content where possible and appropriate. We’re constantly thinking about, and looking for, new ways of doing things. We try to draw conclusions about why content worked well, or less well. We share the results and keep learning.

7. Be open and transparent

We are most effective when we are honest with people. Users respond best when we’re human, even when we’re fallible. Defaulting to sharing our experience and insights, even when things have gone wrong, makes us authentic. As the comms guide says, “We’re ordinary people doing extraordinary things”.

What does this mean in practice?

There are times when we can’t be completely open, for various reasons. We assess each case on its merits. But we’re a movement not a corporation, and we strive to be as honest and human as we can.

8. Promote flexibility and modularity

The more adaptable our content, the more use we can make of it. Considering all the channels and use-cases at the outset prevents the duplication of work and words. It also means that we can be responsive to external events.

What does this mean in practice?

When we design content, we design it to be usable on the web, on social media and in email from the outset. We try to avoid creating reports and then worrying later about how to translate them into web content.