You manage a team of content creators and you’ve decided to embrace structured authoring. Congratulations!

Perhaps you’ve heard that a structured environment will help your team create content that is consistent, modular, and reusable. Maybe your manager told you to implement structure because they heard a writer spent 30 hours fixing the same sentence in 1200 different documents. Or, maybe you’ve realized just how difficult it is to use existing content when it’s covered in formatting and mixed in with irrelevant text. Whatever the reason, you’re in for quite a ride, and most importantly, you’re not alone. 

Over our 27 years in business, we’ve helped many companies move to a structured environment. Inevitably, we find that most content creators experience a variety of emotions at being forced to change the way they do their job. In this blog post, I describe the eight stages of grief that you may feel during your transition to structure:

  1. Fear
  2. Anger
  3. Denial
  4. Acceptance
  5. Confusion
  6. Despair
  7. Contact Content Rules
  8. Celebration

Stage 1: Fear

Components? Topics? No formatting? What is this? 

This seems like a BIG change. You’re not sure if you or your team will be able to adapt. What if you misconfigure the tools and your content ends up in a big unusable mess instead of segmented into tagged, reusable chunks? You might just end up confusing everybody. But deep down, you know that it’s the right decision and you shouldn’t delay much longer. 

Stage 2: Anger

You are not just a content creator, you are an artist. You manage a team of amazing free spirits and you will not let them be bound by the constraints of “content models” or “standardized terminology.” This whole move to structure is a ridiculous proposition. And how do you know that this “structured authoring” system will fix anything, anyways? Not to mention, getting everything set up is going to be SO much work

Stage 3: Denial

Given these thoughts, you think you should just keep doing things the way they’ve been done. Structured authoring is probably overrated and you probably don’t need it. You know what you’re doing and the team is so awesome – we just need more “alignment.” An offsite would be less work and more fun than trying to implement “sTrUcTurE.” We just need to agree on how we’ll do things and everything will work out in the end… right?

Stage 4: Acceptance

There’s no getting around it… every day you wait to implement structure, dozens of mismatched and inaccurate PDFs are being produced and uploaded to an unnavigable documentation site. Writers are wasting hundreds of valuable hours fixing one thing across hundreds of documents, when they could be working on new content instead. It will be hard, but the quality, consistency, searchability, and overall flexibility of a structured environment will be well worth it. And when you start translating, you know you’ll save tons of money.

Stage 5: Confusion

All right – you’ve got your tools, you’ve read the books, you understand that you need to strategize… but this is really complicated. Should these two sentences be a component, or the whole paragraph? The team understands that they need to tag every piece of content they write, but you keep catching people creating content that already exists. You know you need some sort of real taxonomy and metadata strategy to keep your content organized and searchable, but where do you start? 

Stage 6: Despair

This was all a mistake. Who decided this was a good idea? You should have known that this would be a disaster. You have this system, you understand how it is supposed to work, but it’s just not. Maybe you need a different tool… but you’ve invested so much time and money getting the vendor-approved and the tool set up, you can’t afford to switch right now. How do you fix this?

Stage 7: Contact Content Rules

Another content professional tells you to check out Content Rules. After reading a few blog posts and watching Val’s webinars, you know you’ve found the help your team so desperately needs. 

You’ve been working with Content Rules for a while and have gained a clear vision for your content. You understand the steps you need to take to succeed. Your team has been trained by Content Rules on how to write in a structured environment. You have the confidence to continue developing your content strategy as time goes on. Thanks to your engagement with Content Rules, your writers feel more comfortable and confident than ever. They know that they are creating content efficiently and consistently.

Stage 8: Celebration

Your structured content ecosystem is functional and efficient. The effects are noticeable. Your company’s live support team is receiving a fraction of the calls it did before your help site was searchable and consistent. Sales have gone up as the brand messaging has become more cohesive. And now that you’re expanding into a global market, you are patting yourself on the back every time a bill for bulk translation shows thousands of affordably translated exact matches. 

You understand that as long as your company is growing and innovating, the content needs to grow and innovate along with it. The most painful part is over. You know that you must continue evolving your content models, taxonomy, and metadata in order to keep up with the rest of the business. At the end of the day, you look forward to tackling upcoming obstacles, instead of spending hours changing one identical line in thousands of documents. 

You take your team out for a celebratory offsite. Well done!

Max Swisher