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Lean on me: Asking for help on the content team

Our content squad is made of folks with a wide range of backgrounds and skills — we put this to good use by regularly asking each other for help with projects. Here’s a diagrammatic look into some of our recent collaboration.

A circle of head shots of the Content Team with lines connecting them

Emileigh

One of my projects involves a substantial content migration. I’ve done lots of plain language work, but I’ve never shepherded this much content from one place to another. I wanted to make sure I was moving in the right direction, so I scheduled a one-on-one with Corey (the brilliant mind behind a University of California content migration) to get some advice.

Corey helped me map out possible steps forward and how to talk about those steps with my client. We also had a great discussion about archiving content, an especially useful tool in a project like the one I’m working on — a website with more than 20 years of information on it.

Corey

Recently, I got stuck while writing some instructions to help users upload documents as part of an important process. Somewhere in my third or fourth round of going back and forth with myself, I realized Britta’s background in writing documentation and thinking about technical terms was exactly what I needed.

We spent about half an hour working together on it, and Britta helped me find other applications that had solved the same problem and figure out the right terminology. The version we came up with was clear and consistent — and we got to do user testing to validate that it worked!

Britta

I made a lot of progress on a blog post by bringing it to our weekly content team critique meeting, where we share drafts to get suggestions. For one thing, it motivated me to finish writing down my thoughts! During our 30-minute video meeting, we talked about the sticky parts. This showed me which parts were already fine and didn’t need more overthinking, and which parts needed revising (such as starting the post with a summary and making the headings much shorter). If seven fellow content people say something looks fine, you know it’s fine.

Jeannine

I value how our team’s culture facilitates immediate requests for help, like when I turn to uber-patient Kate for quick-and-dirty requests to backread my copy for tone, syntax, and overall does-this-make-sense gut checks, whether it’s an awards nomination form honoring a fellow team member or microcopy for a website for a project. And I appreciate the availability of the Writing Lab volunteers for editing time-sensitive copy, such as newsletter issues or helping out if I can’t contribute to the Lab as much as I’d like due to project work.

Also, as a content lead, I meet with Ryan every week and enjoy bouncing off big-picture ideas regarding content strategy and how we can capitalize on the brain power of content strategists across 18F. Her insight and ideas are invaluable and creative.

Ryan

I collaborated with James on a content audit to determine what content was worth keeping and, more importantly, what had gone wrong with that project’s previous strategy. We discovered a lack of focus and no clear statement of the content’s intent. I also go to James, as many others do, to help clearly identify problems in general. His insights usually help uncover solutions, which is invaluable.

Recently, I was working on the text for a button. The button performed the same function for every user, but there were a handful of different situations we expected users to be in when they came across it. Based on those situations, they would interpret the button’s purpose differently, and I wasn’t sure how to line those use cases up with each other.

Nicole helped me separate how each user sees the next task from what the task is. That kind of shift seems small, but the way a reader reacts to something often hinges on something small. And it meant I could write the email for everyone, not just a few users.

Nicole

I asked Kate for help with a presentation about our design capabilities. It’s been fun to pair write on that — she’s great at adding personality and panache in the right places. I’ve also been working with Ryan, Britta, and Corey on some new internal documentation about what we do as content designers.

Kate

Every day, I’m grateful to be working with such a talented team that’s ready to provide advice and feedback. Most recently, I’ve asked Britta for advice on documentation writing — writing READMEs, in particular. I haven’t had much previous experience writing documentation, and Britta’s experience and thoughtful guidance have proved invaluable. I’ve also asked Emileigh and Nicole for feedback on the voice and tone of certain works in progress, and their insight is most excellent!

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