Earning authority: How a team of copywriters changed an airline

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Hallur, Óskar and Edvardas took a messy process inside Icelandair and turned it into the company's competitive advantage. In this episode, they share how they did it, and how you can create your own "center of excellence" inside your organization - no matter your "rank".

[00:01:04] Jasmin: Welcome to People Changing Enterprises. I'm Jasmine Guthmann. Please enjoy this episode with Edvardas, Óskar and Hallur from Iceland Air. Tell us about the role of content at Iceland Air.

[00:01:18] Edvardas: We have a lot of content on our website, and that is mostly our products, our service related content.

Then we have a lot of content about our destinations, our loyalty program, as well as we run offers and campaigns. So there's a whole scale of it and, uh, we have to foster it and look after it, and, uh, I guess the complexity is to keep it simple and available in all those languages that we translate, but at the same time, keep the length appropriate to the medium that we use and maintain the right tone of voice.

So I think we have a few layers of complexity and we try to keep our focus on what's, what's important and what is meaningful for our customers.

[00:01:59] Jasmin: And what is the content team responsible for?

[00:02:02] Óskar: We do a lot of cooperation with other departments in the company. So we get sent texts from all over the company to be put on the web. We might proofread them, we request translations, or we pass the tasks onto, for example, our web developers.

So we get a lot of requests coming in, and we often act as a sort of intermediary between the web developers, the designers. We tend to be listening to ideas. And then sort of translating them into a language or sort of setting them up in a way that we think will be useful for our web team working in sprints, for example.

[00:02:39] Jasmin: Hallur, before Óskar and Edvardas. What was the content landscape like inside Icelandair?

[00:02:46] Hallur: The focus on content was basically just about web management. There was a web team and they were responsible for updating copy and texts online based on barriers requests coming from stakeholders all over the company, and they prioritized based on, it was a little bit of a mix of like who came first and who shouted the loudest.

So, Who earned most money was in there somewhere as well. So that was a little bit like that. We were working with an ad agency that provided a lot of the copy that went online. There was a lot of back and forth in that. So it was a bit chaotic just to summarize. But at the same time, there were like, there were a lot of good people there. And they were really good at what they did, so they really did pull it off. But obviously happened with everything scaling up, it always becomes a little bit overwhelming. And it was a lot of manual work at the time. We were like using agencies a lot and um, the internal team could only go so far and then we needed.

Request assistance. So it was not done in house from a part, from a specific point. And then it was really dependent on companies and like third party partners working together that didn't always see eye to either. So it was hectic and chaotic. But um,

[00:04:05] Jasmin: and you know what, that in all honesty, that sounds like.

A description of today in many enterprises out there. So what changed for Icelandair and how, what was the process like to create that content center of excellence that makes your people so empowered?

[00:04:23] Hallur: Of course, a lot of things happened that I'm not gonna recount here, but there were shifts in management and changes in worldview and everything that helped putting this together. But in the end it was about bringing the departments closer together and having them work and collaborate on a new level or level that we hadn't really seen before.

Um, increasing the size of the content team was another addition to that. Picked up the moniker of UX writers at the time, which was supposed to give us a little bit more of a, a leeway into actually working on, on the copy that we got, not just receiving the content and putting it on like live online, but rather having the ability to say, No, we need to do this better and we need to improve this and make sure that all standards were adhere to, whether they were SEO or, or.

Basic reading skills And this is when, when Oscar and Eddi were, were brought on board. So I think the biggest change was essentially just to get everyone closer, get everyone on board. But at the same time, we've taken even further steps towards being product led rather than project led. We're trying to establish. An actual product ownership with empowered teams.

We started thinking about the customers instead of just thinking about what does the company need to say? And obviously this is still an ongoing process. It's really hard to shift the mindset from company to customer, but at the same time, it's absolutely necessary and, and I think in my opinion, this is one of the key role that the content team has played is to bring about that view.

[00:06:06] Jasmin: And what does the content center of excellence look like today?

We are responsible for maintaining quality and consistency of copy across the company. So that means that we are both content creators, translators, proofreaders, and a kind of final filter on any copy that goes through the website, through a text message, email, the app, any channel that we have.

It goes, it should ideally go through our department.

We don't just use the content management system. We also provide advice on how to structure new features and new webpages so that the system will work in the best way possible.

When it comes time to add new pages or new features, it makes sense to involve us. We are going to be the end users of, in a sense, you know, of those projects. In terms of what the team actually does I would say that we serve other departments. So we are usually not leading the projects. We are just the content part we try to lead in terms of in terms of the style, tone of voice and presentation of.

We would like to take ownership of that to the greatest degree possible.

[00:07:22] Jasmin: I'd love to talk a little bit about troubleshooting - when something isn't done up to standards or someone breaks the process or some other form of chaos ensues, which is normal, right? How do you reel it back in, and maybe more importantly, how do you try to prevent it from happening in the future?

[00:07:44] Edvardas: That's a very good question.

I would say we love processes and, uh, organization and clarity and simplicity. So I guess that's not foreign to any airline, the processes we have created when working with content help us or to prevent, or in most cases, maybe minimize the chance of a human error. And, uh, mostly that is thanks to the heavy testing that we perform and, uh, we never publish our content live without publishing it.

Our dev and stage environment, making sure that everything is correct. But of course, every now and then things happen, but then we, we can always roll back and that, that's the good part. And if anything gets published accidentally, you know, a Language somehow would, um, get published on a different locale.

We can easily fix it because we have a really powerful tool in, in our hands, our CMS, and that allows us to jump in and, you know, publish and unpublish. Add a fix. Yeah. So, uh, one of the advantages is that we can easily roll back and. Evaluate, and then go ahead again.

[00:08:52] Óskar: as Eddi said, of course we try to find the root of the problems and create a process that will solve any problems that come up so they don't happen again in the future.

But sometimes problems are of the nature that you can't really fix them as such. For example, some information comes to us late necessarily, perhaps because it just can't be diverged too early for some market reasons, for instance, And then you just have to try to foresee what the possible problems might be and ask for development early.

That's the best you can do. And we'd also, in the content team, we'd like the ability to troubleshoot things ourselves, and this has to do with allowing the content team to do as much as work as possible without involving that development. And that would include troubleshooting. If we can be directly involved with that, then it will be easier for us to react once problems come up.

[00:09:41] Jasmin: How can someone listening, someone inside a big enterprise, start to create their own center of excellence and what should they be looking for? What are the challenges they should be prepared for?

[00:09:53] Óskar: I think it's very important to try to define what the content team does and doesn't do. Mm-hmm. just to be able to, uh, prioritize and know what your goals are.

I think it's also good to be proactive in the sense that other departments of the company will obviously not to know the capabilities of your web cause they're not working on it all the time. And you should keep your eyes open, I think, for opportunities and notify people.

[00:10:18] Edvardas: And here I, I would maybe mention a recent example. This year we introduced a package booking engine where our customers are now able to book a flight and a tour or as a package, that includes excursions or a rental car. And, uh we, in the content team helped to set up appropriate content types and basically helped to launch the booking engine.

But then our, our employees who look after the package creation, they take on and they use the content types that we created on a daily basis, basically, uh, looking after the packages modifying the copy based on the needs, updating the pictures, and that way we empower them to use the tool that we have to deliver the tasks.

But with the ongoing product development, maybe they need some new features. And then this is when they return to us again and they say, okay, we might need a different display here, or we want some feature that is not in in place right now and this is where we jump in and help them to find the, the right solution that would make sense , within the web.

And in general for would make sense for the customer. And yeah, we tailor, we look for that solution. This is where we maybe act as a, as earlier mentioned as an intermediate between the developers, us and the product owners of how to make content work for this common goal of developing our packages further.

[00:11:42] Óskar: I think it's also good to have clear ways of communicating.

[00:11:46] Óskar: A simple way for people to reach you if they need anything content related. We have a content email, which we just take turns monitoring Within our team, we also have a general division of tasks so that we have a different focus - Eddie is focused on translations. I might be more focused on the Icelandic language and copy, for instance, but everyone on the team has the same basic - everyone has a base knowledge of all the most important things, and that allows us to act as a source of support for other departments so that if, if somebody's on vacation or you know, on leave for one reason or another, then there always should be someone from content that can help out if something needs correcting quickly on the web.

[00:12:29] Edvardas: I would also maybe add that creating ownership and certain authority, uh, within the company maybe helps you to take that necessary step to become the center of excellence, where, um, you become someone who can guide others and help them, uh, deliver the, the expected outcome.

Óskar: Eddi and I when we started at Icelandair, there we were in the digital department and squarely focused on UX copywriting. That's what we were supposed to be doing. But I think as is the tendency in these jobs, a lot of the time we find other tests to do when there isn't so much work on copywriting. When Covid hit, we had to make very fast updates and we were getting information from lots of different channels all across the company. So we got familiarized with them and them with us. I think we gained a bit of authority from that.

[00:13:21] Hallur: I'd kinda like to pick up on that thing, actually, both of them were saying, but I think bringing the authority to the people that are supposed to be responsible for the content is really important.

At the same time as a low level employee, it's really hard for you to request that authority. Being aware of the expected outcomes and challenging your manager, or not necessarily challenging, but rather getting information about what the expected outcomes for everything that you do is supposed to be, is really important as a first step in becoming.

Empowered enough to have that authority.

Óskar: I think the way our jobs developed from being just copywriters was very slow. We just slowly get to know all the different systems that we use better. We got to know people across the company. Slowly you gain authority to do more stuff and you also gain more self confidence in actually making suggestions.

You know, when you're starting you kind of just do what you're told, don't you? But as you get to know the systems better you want to have an input on the products. And I think at Icelandair we were allowed to do that. In our position we were actually listened to. And I really appreciate that. So I think the fact that we got positive feedback on some of the stuff we suggested it was actually implemented, then that emboldens you to suggest more things.

And maybe that's, that kind of dynamic is what gets the ball rolling

[00:14:45] Hallur: So have a strategy, understand what you're trying to accomplish, and then have a strategy, how to reach that, know the tone of voice and all these things, and make time to do these things because it, the biggest enemy of content creation is essentially the speed and the like, lack of time that - we always, we never have time to do anything, so just you need to make sure that you have the time to do these things, to have an understanding of what you're trying to achieve and how you're going to achieve that essentially.

[00:15:19] Jasmin: Thanks for listening to People Changing Enterprises. We'll be back next week with a new episode, helping you make your mark.

Earning authority: How a team of copywriters changed an airline
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