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Content Strategy

Four principles for creating helpful content

Robert Mills • 3 minutes

This video is the eighth in our Content Strategy Advent Calendar series.

Here, Joel Solomon from Amazon’s worldwide customer service team, shares his four principles for creating helpful content.

#ContentStrategyAdvent: Day 8 – Four principles for creating helpful content, by @joelmsolomon

Video transcript

Hello and Seasons Greetings!

My name is Joel Solomon. I’m a content strategist for Amazon’s World Wide Customer Service team. We work hard every day to help millions of customers get their questions answered and their problems solved. While you might not be in a customer service space, that’s totally ok, I’m going to share four principles with you, that you can use to create more helpful content that is more empathetic and creates less friction for your customers.

So principle number 1 is to answer the question asked.

That’s one of my organisation’s core principles that we follow every day, and I think might be a little bit obvious, but you see a lot of brands that don’t follow this. They tend to evade a question or dance around a particular topic. But I always get people what they need, when they’re asking for it. And the way I do that is to dive deeply into the data, or listen to my customers to really see what it is that they’re asking for, and what their priorities of information are. And even how they ask the questions. So that that way when I create help content, it always reflect back that that question and gives them the answer they need.

So number two is to avoid being a blocker to your customers. So what I mean by this, when someone is coming to you for help, they’re usually a little bit stressed and they may see your product or your brand as a blocker to accomplishing the goals that they have. And so with that, we want to help reduce the number of steps that they have to take to get their problem solved. One example if you try to ever get in contact with anybody on a website, and you get served a frequently asked question page, where they’e trying to shoot you answers to a variety of questions, without actually giving you what it is that you need, which is a phone number or an email address.

Or if you try to make a return on an order and you get served a way to sign up to their email marketing newsletter. These are all things that just get in the way of people and frustrate them even more.

Number three is always be concise with your information. So with this, when people are coming to you again, we need to be as tight as possible. It’s not the place to have fun headlines or long form content, you need to be succinct, use plain language and just get right to the point.

So for principle number four, we want to make sure that we localise and not translate. So what I mean by that is we can’t just do a one size fits all content experience for all of our international users. What I do is I work closely with my regional teams, and trust in them, but provide them the background data, research, as well as an outline of whatever the problem is that we’re trying to solve, and the proposed solution for that, as well as some ideas for the tone we should be taking. Whether it’s encouraging and hopeful, or a little bit more no nonsense and serious.
And so by doing that you’ll create content that’s more regionally appropriate for each user by working with people that are actually in those areas to create the content. If you don’t have access to a regional team, you can work with local consultants or other people that will help you create more specific content for each area.

So to recap, the principles that I follow that you can use to create more helpful and empathetic content, are to always answer the question asked, to always avoid being a blocker to your users, create more concise content and to localise and not translate.
I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season. Thanks again for spending time with me today.

About Joel


Joel is a content strategist with Amazon’s worldwide customer service team. He loves digging into tough customer issues to find ways to solve the stickiest of problems with helpful content experiences. Before joining Amazon, Joel worked on numerous website redesign and research projects for a client roster that includes Microsoft, Honeywell Aerospace, Republic Services, Gore-Tex, The North Face, among other brand and government projects.

Joel is an active member of the content strategy community and has guest lectured at the University of Washington and Western Washington University. He also presented his helpful strategies at Phoenix Design Week and the Seattle Content Strategy Meetup. You can follow Joel on Twitter.

#ContentStrategyAdvent: Day 8 – Four principles for creating helpful content, by @joelmsolomon

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Robert Mills

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