Sunbrella Fabrics, one of the world’s foremost performance textile manufacturers, tapped Code and Theory to design a content system capable of supporting new website and brand strategies that would redefine the digital textile space. This end-to-end content engagement required:
- a redefinition and honing of their business objectives and audiences
- a deep understanding of their content structures and products
- a strategic evaluation of their historical and current publishing efforts
- a tactical and practicable content creation workflow and topic identification process in support of immediate and future publishing needs and goals
Blazing the trail in the digital textile space required a transformational shift in how Sunbrella approached content. Starting from the ground up, we modeled new ways for content to relate, organize and power a system.
To bring about this shift, we partnered step-by-step with Sunbrella on the vision and technicalities of a content strategy. We developed a cadence of collaborative sessions where discussion, questioning and explanation were baked into the process far before any hand-off of deliverables—leveraging activities such as card sorting, user journey mapping, Madlibs, persona development, and list-making. Our expertise in translating technical design approaches into manageable concepts, systems and processes would be critical for ensuring the success of our stakeholders’ socialization efforts across the organization and up the chain of command. We also hoped to empower their content creators and editors to harness the full advantages of a structured content system.
We approached the project in two contiguous phases, focusing first on content modeling, then pivoting to editorial strategy and planning.
To ensure that Sunbrella’s content represented the richness and detail of their textiles (qualities, contexts and types), we dove deeply into the world of textile metadata, ultimately crafting rich schemas that, at their maximum, supported nearly 100 unique attributes including highly bespoke, business-specific requirements. Once our schemas were in place, we dove into collaborative sessions with key stakeholders to develop controlled vocabularies—harnessing their highly specialized expertise to create multi-tiered term and phrase hierarchies capable of describing all aspects of their business.
To design a bespoke editorial strategy, our content team began by rigorously inventorying and auditing the entirety of Sunbrella’s digital footprint. We documented and organized all customer-facing expressions of their brand—from evergreen product and product line descriptions to article-based lifestyle content, from tips on how to clean to features on sustainability or company history. Leveraging inputs from brand, analytics, SEO, and evaluative criteria crafted with the client, we developed a scorecard mechanism through which every unique URL could be evaluated and scored against objective and subjective criteria—garnering cumulative scores that guided how content should be brought into the new system. By inventorying and auditing all existing content, we were then able to identify gaps in editorial content based on brand pillars, keyword opportunities, seasonal relevance, and persona type needs.
Editorial Planning and Execution
To ensure all our work could be operationalized and fully owned by our client and their editorial teams in the long-term, we dedicated the final stage of our process to the development of heuristic artifacts to guide the client’s content teams through all stages of content planning, creation and evaluation. We created a site messaging architectural diagram to provide a high level overview of all the moving parts that go into the consideration process and prioritization of communication goals.
We also developed a content playbook that outlined our curatorial system and built a cohesive process. It moves from the key editorial building blocks (like users, user needs, brand narratives and SEO-friendly topics), to user archetypes whose journeys represent the needs of their primary audiences as they move from discovery to fulfillment, to a goal-based content planning map. The map consists of a four-step process that determines the content opportunities based on our archetypes, building blocks, and content criteria like journey phase, publication type, content pillar, SEO strategy, and narrative themes. Combined, our work with Sunbrella facilitated end-to-end content planning and execution and prepared the client for a renewed investment in editorial content creation to raise their profile in organic search and content marketing.
Our editorial work was then packaged in a robust and bespoke editorial content calendar. Given the client’s needs, the calendar was required to track end-to-end content production—integrating the required workstreams (as determined by our evaluative readout) and tracking the prioritization and cadence required to meet our sunset/revise/keep migration strategy to meet their desired launch date. Through our designs, product owners could to track projects by workstream start and end dates, create sub-workstreams, associate project ownership and approvals with any workstream line item, identify resources by practice and role, and track progress against workstream milestones. For the client, this final piece brought all our work together and left them feeling prepared to take ownership of their new system, workflows and challenges.
The Sunbrella project offered content strategy the opportunity to test its facility in translating complex concepts and processes into useful, actionable artifacts. In every engagement, this effort looms as a potential challenge, but throughout the course of this project it became clear that additional efforts would yield value. This spurred the content strategy group to undertake a series of internal team workshops to align on storytelling strategies, update the ways we frame our capabilities and offerings both internally and externally, and inaugurate a series of internal exercises to roadshow and rehearse our new approach to inform future engagement.
Sunbrella also proved instrumental in helping us ramp up and further codify our editorial strategy and SEO offering—crystalizing the wealth of expertise shared between our Experience Strategy, Content Strategy, and Data, Research, and Analytics groups and prompting renewed efforts to formalize our internal distribution of knowledge and capabilities.